All of Shakespeare Before the 450th: Merry Wives

Falstaff in The Merry Wives of Windsor

The merry wives of Windsor stuff Falstaff in the dirty laundry basket.

As part of my commitment to read all of Shakespeare before the 450 anniversary of his birth, last week I finished the third play, The Merry Wives of Windsor. It was entertaining, but not particularly meaningful. Sir John Falstaff’s tenacity of gullibility and the image of him stuffed and carried in a basket of dirty clothes made the play worth revisiting. According to, Falstaff appears in three of Shakespeare’s plays, and appears in this one at the insistence of Queen Elizabeth.

Words/phrases that captured the play for me: Heavy cost of jealousy; beware of conspiracies, especially in your own home; the trouble with controlling parents; the persistence, foolishness and self-destructiveness of undisciplined desires; and lastly, easy forgiveness. We’re three for three on this last point—but I suppose that’s why they’re comedies.

The Merry Wives of Windsor earns one Bard:The Merry Wives of Windsor William_Shakespeare Public Domain Image





Quotes that appealed to me (for various reasons):

Slender (discussing marrying Anne Page): I will marry her, sir, at your request; but if there be no great love in the beginning, yet Heaven may decrease it upon better acquaintance, when we are married, and have more occasion to know one another.

Falstaff: Think’st thou I’ll endanger my soul gratis?

Mrs. Quickly: …the boy never need to understand any thing: for ’tis not good that children should know any wickedness: old folks, you know, have discretion, as they say, and know the world.

Mr. Ford: …I must let you understand I think myself in better plight for a lender than you are: the which has something emboldened me to this unseasoned intrusion: for they say if money go before, all ways do lie open. Falstaff: Money is a good soldier, sir, and will on.

Host of the Garter Inn: Disarm them, and let them question; let them keep their limbs whole and hack our English.

Anne Page: O, what a world of vile ill-favour’d faults looks handsome in three hundred pounds a year!

Anne Page: Alas! I had rather be set quick i’ the earth. And bowled to death with turnips.

Falstaff: I would all the world might be cozened; for I have been cozened and beaten too.

Mrs. Quickly: …I was beaten into all the colours of the rainbow….

Mrs. Quickly: Corrupt, corrupt, and tainted with desire!

Falstaff: See now how wit may be made a Jack-a-lent when ’tis upon ill employment.

Falstaff: This is enough to be the decay of lust….

Sir Hugh Evans: Song: Fye on sinful fantasy! Fye on lust and luxury! Lust is but a bloody fire, Kindled with unchaste desire, Fed in heart; whose flames aspire, As thoughts do blow them, higher and higher….

Favorite word from play: anthropophaginian. According to Dr. Johnson, “A ludicrous word, formed by Shakespeare from anthropophagi, for the sake of a formidable sound.” And what does anthropophagi mean?–a cannibal

Next Up: Twelfth Night

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