The Merry Wives of Windsor

From Academic Kids

The Merry Wives of Windsor is a comedy by William Shakespeare featuring the fat knight Falstaff.


Date and origin

The play's date of composition is unknown; it was registered for publication in 1602, but was probably several years old by that date: textual allusions to the Order of the Garter suggest that the play may have been written to be performed in April 1597, prior to the installation in May of the Knights-Elect of that order at Windsor; if so, it was probably performed when Elizabeth I attended Garter Feast on April 23rd (although this was not necessarily the premiere; the play was presumably also staged at the public theatre).

The Garter theory is only speculation, but it fits well with a story, first recorded by John Dennis in 1702, that Shakespeare was commanded to write the play by Queen Elizabeth, who wanted to see Falstaff in love.


The play anachronistically places Sir John Falstaff, companion of the medieval King Henry V, in a contemporary Elizabethan settting. Falstaff arrives in Windsor to obtain financial advantage by courting two wealthy married women, Mistress Ford and Mistress Page. These "merry wives" are not interested in the aging, overweight Falstaff as a suitor, but for the sake of their own amusement pretend to respond to his proposals. At one point, Falstaff is forced by the jealous Mr Ford to hide in a laundry basket and is then thrown into the river. Eventually his scheme is revealed and he is held up to ridicule, but the play does end happily, with the marriage of Mistress Page's daughter.


There is no known source for the story, although some elements may have been heavily adapted from Il Pecerone, a collection of stories by Ser Giovanni.

Relationship with Shakespeare's other plays

The play's central character, Falstaff, also appears in Shakespeare's history plays Henry IV, part 1, Henry IV, part 2 and Henry V. If the 1597 date is correct, Merry Wives was written between parts 1 and 2 of Henry IV.

Merry Wives is Shakespeare's only play that deals exclusively with contemporary English life.


Most critics consider Merry Wives to be one of Shakespeare's weaker plays, and the Falstaff of Merry Wives to be much inferior to the Falstaff of the two Henry IV plays. That Shakespeare would so stumble with one of his greatest creations is puzzling, and a satisfactory reason for this remains to be found. The likeliest explanation, if the Garter Feast theory is accepted, is that the play was written hastily, to order for a special occasion, within severe time restraints.



External link


Template:Shakespearede:Die lustigen Weiber von Windsor (Schauspiel)


Academic Kids Menu

  • Art and Cultures
    • Art (
    • Architecture (
    • Cultures (
    • Music (
    • Musical Instruments (
  • Biographies (
  • Clipart (
  • Geography (
    • Countries of the World (
    • Maps (
    • Flags (
    • Continents (
  • History (
    • Ancient Civilizations (
    • Industrial Revolution (
    • Middle Ages (
    • Prehistory (
    • Renaissance (
    • Timelines (
    • United States (
    • Wars (
    • World History (
  • Human Body (
  • Mathematics (
  • Reference (
  • Science (
    • Animals (
    • Aviation (
    • Dinosaurs (
    • Earth (
    • Inventions (
    • Physical Science (
    • Plants (
    • Scientists (
  • Social Studies (
    • Anthropology (
    • Economics (
    • Government (
    • Religion (
    • Holidays (
  • Space and Astronomy
    • Solar System (
    • Planets (
  • Sports (
  • Timelines (
  • Weather (
  • US States (


  • Home Page (
  • Contact Us (

  • Clip Art (
Personal tools