Summer Shakespeare II

Bruce A. McMenomy, Ph.D. for Scholars Online
2016: Wednesdays, 1:00-3:00 p.m. Eastern Time
June 15 - Aug. 10

June 15:
The Comedy of Errors
Shakespeare's Sources

June 22:
Coriolanus
Rhetoric

June 29:
NONE

July 6:
The Winter’s Tale
Dramatic Unities

July 13:
Antony and Cleopatra
Characterization and Time

July 20:
The Merry Wives of Windsor
Shared Characters

July 27:
Henry VI, Parts 1, 2, and 3
History and Politics

August 3:
Love’s Labour’s Lost
Theatricality

August 10:
All’s Well That Ends Well
The Problem Comedies

The Merry Wives of Windsor

Neither among the best nor among the worst of Shakespeare’s comedies, The Merry Wives of Windsor has enjoyed a fairly steady popularity since it was written in 1597, largely due to the fact that its principal character is Sir John Falstaff, who is chiefly known for the part he plays in the Henry IV plays and (offstage) in Henry V. Falstaff was a great favorite with theater-goers during Shakespeare’s lifetime, and the audiences apparently clamored incessantly for more material involving the portly and somewhat scandalous knight. Here his function is purely comic and somewhat bawdy: his agenda is to make back his lost fortunes by seducing various of the wealthy wives of Windsor. He encounters one setback after another, and eventually it becomes clear that the women have outmaneuvered him in every particular. Some parental caution is probably advisable here.

Things to consider while reading The Merry Wives of Windsor

If you have read Henry IV, Part 1 or Henry IV, Part 2, what do you make of the reappearance of the character here?

Here is the Royal Shakespeare Company’s page on The Merry Wives of Windsor, containing a brief synopsis of the play and the production history with the company.

Here’s a summary of The Merry Wives of Windsor on film.


The Merry Wives of Windsor and what has come before


Shakespeare’s Sources and Later Adaptations


Themes that emerge in the play (only a few of the many)


Symmetries in the play


Problems in the play