The Bardathon: 13 – The Merry Wives of Windsor

The Merry Wives of Windsor doesn’t usually get a good press, but it’s one I’ve always enjoyed. True, there’s no real depth in it, and neither is there much in the way of lyricism or poetic fancy. But all the same, I’ve always found it a most enjoyable comic romp, and I rather like the sense of community that it projects – of people who, on the whole, are pretty decent, and who do get on well together despite upsets.

I get the impression, though, that despite reprising some of the characters from the Henry IV plays, Shakespeare was keen to distance this play from those masterpieces: certainly, characters such as Bardolph, Pistol, Mistress Quickly, and, of course, Falstaff, are very different from what they were in those earlier works. But unless one is expecting the kind of depth Shakespeare gave us in the Henry IV plays, I see little to be disappointed in here.

And of course, The Merry Wives of Windsor did provide the raw material for Verdi’s Falstaff, which is about as wonderful an opera as there is. Indeed, I find the music of Falstaff going round my head as I read this play – and that, in itself, enhances my enjoyment.

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