Shakespeare Fans discussion

Group Readings > November 2014: The Merry Wives Of Windsor

Comments Showing 1-50 of 160 (160 new)    post a comment »
« previous 1 3 4

message 1: by Candy (new)

Candy | 2638 comments Mod
We will be doing a group read of The Merry Wives of Windsor November! Yay!

Martin is discussion leader and I hope if you are reading this you will join us.

I will send out a group message too.

message 2: by Manal (new)

Manal | 3 comments Yay! Count me in :)

message 3: by Martin (last edited Oct 28, 2014 02:17AM) (new)

Martin | 18 comments Welcome Manal. We'll call the play MWW for short then, instead of TMWOW. Here's the MWW schedule:

Act start date
--- ----------
1 1 Nov
2 9 Nov
3 16 Nov
4 23 Nov
5 30 Nov

The Acts are of roughly equal size, except the last, which is shorter.

Some pointers,

This play is not as well known as most, so no spoilers!

Famously, S borrows characters from the better known Henry IV / Henry V plays. But remember MWW needs to stand on its own merits, rather than being a comedy appendix to those plays.

MWW is unique for S in being almost entirely in prose.

MWW has collected an accretion of biographical anecdotes, the most famous (Nicholas Rowe, 1709) being that Queen Elizabeth commanded S to write it, and chose the play's theme. But bear in mind that these stories are of very dubious authenticity!

Altogether, the play has often been seen as a lightweight piece, with S in holiday mood, and quite different from his customary style. Easy reading, and no need to take it too seriously therefore. Don't believe this! In particular, don't give up on Act 1 scene 1 just 'cos it seems like we can never respond to this out-of-date humour.

Jonathan Bate says (somewhere) that we should pay attention to the title. The play really is about "the merry wives", Mrs Ford and Mrs Page.

MWW is a comedy. Actually, it is a laugh-riot.

message 4: by Candy (new)

Candy | 2638 comments Mod
Oh this is so exciting!

message 5: by Joseph (new)

Joseph McGarry (joseph_mcgarry) | 137 comments I'll be there. Supposedly, this play was written at the request of Queen Elizabeth. She loved the character of Falstaff from Henry IV part 1, and asked Shakespeare to write a play featuring his character. At some level, it's a sitcom.

message 6: by Candy (new)

Candy | 2638 comments Mod
Great news Manla and Joseph!

message 7: by Gary (new)

Gary Patella | 1 comments Ok. I'm in.

message 8: by Destiny (new)

Destiny Martino (destinyfroste) | 7 comments I have not reached MWW yet, but I would be willing to skip ahead in my comedies to join in.

message 9: by Candy (new)

Candy | 2638 comments Mod
Hey Gary and Destiny! Welcome!

message 10: by Martin (last edited Nov 01, 2014 02:27AM) (new)

Martin | 18 comments Welcome everybody. I don't know how familiar we all are with the play, but I know it can be a puzzle on first meeting it. Why don't we share some ideas on Act 1 scene 1 (plus scene 2, which is really the end of the same scene) to get our bearings?

message 11: by Candy (new)

Candy | 2638 comments Mod
Sounds good. I'm just looking at it now....

message 12: by Candy (new)

Candy | 2638 comments Mod
The names of characters are very Dickens-like

message 14: by Candy (last edited Nov 01, 2014 03:40PM) (new)

Candy | 2638 comments Mod
We have the term "cony-catching" again!

We had it in TAMING OF THE SHREW too!

Cony is a rabbit sometimes, and the term is about street tricksters and con artists.

I think the Welsh character might be incorporated in order to have more fun words like "pribble and prabble"...which means squabble or quarrel.

Hre's a funny one...although almost all of this is funny "Why, sir, for my part I say the gentleman had drunk
himself out of his five sentences."

I am wondering if that is a bit of a riff on pentameter ?

There is a I read these lines of dialogue out our today in Act 1, scene 2 of a row boat on choppy waves, it's like the sentences are back and a ping pong game, or waves on the they seem to bounce off of each other...

message 15: by Martin (last edited Nov 02, 2014 03:09AM) (new)

Martin | 18 comments Yes, ping pong is a good analogy. Every sentence, every word, is bounced back in a different way. Each character has a unique speech syle, and characteristic way of misunderstanding what is said. You sometimes get in the "notes" the idea that Evans is punning when, at the very beginning, he takes the "luces" on the Shallow coat of arms to be "louses", but Evans is not malicious enough (or clever enough!) to intend a pun there. I think he is just at cross-purposes. Shallow talks of the luces on an ancient coat of arms, and Evans thinks he's talking about a lousy old coat. This sets the pattern for everything that follows. The interchanges are endlessly subtle.

Look at the "five sentences" bit again ... in context ...

FALSTAFF: What say you, Scarlet and John?
BARDOLPH: Why, sir, for my part I say the gentleman had drunk himself out of his five sentences.
EVANS: It is his five senses: fie, what the ignorance is!
BARDOLPH: And being fap, sir, was, as they say, cashiered; and so conclusions passed the careires.
SLENDER: Ay, you spake in Latin then too ...

Falstaff thinks of himself as a Robin Hood, with Will Scarlet and Little John as his followers, stealing and poaching in a noble cause. Bardolph's reply to him is not as ignorant as Evans imagines. Slender is such a dimwit you can believe he only had five different sentences for conversation. When drunk he lost them all. Evans pounces on this error (as he does on many others) because he is half-priest half-schoolmaster, and so his conversation is peppered with pulpit platitudes and a teacher's corrections. Bardolph's next line is couched in such incomprehensible jargon that not only can a modern reader not understand it, but neither could Slender, who assumes he's speaking Latin. "Fap", though, fairly obviously means "drunk". (I did a google search on "fap", which revealed a quite distinct meaning in modern American slang ... but it doesn't surprise me ... these sex-obsessed Americans ...)

You could go through the whole scene like this but it would take too long ...

A couple of things worth pointing out:

Evans and Shallow seem desperate to get from Slender some assurance of feeling for Anne Page, in the section beginning with Shallow's "there is, as 'twere, a tender, a kind of tender, made afar off by Sir Hugh here. Do you understand me?" And this goes on for quite some time. They are not just concerned with Slender's affections but with his physical potency, which becomes clear when Shallow asks in desperation, "can you carry your good will to the maid?" You have to recall what "will" meant in Elizabethan slang. Evans makes the best of Slender's feeble response with a head-shaking "it is a fery discretion answer".

Page is the recipient of the stolen venison and thanks Slender for it, imagining (perhaps) that it is a gift. (Have they really taken the meat all the way from Gloucestershire to Windsor?)

To impress Anne Page, Slender tries to be everything except himself. He is the melancholy and mysterious poet who does not wish to eat, the wealthy country gentleman in command of four servants, who lives frugally for his mother's sake, the dashing swordsman, and finally the sort of man who could protect a timid woman from the frights of dogs and bears. This means nothing to Miss Page, who has her own type of simplicity, very different from Slender's.

message 16: by Stephanie (new)

Stephanie Jean Pruett | 24 comments I'm super busy with University and finals this month! Sadly I can't join :( but December, I am ALL IN! :D happy bard-ing everyone!

message 17: by Tracy (new)

Tracy Reilly (tracyreilly) | 383 comments Okay, I finished Act I last night.

message 18: by Tracy (last edited Nov 03, 2014 06:44AM) (new)

Tracy Reilly (tracyreilly) | 383 comments Martin wrote: "Yes, ping pong is a good analogy. Every sentence, every word, is bounced back in a different way. Each character has a unique speech syle, and characteristic way of misunderstanding what is said. Y..."

Martin: I have a question--how deep do we want to delve into the connection with the Henry IV and V plays with this? Besides Falstaff (your Robin Hood reference reminded me), there's Mistress Quickly again, which may remind us that Falstaff already died in the Henry story. Should we just think of it as its own entity? BTW, I American, have never heard the slangy term Fap--perhaps I am too old.

message 19: by Martin (last edited Nov 03, 2014 07:36AM) (new)

Martin | 18 comments Tracy, we can delve as much as we wish, and I would not try to control its extent. It is just a feeling of mine that the play gains if we consider it as a self-contained work, but that is only my view. Incidentally the Henry IV / V plays are the ones I'm least familiar with (Indeed I don't know Henry V at all.) I believe Candy's in the same boat.

To press the point a bit further, I think MWW has suffered from the biographical legends, especially this idea that it was commissioned by an all-powerful queen (even if there is some truth in the story), because it seems to close any further speculation as to why S took this direction. And in many ways MWW is a very puzzling play.

My understanding is that MWW can't be made to fit with the other plays exactly. Isn't Quickly married to Pistol in the other plays?

message 20: by Joseph (new)

Joseph McGarry (joseph_mcgarry) | 137 comments Think of MWW as a spin-off of Henry IV, just like Frasier was a spin-off of Cheers. Characters from Henry IV are placed in a new situation that has nothing to do with the original plays. Shakespeare could have written this with other characters if he wanted, and this discussion would be moot. Falstaff is here primarily because of Queen Elizabeth I.

message 21: by scherzo♫ (new)

scherzo♫ (pjreads) | 270 comments Pitol Quickly? LOL
I had to look it up. She's married to Quickly in Henry IV Part I and marries Pistol in Henry V.

message 22: by Tracy (last edited Nov 03, 2014 04:18PM) (new)

Tracy Reilly (tracyreilly) | 383 comments Martin wrote: "Tracy, we can delve as much as we wish, and I would not try to control its extent. It is just a feeling of mine that the play gains if we consider it as a self-contained work, but that is only my v..."

Well, I'm going to go with things I've read over the years about the plays, without making the assumption that MMW is in any way intended as any sort of sequel, prequel, or whatever. Mostly, I think perhaps Shakespeare is relying on beloved archetypes.

I have not heard the queen's request story; what I have heard was merely that Falstaff was such a favorite character with his audiences that he felt compelled to bring him back from the dead, so to speak, at popular request.

It is true that Mistress Quickly marries "Ancient Pistol" near the end of Henry V.

If no one minds, I will tell what I know of Falstaff, et. al., (several names are repeated in MMW from the Hen IV trilogy), because it probably adds some layers to what Shakespeare's audience would have known. I am more familiar with Henry IV PART I and HENRY V from additional readings, than HIV, PART II. Hen IV , I is a favorite of mine for characters.

There are some similarities to Hamlet in Prince Hal,(later to be Hen V) who is a focal point in HIV- I. Mainly what I mean is Hal is, like Hamlet, an intelligent, charismatic,witty, but reluctant prince. Falstaff is his partner in crime. Much of the play's conflict derives from the rocky relationship between Prince Hal and his more serious warrior father. One constant goad for Hal is his father's favor of his cousin Hotspur, who is much more the warrior his father wishes him to be.

The time frame of the plays would coincide, I think with both the 100 Years' War, where H5 was notably successful, and the War of the Roses-because H4's act of seizing the throne started the Lancaster/York dispute. But H4 also spent much of his reign putting down numerous rebellions, particularly from Scots origins. So, H4 is definitely the solid Warrior-King.

In the 1st play, however, while Hal's father King Henry IV is spending his kingship valiantly, putting down rebellions, Prince Hal spends all his time in taverns, especially the Boar's Head, whose proprietress is Mistress Quickly. He seems to be neglecting his princely duties in order to be in the filthy but entertaining company of one John Falstaff, Knight. Pistol and Nym hover somewhere in the background as well.

Falstaff is almost in the character of a fool in this play, definitely a trickster, mad-cap fun-loving, troublemaker--very uncareful of his reputation. When he is not at war (and if I'm remembering correctly, he was quite a good soldier, and experienced) , he tended to stray off the heavenly path, as Martin already noted, playing Robin Hood. To say plainly, in his boredom when not at war, he got a gang together and turned thief--a highway robber nonetheless.

Prince Hal is fascinated by this riotous "gangsta" lifestyle, which draws him into taverns to hear Falstaff's wild stories, and Falstaff is forever goading him into joining them on these adventures--which he nearly does. Falstaff really seems to do it all more out of some need for life and adventure, more than meanness or money, although he probably needed that as well due to his lavish spending. Later, however, Hal eschews his relationship with Falstaff, to the sadness of English bawds everywhere--it's really a bittersweet (the Russians would say Tosca) moment.

The rest of the plays tone F. down on this melancholy note, as the portly knight seems to have trouble getting over Hal's abandonment of him.

Mistress Quickly is equally colorful--she is a pot walloping, malaprop- ridden, double-entendre flinging bad girl, whose best mate is Doll Tearsheet, a known prostitute--all friends with Sir John F. I will dig up her description of Falstaff's death-bed scene in her tavern, if anyone is interested, because it is quite crazy, lewd, beautiful and surprisingly touching, as Shakespeare can be. It is a memorable speech, and may drive you to read the rest of the play. That is, H5.

message 23: by scherzo♫ (new)

scherzo♫ (pjreads) | 270 comments I was wondering whether the audience is supposed to believe Mistress Quickly's protestations about knowing Anne's mind.

Usually a character tells the truth in soliloquys and asides to the audience?

In this case, it feels like protesting too much.

Looking closer, these are not really asides to the audience.
The first is an aside to Simple,
next, talking aloud in the wake of Caius leaving,
then, talking aloud in the wake of Fenton leaving.

Not convincing to me.

message 24: by Tracy (new)

Tracy Reilly (tracyreilly) | 383 comments Can someone send me a clip of what Evans' accent should sound like? I'm not hearing it clearly(

message 25: by Martin (last edited Nov 04, 2014 08:19AM) (new)

Martin | 18 comments Thank you for the synopsis, Tracy. Welcome pjreads, long time no see. We could accept MWW as a kind of spin-off, as Joseph says, though whether S relies on "beloved archetypes", is bringing back an "audience favourite", or it's all "because of Queen Elizabeth I", who can say? I like Joseph's analogy with Cheers becoming Frasier.

I need hardly say that Evans has a strong Welsh accent. Even after 400 years he is, to a British reader, quite obviously Welsh. Explaining why this is obvious is less easy, especially since Lucinda is not in on the read! An important thing to realise though is that today only a minority of Welsh people are fluent in Welsh, it is taught at school, but not many people now speak it at home, and I think there is no one left who learns English as a second language. In S's time it was quite the opposite: most Welsh speakers would not be fluent in English, and English would be learnt, if at all, as a second language. Evans speaks English as a second language, as does Caius. You can see this in his grammar: Welsh plurals are so complex you're advised to learn the plural as you learn the word. Many words have a base form in the plural, and you make the singular by adding an ending. This is for things you often see in groups -- flowers or stars for example. So "ser" means "stars". You make the singular by adding "en". "seren" means "star". This is why Evans is always muddling up singular with plural. Similarly his confusion of voiced with unvoiced consonants -- but we won't go into that.

The heavy Welsh accent of 50 years ago I cannot find on youtube. For a nice, amusing Welsh accent, look at Ruth Madoc doing her hi-de-hi routine (about 30 seconds in),

message 26: by Joseph (new)

Joseph McGarry (joseph_mcgarry) | 137 comments Here is a link to my review of a performance of this play at the Great River Shakespeare Festival in Winona, MN, this past summer.

message 27: by Martin (last edited Nov 05, 2014 09:55PM) (new)

Martin | 18 comments Joseph, I read your review of MWW with great pleasure several days ago when you joined the read. I should have said something then. For me, what you say brings out an essential split in the way this play is seen. For readers of S, it is the tail-end of his Complete Works, the last thing you ever read, and of little importance. In the theatre, it has had an enormous success, constantly being performed, loved by actors and audiences alike. Obviously there is something wrong here. In the case of Lear it was the opposite way round. In the earlier 19th century it was read as S's greatest play, but thought to be unactable and unstageable, unless considerably modified. It was the stage versions by Granville-Barker that changed this, when the 19th century habit of elaborate and realistic stage sets was abandoned, and people started seeing S in a new way, or rather more in the way they'd have seen it in S's time. And similar remarks for many of the other plays ...

But it is strange to have a play that is a natural theatrical success and so many people find a deadly read. I think the fact that it contains little poetry contributes to this. As a result it doesn't get taught in schools, and is less well known. If you've not seen a stage version it does require some effort to read. And people don't want to put the same effort into MWW that they know they'll have to put into Lear or Hamlet. Finally, the connection with Henry IV (better known among S readers) upsets some people (L Pearsall Smith for example), because Falstaff seems lessened in MWW.

For my part, I read the play about 15 years ago for the first time, the reading experience hit me in the same way that the stage experience hit you, and I've greatly admired it ever since. I've never seen it performed, but watched the BBC version of 1982 -- slightly tame, but still enjoyable.

I was interested in your review that Evans' Welsh was something the audience "got". We are all familiar with the French accent (not least from Clouseau), but it's nice to think a 16th century Welshman can transport over the Atlantic and still be a success!

I also feel the performance captured something magical about the play, especially in its treatment of the ending .. but no spoilers ...

message 28: by Candy (new)

Candy | 2638 comments Mod
All great notes here!
I'm taking the approach of just diving in to this play....without too uch background info.

I love all posts here very good stuff.

message 29: by Martin (new)

Martin | 18 comments Wise choice, Candy. What do you think so far?

message 30: by Martin (last edited Nov 08, 2014 02:24AM) (new)

Martin | 18 comments The lack of comments here on MWW itself is truly appalling.

I will try to stimulate some discussion with a couple of ideas of my own, one little one big, and if that does nothing, I'll just give up.

Okay, idea #1 is a view of Pistol. I used to think of his language as a rich joke, in which S is satirising the inflated style of the dramatists of a previous age. I now see him as man who invents for himself the Homeric diction of a great warrior, to compensate for the wretched disappointments of his veteran's life.

"O base Hungarian wight! wilt thou the spigot wield?"

-- the spigot, or tap, of a beer barrel. Bardolph is going straight as a tapster. But Pompey, in MforM, is a tapster, and it is not presented as a very reputable profession. But clearly more reputable than banditry. Candy encouraged me, a few years back, to read Hermes the Thief, a study of trading and thieving in the ancient world. In those primitive times trading was seen as a lower class pursuit, and piracy as more aristocratic. Pistol wants to be with the pirate aristocrats, and his epic diction is a cover for the poverty and aimlessness of his sordid vagabond life.

Pistol is the 16th century equivalent of today's damaged vet, who gets home emotionally wrecked, poor, unqualified for civilian life, and may end up committing murder or suicide. A modern parallel would be Walter Sobchak from the Big Lebowski, another great comic creation.

message 31: by Martin (new)

Martin | 18 comments Idea #2 is the big idea, in fact a theory of the play. The story we always hear is that S wrote MWW at the request of Queen Elizabeth, who wanted to see more of Falstaff. You'll recall that The Taming of the Shrew appeared first as a pirated quarto (what Candy called the bootleg version), and Lear got a total rewrite by Nathan Tate to give it a happy ending. MWW suffered both: bootleg version plus a rewrite, by John Dennis, in the 1690s. By the way, this says something for the play's popularity at the time. Dennis made the claim about Queen Elizabeth in his Introduction to his own published version, and it was copied into Rowe's very brief Life of Shakespeare of 1709,

"She [Elizabeth] was so well pleas'd with that admirable Character of Falstaff, in the two Parts of Henry the Fourth, that she commanded him to continue it for one Play more, and to shew him in Love."

And she might have been disappointed, since Falstaff is evidently not in love. The story is about as useful as if Nathan Tate had told us that James I really loved S's fools, and commanded S to include one in his next tragedy, to alleviate the picture of suffering with a bit of light humour. The sources are untrustworthy, the story incredible.

My own theory (which I did think through myself, even though I was not the first to do so) is that S is writing a Comedy of Humours, following the lead of Jonson, and using borrowed characters because he found they already had the characteristics he wanted to exemplify. In Jonson's Every Man in his Humour and Every Man out of his Humour, of 1598 and 1599, each character behaves according to the dictates of his internal humour. The "humour" is not the same thing as personality, but rather the bodily structure that gives rise to personality. The modern equivalent would be "genetic make-up". Traditionally there were just four humours (one might say Dr Caius is choleric), but that is not so important. The idea is rather that of predetermined character. It fed into deterministic ideas, which still today provide such consolation to the anti-God brigade.

MWW must have been written about 1599 or 1600.

"Humour" first appears here,

Nym: Slice, I say! pauca, pauca: slice! that's my humour.
Slender: Where's Simple, my man? Can you tell, cousin?

Nym tells Slender he's a man of few (pauca) words, slicing with a sword defines his "humour". Slender, scared, calls for backup. And it's used twice again in 1.1 But turn to Act 1 Scene 3, and it appears no less than 14 times. It is worth going through this again, and seeing each word in context, acting as explanation and excuse for individual or general behaviour.

The Intro to the New Cambridge S edition (1997) seems to miss all this. The editor writes about the play with what seems to be bewilderment: it lacks significance, it does not resonate beyond itself, everything in the play remains itself, the plot is a nothing, full of characters whose energy derives from caricature. (I'm picking out actual phrases here.)

MWW is very similar to Jonson's Every Man in his Humour in many respects: a play in a modern ensemble style, very funny, a simple, London-based setting, no background of great events. There is an old story that S saw its merits and helped Jonson get it put on. Again, it may not be true, but at least it's more plausible than Queen Elizabeth thinking up S's stories for him.

message 32: by Candy (new)

Candy | 2638 comments Mod
I've had to fill in some shifts to cover for co=workers which dragged me away....sorry about that gang.

I am finding this so easy to read. I find the puns fairly straight. I also thought about HERMES THE THIEF....because I think Falstaff is a bit of a thief.

I thu=ught, how interesting to see these men gambling with trying to get a wage through women. In Jane Austen we come across this as a woman's situation.

The men are negotiating through social venues...which often we stereotype as a woman motive.

And I also love how Mistress Quickly feels she is a puppet-master (puppet mistress) because she can wheel and dal with her Mistress and the if she can control.

So what I am seeing is there is a whole economic structure...a subculture being witnessed within flirting, beer drinking, trickery and romance and bartering on young lovers feelings as a form of enterprises.

This is what we might see within royal and powerful's interesting to see it within these social levels...

message 33: by Candy (new)

Candy | 2638 comments Mod
It's very interesting Matin, that you mention THE BIG LEIBOWSKI and one of my favorite characters John Goodman plays in the movie.

I think that Jeff Bridges, and John Goodman sort of play Falstaff within themselves. They are both kind of Falstaff characters.

The very important thing you hit on is....that Goodmans character is a vet. I am not clear on whether Bridges character actually served....he does say he was part of a protest group against the war....

But the contrast of characters and money and especially significant.

One of the reasons we seem to have a French character and a Welsh character in this play....isn't to laugh or be insulting although, that does occur with all the banter etc...but because England was in war and very broke during the time of this play.

I think we are seeing Shakespeare observe the power plays and kid of traveling musicians.actors as a parallel to displaced persons with the economy. When a person is out of work....or not married...there is a syndrome of crime, and trickery that occurs. In this play, it is very light-hearted. However....the kind of crime in contemporary China due to less women, less jobs and male gangs rising is interesting. China had a ban on less women were raised since the 90's leaving boys with gangs of each other and no family life.

message 35: by Candy (new)

Candy | 2638 comments Mod
You faithful servants of the Lord,
sing out his praise with one accord,
while serving him with all your might
and keeping vigil through the night.
Unto his house lift up your hand
and to the Lord your praises send.
May God who made the earth and sky
bestow his blessings fr


All people that on earth do dwell,
Sing to the Lord with cheerful voice.
Him serve with fear, His praise forth tell;
Come ye before Him and rejoice.

The Lord, ye know, is God indeed;
Without our aid He did us make;
We are His folk, He doth us feed,
And for His sheep He doth us take.

O enter then His gates with praise;
Approach with joy His courts unto;
Praise, laud, and bless His Name always,
For it is seemly so to do.

For why? the Lord our God is good;
His mercy is for ever sure;
His truth at all times firmly stood,
And shall from age to age endure.

To Father, Son and Holy Ghost,
The God Whom Heaven and earth adore,
From men and from the angel host
Be praise and glory evermore.

message 36: by Candy (new)

Candy | 2638 comments Mod
I was quite easy to sing those words to the tune of "Green Sleeves"

message 37: by Candy (new)

Candy | 2638 comments Mod
I take this to mean putting such a reverent song as the Hundredth Psalm, to the tune about a possible prostitute is what the Act 2 mean.

message 38: by Candy (new)

Candy | 2638 comments Mod
When it comes to Falstaff...I am trying to understand his motives. I think, he must have had an easy time unsocial situations in the past. I can not help but think of the trendy book during Sahkespeare's time called "The Book of the Courtier" by Castiglione. I am also guessing most everyone has read this book here at Shakespeare's Fans?

I think Falstaff just assumes that if two people have things in stature, rank and age...they might as well team up!

I also wonder if Falstaff isn' I mean gay very loosely and literally. For him, I don't think he is even thinking about sex...but about how easy to have a woman's company as a partner in crime...against a male society!

message 39: by Candy (new)

Candy | 2638 comments Mod
I think the following is a direct dig against "The Book of the Courtier" and the idea there is a formula for love...and social status

Letter for letter, but that the name of Page and
Ford differs! To thy great comfort in this mystery
of ill opinions, here's the twin-brother of thy
letter: but let thine inherit first; for, I 635
protest, mine never shall. I warrant he hath a
thousand of these letters, writ with blank space for
different names—sure, more,—and these are of the
second edition: he will print them, out of doubt;
for he cares not what he puts into the press, when
he would put us two. I had rather be a giantess,
and lie under Mount Pelion. Well, I will find you
twenty lascivious turtles ere one chaste man.

message 40: by Martin (last edited Nov 09, 2014 02:35AM) (new)

Martin | 18 comments Candy, you're amazing. I complain about lack of posts so you give us eight! But I hope it's not going to be only us two for the rest of the read.

I'm sure you're abolutely right when you emphasise the sense of "a whole economic structure" that S is giving us here. I feel this more and more, as if you're at a zoo looking into an ant's nest in a glass case and seeing all the workings.

The importance of Evans and Caius, as you say ... comic characters, but the only ones engaged in some socially useful pursuits, teacher and doctor.

Notice how Evans gets the idea of constructing his own court of mediation, with him, Page, and the Garter landlord sitting, to resolve the Shallow-Falstaff dispute. I bet this sort of thing used to happen to avoid regular legal fees. There was no police force then, and the constables in London or Windsor would not have taken much interest in a poaching incident in Gloucestershire.

Caius has "Latinised" his name from something originally French. I wonder what it might have been? S obviously got the idea from this chap,

John Caius, whose surname was pronounced "keys" (and still is: "keys" college, Cambrige). Perhaps "Caius" in MWW is meant to be pronounced "keys". Is he meant to be a Huguenot refugee?

Mrs Quickly obviously makes a good living as procuress, or go-between, just as happy to set up adulterous connections as help with respectable arranged marriages. Her modern equivalent would be the internet dating agency.

I never got this bit:

Mrs Q: Have not your worship a wart above your eye?
Fenton: Yes, marry, have I; what of that?
Mrs Q: Well, thereby hangs a tale: good faith, it is such another Nan; but, I detest [=protest], an honest maid as ever broke bread: we had an hour's talk of that wart.

What is going on here?

message 41: by Martin (new)

Martin | 18 comments You mention Falstaff's behaviour: Mrs P and F and Miss P behave with shrewd good sense and wit throughout, all the men (exceping Mr P perhaps) behave with a degree of folly that almost strains credulity, even with S as the author. Why does Falstaff imagine his plan could succeed? Sending identical love letters to two talkative women who are intimately acquainted is clearly disastrous, but even if he'd concentrated on one woman, one would judge his chance of success as extremely low.

Is it that Falstaff, since he lives mainly by his wits at the expense of men with less wit, imagines that fooling women will be a pushover, since they are dumber than men? If so, one can read MWW as a very feminist work. Why do men have the economic power when the women can outwit them all the way.

Notice that the women do not suffer from "humours" ...

message 42: by scherzo♫ (new)

scherzo♫ (pjreads) | 270 comments "The importance of Evans and Caius, as you say ... comic characters, but the only ones engaged in some socially useful pursuits, teacher and doctor."

Homemakers, housekeeper, parson, host of the Garter, justice of the peace, servants -- sound socially useful to me.

message 43: by Martin (last edited Nov 09, 2014 08:16AM) (new)

Martin | 18 comments Evans is the parson ... are you reading the play, nightmusic?

message 44: by Candy (new)

Candy | 2638 comments Mod
These positions I believe are very important...

I think there might be a useful exercise in relating how the idea of romance and marriage is opening up as a game and to other positions in society.

Is this possible as I understand it that some have said this play is "middle-class".

I believe that is one way to look at the characters....including saying a wife taking care of children and home is "work": which is an feminist position in contemporary life.

There are times when one's livelihood and position was locked into society in England and Europe. During this play we are seeing how people can wrangle and use their inventive personalities and wits to move around social class.

The parallel between jobs opening ways to make money and therefore erase the distance between royal/wealth and blood merchant status....set against this idea of marrying for money.

I'm not sure where I might be trying to go with this idea...but it's an idea. LOL

I am finding this play possibly the most accessible play of Shakespeare's....the variety of personas I find very fun. This is a cosmopolitan, urban setting and I love it!

Martin....I was just about to post something about Falstaff.

He seems as if he is rather simple...yet...he is a knight, a high stature, maybe even educated person.

What is going on here? Is HE knave or knight?

Forget Hamlet...what on earth is going on with the character Falstaff?

I agree, he would surely know that these two women are going to exchange letters. He knows he is insulting them when he talks and compares their ages.

Is he ignorant...or is he a genius?

I feel as though....his energy and spirit is of almost a magical quality. Like HERMES. His existence is the kind of force that enters into social situations and is a catalyst.

I don't know if there is actual textual "proof" or intent shown in the play....yet...or of I will find it. The play and dialogue moves so quickly...I haven't a handle on whether or not Falstaff is associated with any magical properties or cosmological poetry that might support this feeling I have.

And is there any kind of name for this strange quality I'm thinking of....

You know, like Abel Magwich from Great Expectations. The kind of force like MERCURY or HERMES. Where their bad behavior....from sneakiness, to also a kind of magic and healing restorative force.....

AH!!! Silly ME!!!

Of course I needed to fall back on folk mythology....

googling HEERMES and Falstaff in one search....

The green man!!!

I have often obsessed about the "green world" as an idea introduced to me by Northrop shakespeare.

And there really is a precedent for a person who is like the green world!

message 45: by Candy (new)

Candy | 2638 comments Mod
Night Music....your post is so relevant because many of the positions you mentioned as socially viable....are also part of this idea of "new jobs". Positions which we may or may not have given money to so a wife and mother is now a "job" in contemporary culture in North America.

Parsons, justice of the peace, these social customs originally conveyed by a church, or pagan ritual. Not as sole separated removed from spiritual or royal or religious activities and institutions.

These are also part of the rising and emergence of "new jobs". Along with police! Which Martin points out.

message 46: by Candy (new)

Candy | 2638 comments Mod
And connected to "The Green Man" is also the wild man...

message 47: by Candy (new)

Candy | 2638 comments Mod
"A Green Man is a sculpture, drawing, or other representation of a face surrounded by or made from leaves. Branches or vines may sprout from the nose, mouth, nostrils or other parts of the face and these shoots may bear flowers or fruit. Commonly used as a decorative architectural ornament, Green Men are frequently found in carvings on both secular and ecclesiastical buildings. "The Green Man" is also a popular name for English public houses and various interpretations of the name appear on inn signs, which sometimes show a full figure rather than just the head.

The Green Man motif has many variations. Found in many cultures from many ages around the world, the Green Man is often related to natural vegetative deities. It is primarily interpreted as a symbol of rebirth, representing the cycle of growth each spring. Some speculate that the mythology of the Green Man developed independently in the traditions of separate ancient cultures and evolved into the wide variety of examples found throughout history."

message 48: by Martin (new)

Martin | 18 comments pj, I realise my last post might be misconstrued. I wasn't suggesting you're not reading the play, just wondering if you were.

message 49: by scherzo♫ (new)

scherzo♫ (pjreads) | 270 comments yes I am

message 50: by Tracy (new)

Tracy Reilly (tracyreilly) | 383 comments Ok, some random thoughts. First, MMW has always reminded me of our modern, (well, especially mid-century) TV sitcoms. Usually these seemed based on some absurd farce of an idea that sort of requires the reader/audience's suspended disbelief to go along with the humor. I can see this storyline translated easily into an I LOVE LUCY Episode, where some egotistical dolt decides he can be clever writing love letters to both Lucy and Ethel, assuming his far greater intelligence, but in Lucy's world her bubble-headedness is a bit of a mirage, and she often gets exactly what she wants.

Also, I think comedy in general often requires this POV. Whereas Tragedy only works well if we are sucked in to sympathizing with the main characters, like MacBeth--why all those soliloquys where we see his hesitation, his Lad'y control, if not to evoke our sympathy? I think comedy wants us more distant from its protagonists. It's so we can feel slightly superior, the suspense comes when the audience realizes a split second before what will happen.

Laurel and Hardy are hauling a grand piano up to a second story window? Don't they realize if they let go of the rope to argue with each other, and for one to wack the other with his hat, the piano is going to come crashing down on them?

I think for this reason we need a myopic Falstaff for this to play funny rather than tragic. He is moreso than he is in The histories. Since he is such a big character it's easy to see him as extremely egotistical to the point of blindness about his image.

Also, I think something to consider is that Falstaff (perhaps like Hamlet as well) has a touch of mania--I mean in the bipolar sense..I'm sure Shakespeare, in his circle knew many like this even is he didn't have a clinical name for it. I'm sure the theatre arts attracts this kind of person. If you have ever known people with this tendency, they can be extremely bright, clever, witty, insightful, but also horribly blind at times when they go too far out of the stratosphere.

The middle class setting is an interesting thought. It almost seems to me that the working class is attempting to imitate the aristocrats by taking the work free?? way of marriage as a social lever--and perhaps on some level this play wants to satirize the practice. After all, Shakespeare himself seemed to have made a marriage of convenience.

« previous 1 3 4
back to top