Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
Sir John Falstaff is, without doubt, a rogue. True, he is fat, jolly, and in a way lovable, but he is still a rogue. His men rob and plunder the citizens of Windsor, but he himself is seldom taken or convicted for his crimes. His fortunes at low ebb, he hits upon a plan to remedy that situation. He meets Mistress Ford and Mistress Page, two good ladies who hold the purse strings in their respective houses. Falstaff writes identical letters to the two good ladies, letters protesting undying love for each of them.
The daughter of one of the ladies, Anne Page, is the center of a love triangle. Her father wishes her to marry Slender, a foolish gentleman who does not love her or anyone else, but who will marry any girl recommended to him by his cousin, the justice. Mistress Page, on the other hand, wants her daughter married to Doctor Caius, a French physician then in Windsor. Anne herself loves Fenton, a fine young gentleman deeply in love with her. All three lovers pay the doctor’s housekeeper, Mistress Quickly, to plead their cause with Anne, for Mistress Quickly convinces each that she alone can persuade Anne to answer yes to a proposal. Mistress Quickly is, in fact, second only to Falstaff in her plotting and her trickery.
Unknown to poor Falstaff, Mistress Ford and Mistress Page compare the letters received from him, alike except for the lady’s name. They decide to cure him of his knavery once and for all. Mistress Ford arranges to have...
(The entire section is 1138 words.)
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The play is set in Windsor, an English country town; its main characters are the middle class townsfolk who live at the periphery of royal Windsor castle. Falstaff, the play's central figure, is a dissolute courtier from out of town. As the play opens, Justice Robert Shallow, his nephew Abraham Slender, and the parson Hugh Evans seek out Falstaff for robbing Shallow and Slender the night before. Falstaff amiably admits his wrong doing, and goes in to dine at the home of Mister and Mistress Page. Shallow and Evans convince Slender to woo the Page's daughter, Anne, who will inherit her father's wealth. Evans sends his servant to one Mistress Quickly, to ask her to be the go-between for Slender and Anne Page. Mistress Quickly agrees, even though she is also working for her own master, the French Doctor Caius, and for Fenton, a gentleman. Falstaff, low on cash, has to let his servant Bardolph go to work for the innkeeper, the host of the Garter Inn. He plans to procure money by sleeping with Mistress Page (Anne Page's mother) and Mistress Ford.
Mistresses Page and Ford, on receiving love letters from Falstaff, vow to get revenge by leading him on, without telling their husbands. Meanwhile, Falstaff's own disloyal servants have informed the husbands of Falstaff's plans. Ford becomes jealous and, posing as a Mister Brook, finds out the details of Falstaff's trysts with his wife. Meanwhile, Doctor Caius has challenged Evans...
(The entire section is 803 words.)