The Merry Wives of Windsor By William Shakespeare Summary and Analysis Act IV: Scenes 5-6

Summary

Slender has sent his man Simple to seek the advice of the "Witch of Brainford" on two matters: (1) a chain which he suspects Nym to have stolen and (2) the prospects of his marrying Anne Page. Falstaff explains that the fat woman has just left, but not before they discussed these very things. Stupidly satisfied that his master will be pleased to hear that Anne Page "might or might not" accept Slender, Simple leaves. Next, we learn of the Host's ill-fortune. His horses have been stolen by "three cozen-Germans." Falstaff, in a depressed state himself, welcomes the news of anyone else's misery: "I would all the world might be cozened, for I have been cozened [cheated] and beaten too." Quickly lures Falstaff to his chamber with a letter which promises a means of bringing him together with "two parties." He follows her.

Fenton solicits the aid of the Host in procuring Anne Page as his wife. He explains her mother's and father's separate plans to marry her to men of their choice.

Host: Which means she to deceive, father or mother?
Fenton: Both, my good Host, to go along with me. (46-47)

The Host agrees to help by hiring a priest and waiting in an appointed spot.

Analysis

Falstaff is the largest figure in The Merry Wives of Windsor in every imaginable way. What a colossal ego it must take to find oneself thwarted twice in secret assignations with a woman — only to be seduced by the idea of having one's way with two women at a time! The fun is amplified by the hypocrisy of the perpetrator. Falstaff is loved because he is incorrigible: "Well, if my wind were but long enough to say my prayers, I would repent." References to the petty idiocies of characters such as Slender and to the more ordinary machinations of Evans (who, with Caius, probably stole the Host's horses) make Falstaff seem even a greater (while lesser) character.

The Fenton episode is purely traditional in inspiration: in romantic comedy, true love must find its way to fruition.

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