Essentially a spin off from Henry IV, The Merry Wives of Windsor was presumably
created to give another outing to the popular figure of Falstaff. This play
sees the broke Falstaff attempting to simultaneously woo two Windsor wives
(Mistresses Page and Ford) to access their husband?s wealth. However the
wives are quickly onto his plans and set about humiliating him. The jealous
Master Ford sensing something is afoot and mistrusting his wife also becomes
caught up and ultimately shown the error of his ways.
The subplot concerns Anne, the daughter of Master and Mistress Page, whose
hand is sought by three suitors. Mistress Page wishes to give her to the
Frenchman Dr Caius, Master Page to the inept fool Slender, while Anne herself
has fallen in love with the young reformed playboy figure of Fenton.
The play is resolved during a masked set piece in the forest, where Falstaff
is humiliated a final time then forgiven. Meanwhile Caius and Slender who
think they are marrying Anne are tricked into marrying boys while Anne herself
marries Fenton. True love triumphs, loveless arranged marriages fail, jealous
love, adulterous love and hubris is punished by the witty wives and everyone
(with the exception of the Frenchman Caius) goes home happy in this well
crafted jolly English romp.