Wednesday, January 23, 2019

The Merry Wives of Windsor

Falstaff: "My honest lads, I will tell you what I am about."
Pistol: "Two yards, and more."
Falstaff: "No quips now, Pistol! Indeed, I am in the waist two yards about; but I am now about no waste; I am in thrift."
A 72" waist! Even the large (and admirable) Ambrogio Maestri above on the far right probably doesn't have that for his belt size.

It's been a long time since I read this, which is a little odd, since Falstaff has been in my life lately. I'm not much of an opera person--I would like to be better, but it tends to put me to sleep, while the Other Reader stays awake--but I really enjoyed watching a simulcast of the Met production of Verdi's Falstaff. That's the final scene of the production I saw in the video. I actually walked out whistling "Everyone is Fooled." I hadn't really realized until I just reread the play how closely Verdi followed Shakespeare.

And not too long ago I saw Orson Welles' Chimes at Midnight, which includes a bit of Merry Wives, thought not too much, but is basically the tragedy of Falstaff. (Which Merry Wives of Windsor is not. A tragedy, that is.)

Anywho, I'm not an expert. I enjoyed rereading it. A couple of things I noticed: I was pretty surprised how much of the play was prose, especially in the early part. Once the scene changes to elves and fairies (even pretend fairies and elves) in the fifth act, there's more verse.

Also I was a little shocked how difficult the language was, especially in the first act. I mean it's Shakespeare, it's 1600, it's never easy. Still, I've read enough and seen enough plays at this point, I can generally get by. I don't know about you, but I find Shakespeare's quipping much more difficult to follow than his tragic-monologuing, and despite Falstaff's admonition above, there's plenty of quipping in the play. A good actor can make that easier, but I'm quite sure half the first act went right past me. There's a Welsh accent and a French accent, too, just to complicate things.

The Wikipedia article was pretty insistent this is one of Shakespeare's worst plays. Yowch! And the story I'd always heard, that Queen Elizabeth I commissioned the play because she thought Falstaff was such a great character, may not actually be true.

Doesn't matter. I still thought it was pretty funny.
Slender: "...for though I cannot remember what I did when you made me drunk, yet I am not altogether an ass."
Oh, yes you are, Slender! But that's OK, you didn't get the girl. (Or more importantly, the girl didn't have to put up with you.)


  1. If I read Shakespeare regularly his writing becomes relatively easy but as soon as I put him aside for awhile and then pick him up again, look out! I have to spend some time to get my head around it again. This play has been in my mind to read for awhile but for some reason I've delayed picking it up. Perhaps your post is a subliminal message just to DO IT! ;-)

    1. I'm the same. If I read a play a week...but that's not happening. I read R+J last summer just before seeing a simulcast, that was my last Shakespeare & that's part of it.

      But yes, just do it! It is a fun one. Rachel at Hibernator's is hosting that Shakespeare comedies thing and that was my incentive.

  2. Well, I am on a Shakespeare 'roll' at the moment. I never considered this play to be high on my list, but if Wiki says it is the worst...and you mentioned the difficult language, my curiosity has been aroused. I'm still going to keep going with the history plays...they are fascinating!

  3. I've noticed! Seems like you've been enjoying them.

    There's the low key thing at Hibernator's Library that's doing the comedies currently (histories over summer) so that's why I read this now. But the histories are great. I reread Richard II pretty recently before seeing a simulcast of a Royal Shakespeare production.

    I don't really know why it's considered the worst. Especially when there's real oddballs like Love's Labours Lost.

  4. Fun review! I need to read this one...and perhaps listen to the opera!

    1. Thanks! Hope you like it. It did make me laugh.

  5. There are Elves and Fairies in Merry Wives of Windsor? I don't remember that! I'm glad you enjoyed your re-read. Thanks for participating. I have already read two plays: Merchant of Venice and Twelfth Night. But I haven't had time to write reviews! I'm totally backed up on reviews right now. Have about 10 of them to write.

    That was a digression. I haven't found the language difficult so far in the ones I've read, but, then, I've been watching the movie first, and then moving on to the play.

    1. It makes such a difference to see a play than read. Even with contemporary plays I find them harder to read than see.

      Twelfth Night is such a great play! Looking forward to your reviews.