Merry wives

Merry wives of Windsor.

“When the fat knight Sir John Falstaff imagines that Mistress Ford and Mistress Page are taken with him he decides to woo them both. But not falling for the old fool’s tricks, the women turn the tables on him with a series of humiliating assignations, and a very damp, extremely smelly laundry basket.

“Following his hilarious production of The Comedy of Errors in 2006, Christopher Luscombe returns to the Globe to direct this first ever — Starring Christopher Benjamin, Serena Evans and Sarah Woodward.”

Hate to steal but that’s just sometimes easier.

The tradition is that Shakespeare wrote Merry Wives, perhaps between the two parts of Henry IV, in response to Queen Elizabeth’s request to show Sir John in love. Farce, natural to Shakespeare, dwindles into shallowness in Merry Wives, a tiresome exercise that I suspect the playwright revised from something older at hand, whether his own or another’s.

“One of the uses of Merry Wives is to show us just how good Shakespeare’s first farces, The Comedy of Errors and The Taming of the Shrew, really are, compared with the false energy unleashed in humiliation of psuedo-Falstaff.”

Bloom, Harold. Shakespeare: The Invention of Human. NY: Riverhead Books, 1998. Page 315.

The estimable Bloom posits a thesis, I’m not sure I’ve got it right, but something along the lines that the Falstaff in Henry IV – and by extension in the excellent movie of Henry V – that is one of the greatest characters ever created, in a secular canon. So that Falstaff isn’t the same as the one Merry Wives, except in name.

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