Reference > The Library > Helen Rex Keller > Reader’s Digest of Books

C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
H. R. Keller.  The Reader’s Digest of Books.
The Merry Wives of Windsor
William Shakespeare (1564–1616)
Merry Wives of Windsor, The (printed 1602), is a play written, according to tradition, at the request of Queen Elizabeth, who wanted to see Falstaff in love. With its air of village domesticity and out-o’-doorness is united the quintessential spirit of fun and waggery. Its gay humor never fails, and its readers always wish it five times as long as it is. The figures on this rich old tapestry resolve themselves, on inspection, into groups: The jolly ranter and bottle-rinser, mine host of the Garter Inn, with Sir John Falstaff and his men, Bardolph, Nym, and Pistol; the merry wives, Mrs. Ford and Mrs. Page, and their families; then Shallow (the country justice), with his cousin of the “wee little face and little yellow beard” (Slender), and the latter’s man Simple; further Dr. Caius, the French physician, who speaks broken English, as does Parson Hugh Evans, the Welshman; lastly Dame Quickly (the doctor’s housekeeper), and Master Fenton, in love with sweet Anne Page. Shallow has a grievance against Sir John for killing his deer; and Slender has matter in his head against him, for Sir John broke it. But Falstaff and his men outface the two cheese-parings, and they forget their “pribbles and prabbles” in the parson’s scheme of marrying Slender to Anne Page. But the irascible doctor has looked that way too, and sends a “shallenge” to Evans. Mine host fools them both by sending each to a separate place for the duel. They make friends, and avenge themselves on the Boniface by getting his horses run off with. Falstaff sends identically worded love-letters to Mrs. Ford and Mrs. Page, hoping to replenish his purse from their husbands gold. But Pistol and Nym, in revenge for dismissal, peach to said husbands. The jealous Ford visits Falstaff under the name of Brook, and offers him a bag of gold if he will seduce Mrs. Ford for him. Jack assures him that he has an appointment with her that very day. And so he has. But the two wives punish him badly, and he gets nothing from them but a cast out of a buck-basket into a dirty ditch, and a sound beating from Ford. The midnight scene in Windsor Park, where Falstaff, disguised as Herne the Hunter, with stag-horns on his head, is guyed by the wives and their husbands and pinched and burned by the fairies’ tapers, is most amusing. During the fairies’ song Fenton steals away Anne Page and marries her. The doctor, by previous arrangement with mother Ford, leads away a fairy in green to a priest, only to discover that he has married a boy. And Slender barely escapes the same fate; for he leads off to Eton Church another “great lubberly boy,” dressed in white as agreed with Mr. Page. Anne has given the slip to both father and mother, having promised her father to wear white for Slender and her mother to dress in green for the doctor.  1

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