2016 Production was The Merry Wives of Windsor
mark our thirtieth year - and the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare's
Villagers did two sets of performances of our production of
The Merry Wives of Windsor. We did three performances in
Portsmouth in April and our usual summer run in late July.
April performances were in association with Portsmouth University and
Much Ado About Portsmouth. The Cast list for the April performances can be found here and photos of the production can be found here.
The Cast list for the July performances can be found here and photos of the production can be found here.
of the play courtesy of Wikipedia
some of Shakespeare's male characters are female in our play)
arrives in Windsor very short on money. He decides, to obtain financial
advantage, that he will court two wealthy married women, Mistress Ford
and Mistress Page. Falstaff decides to send the women identical love
letters and asks his servants – Pistol and Nym – to deliver them to the
wives. When they refuse, Falstaff sacks them, and, in revenge, the men
tell Ford and Page (the husbands) of Falstaff's intentions. Page is not
concerned, but the jealous Ford persuades the Host of the Garter Inn to
introduce him to Falstaff as a 'Master Brook' so that he can find out
Meanwhile, three different men are trying to win the hand of Page's
daughter, Anne Page. Mistress Page would like her daughter to marry
Doctor Caius, a French physician, whereas the girl's father would like
her to marry Master Slender. Anne herself is in love with Master
Fenton, but Page had previously rejected Fenton as a suitor due to his
having squandered his considerable fortune on high-class living. Hugh
Evans, a Welsh parson, tries to enlist the help of Mistress Quickly
(servant to Doctor Caius) in wooing Anne for Slender, but the doctor
discovers this and challenges Evans to a duel. The Host of the Garter
Inn prevents this duel by telling both men a different meeting place,
causing much amusement for himself, Justice Shallow, Page and others.
Evans and Caius decide to work together to be revenged on the Host.
When the women receive the letters, each goes to tell the other, and
they quickly find that the letters are almost identical. The "merry
wives" are not interested in the ageing, overweight Falstaff as a
suitor; however, for the sake of their own amusement and to gain
revenge for his indecent assumptions towards them both, they pretend to
respond to his advances.
This all results in great embarrassment for Falstaff. Mr. Ford poses as
'Mr. Brook' and says he is in love with Mistress Ford but cannot woo
her as she is too virtuous. He offers to pay Falstaff to court her,
saying that once she has lost her honour he will be able to tempt her
himself. Falstaff cannot believe his luck, and tells 'Brook' he has
already arranged to meet Mistress Ford while her husband is out.
Falstaff leaves to keep his appointment and Ford soliloquises that he
is right to suspect his wife and that the trusting Page is a fool.
When Falstaff arrives to meet Mistress Ford, the merry wives trick him
into hiding in a laundry basket ("buck basket") full of filthy, smelly
clothes awaiting laundering. When the jealous Ford returns to try and
catch his wife with the knight, the wives have the basket taken away
and the contents (including Falstaff) dumped into the river. Although
this affects Falstaff's pride, his ego is surprisingly resilient. He is
convinced that the wives are just "playing hard to get" with him, so he
continues his pursuit of sexual advancement, with its attendant capital
and opportunities for blackmail.
Again Falstaff goes to meet the women but Mistress Page comes back and
warns Mistress Ford of her husband's approach again. They try to think
of ways to hide him other than the laundry basket which he refuses to
get into again. They trick him again, this time into disguising himself
as Mistress Ford's maid's obese aunt, known as "the fat woman of
Brentford". Ford tries once again to catch his wife with the knight but
ends up beating the "old woman", whom he despises, and throwing her out
of his house. Black and blue, Falstaff laments his bad luck.
Eventually the wives tell their husbands about the series of jokes they
have played on Falstaff, and together they devise one last trick which
ends up with the Knight being humiliated in front of the whole town.
They tell Falstaff to dress as "Herne, the Hunter" and meet them by an
old oak tree in Windsor Forest (now part of Windsor Great Park). They
then dress several of the local children, including Anne and William
Page, as fairies and get them to pinch and burn Falstaff to punish him.
Page plots to dress Anne in white and tells Slender to steal her away
and marry her during the revels. Mistress Page and Doctor Caius arrange
to do the same, but they arrange Anne shall be dressed in green. Anne
tells Fenton this, and he and the Host arrange for Anne and Fenton to
be married instead.
The wives meet Falstaff, and almost immediately the "fairies" attack.
Slender, Caius, and Fenton steal away their brides-to-be during the
chaos, and the rest of the characters reveal their true identities to
Although he is embarrassed, Falstaff takes the joke surprisingly well,
as he sees it was what he deserved. Ford says he must pay back the 20
pounds 'Brook' gave him and takes the Knight's horses as recompense.
Slender suddenly appears and says he has been deceived – the 'girl' he
took away to marry was not Anne but a young boy. Caius arrives with
similar news – however, he has actually married his boy! Fenton and
Anne arrive and admit that they love each other and have been married.
Fenton chides the parents for trying to force Anne to marry men she did
not love and the parents accept the marriage and congratulate the young
pair. Eventually they all leave together and Mistress Page even invites
Falstaff to come with them: "let us every one go home, and laugh this
sport o'er by a country fire; Sir John and all".