The Merry Wives of Windsor
In The Merry Wives of Windsor, one of William Shakespeare's plays, Shakespeare's "merry wives" are Mistress Ford and Mistress Page of the town of Windsor. The two play practical jokes on Mistress Ford's jealous husband and a visiting knight, Sir John Falstaff.
Merry wives, jealous husbands, and predatory knights were common in a kind of play called "citizen comedy" or "city comedy." In such plays, courtiers, gentlemen, or knights use social superiority to seduce citizens' wives.
The Windsor wives, though, do not follow that patter. Instead, Falstaff's offer of himself as lover inspires their torment of him. Falstaff responds with the same linguistic facility that Shakespeare gives him in the history plays in which he appears, making him the "hero" of the play for many audiences.
Scholars think Shakespeare wrote this play between 1597 and 1601. It was published as a quarto in 1602. A fuller, more readable text appeared in the 1623 First Folio in 1623. Sources likely included a story for Ser Giovanni Fiorentino's Il Pecorone (The Dunce) and Tarltons Newes out of Purgatorie.
Productions at the Folger
- Hamnet link to Folger Edition: PR2753 .M6 2003 copy 2 v.24
In popular culture
The Folger owns over 20 stand-alone translations of The Merry Wives of Windsor in various languages (not including collected works). Cataloging of these works is ongoing as of early 2015, and many have full-level catalog records, but some works still have only partial records. Translations can be found Hamnet in by searching for "Translations"in the Genre/Form Term field, or by searching the Call Number (Left-Anchored) field for call numbers starting with PR2796 (see the list of Sh.Col. translations call numbers for specific language call numbers). Since not all translations are fully cataloged, some items may only turn up in one of these searches.
Explore the curated image group for The Merry Wives of Windsor in the Folger digital image collection.
- Adapted from the Folger Library Shakespeare edition, edited by Barbara A. Mowat and Paul Werstine. © 2004 Folger Shakespeare Library.