For this months Play On! Challenge, I decided to read The Merry Wives of Windsor by William Shakespeare. The theme for the month was Renaissance Plays, including Shakespeare and his contemporaries, and I had planned on being more adventurous than Shakespeare. I couldn’t seem to make a decision though, so went with the obvious choice but, hopefully, not one of his most obvious plays, The Merry Wives of Windsor.
Sir John Falstaff, a rather dodgy character, decides to seduce a number of wealthy women in Windsor and make his fortune. He writes them identical letters but doesn’t know the women are friends and discover his plan. They come up with a plan of their own to teach him a lesson. At the same one of their husbands learns of Falstaff’s plan and tries to catch the two of them together. Meanwhile, the much younger Anne is being pursued by three men but loves another. There is duel and Falstaff is involved in this too.
At least, I think that’s what happens. This is Shakespeare’s first play and I actually found it much more difficult to read than I thought it would be, especially as last year I read eight of his plays in as many weeks and thought I had gotten into the grove of reading them. Even my normal trick of reading out loud didn’t help me much.
The Merry Wives of Windsor is a bawdy comedy with lots of jokes which were probably very funny at the time but went right over my head. It is the only one of his plays to be set in middle class England and this was part of where I struggled at times. There lots of colloquialisms and references I didn’t understand so I found I spent more time looking things up on the Internet than reading.
After much frustration, I ended up watching an RSC production…and felt much, much, better. It all made sense and I found it quite funny. I even managed to finish the play second time around. Did I enjoy it? Not really but at least I understood what was going on!
I love your review, Emma, and your honesty. You’re not the only one to find Shakespeare easy-difficult ……. I’ve had the same experience sometimes with his plays. I haven’t read this one yet but I just finished Henry IV Parts I & II so I’m familiar with Falstaff. Now I usually watch a production as I read the play …… it helps for getting the full experience.
Thank you. Easy difficult is a good description. Watching a production definitely helps and I will be doing it in the future too. Henry IV is on my list.
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I agree with you, Emma. I tried to read Merry Wives too once. But it’s just so hard to understand because we simply don’t understand the references. Ironically, this might be the easiest one to understand for Shakespeare’s contemporaries because it doesn’t involve too much kings and nobles and dramatic writings.
Thanks for joining the Play On Event. I’m so thrilled.
Thank you for hosting. You are probably right re: understanding. I bet this is a great play to watch in a place like the globe. Emma