Essay, Research Paper: Merry Wives Of Windsor

Shakespeare

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The first thing that struck me about The Merry Wives of Windsor was the
appearance of some characters from Henry VI: Falstaff, Bardolph, Nym, and
Pistol. The second thing that struck me was the complexity of the plot.
Shakespeare is tough enough for me to understand on its own, without the
introduction of a plots that twist and turn, and entwine each other like snakes.
I wish I could see the play performed, because it seems like a delightful
comedy, and I feel that seeing actual players going through the motions
presented to me in the text would do wonders for my comprehension. This is my
first play read outside of class, with no real discussion to help me through the
parts that don’t make a lot of sense the first time around. Fortunately, I
found some resources on the web that provided synopses of Shakespeare’s plays,
and really aided my understanding of the play. The aforementioned plots reminded
me of the plots common to Seinfeld, quite possibly the most glorious of
television shows. Seinfeld always had at least two plots going per episode, and
the outcome of one always seemed to have some effect on the outcome of the
other. It seems that the original recipe for sitcoms is this: get two plots
going side by side, near the end of the piece, smash them into each other, and
then tie up all of the loose ends. This recipe is followed in The Taming of the
Shrew (the two plots being the marriage of Petruchio and Katherine, and the
wooing of Bianca), and again appears in the Merry Wives of Windsor (Falstaff’s
attempted wooing of the wives being one, and the impending marriage of Anne
being the other.) It would be interesting to see if all of Shakespeare’s
comedies follow this same pattern, and if so, to see if previous playwrights
used the same formula. The appearance of the characters from Henry VI,
especially Falstaff, was also quite interesting. For some reason, seeing the
other characters shared by the plays didn’t do quite as much for me as seeing
Falstaff. Perhaps I identify with Falstaff more than the others (a rather
damning proposition, considering what I’m about to write), but I think it’s
more likely due to the fact that Falstaff is more prominent that the others.
Knowing that Falstaff was a gay lover in Henry VI, and seeing him involved in
obviously heterosexual pursuits, I was reminded of our conversation in class
concerning the views of sex in Elizabethan times, compared to our current views
on the subject. I feel that seeing Falstaff in this play gives me a lot more
insight into the character Shakespeare was trying to create for his audiences
than Falstaff’s appearances that we have seen in class. Falstaff really gave
me the impression of being a scoundrel in this play, plotting to commit
adultery, and then add insult to injury by stealing money from the husbands of
the adulterous wives. He’s accused at the beginning of the play for getting
Slender drunk to pick his purse, and he hires off his “friend” Bardolph as a
bartender. Finally, as a result of all of this, Falstaff ends up the butt of a
practical joke. Everyone ends up forgiving everyone else, and they all go home
to live happily ever after, and laugh about the events they have just gone
through. If that last sentence seems lacking, it’s with reason. I was
relatively disappointed with the way the play ended. It seemed to me like
Shakespeare decided he was finished writing, and looked for the quickest way to
end his play. It was one step better than the Greek’s method of having one of
the Gods come down from Olympus, and decide who married who, who died honorably,
and who was damned to Hades. I felt that The Taming of the Shrew ended much more
cohesively.
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