Sir John Falstaff
Sir John Falstaff (FOHL-staf), the jovial, rotund friend of Prince Hal in Henry IV, who comes with his hangers-on to Windsor and amuses himself by wooing the respectable ladies of two merchants. Twice gulled by the “merry wives,” beaten and dumped into the Thames from a laundry basket, he tries a third time to succeed in his amorous designs and plans a rendezvous in the woods. He is discovered there by his friends wearing a buck’s head and lying face down for fear of the fairies and elves who have been pinching him. He accepts this last deception in good humor and confesses that he was rather dubious about the authenticity of the spirits who visited him.
Mistress Page and
Mistress Ford, the brisk, practical ladies on whom Falstaff practices his romantic arts. Incensed as much by his identical letter to each of them as by his presumption in writing, they outwit the fat knight at every turn and firmly convince their husbands of their fidelity.
Thomas Page, Mistress Page’s husband, a well-to-do burgher dwelling at Windsor. He trusts his wife’s ability to withstand Falstaff’s advances, although he follows his more suspicious friend Ford when he sets out to search for the knight at his own home. He disapproves of Fenton’s suit for his daughter’s hand, fearing the young man’s high social standing, and arranges Anne’s elopement with Slender. He is, however, quickly pacified when she announces her marriage to Fenton.
Ford, Page’s jealous friend. He disguises himself as Brook to ferret out Falstaff’s plans, and he instigates the searches that precipitate the knight’s unexpected bath in the Thames and his thorough thrashing.
Mistress Quickly, an old busybody, Dr. Caius’ nurse and housekeeper. She supposes herself Anne Page’s confidante and tries to use her influence to marry the girl to her master. She is much distressed by young William Page’s Latin lessons, for she is sure that his exercises contain improper language.
Sir Hugh Evans
Sir Hugh Evans, the Welsh parson, a pedantic scholar whose “correctness” is made more ridiculous by his heavy accent. Duped by the host into challenging Dr. Caius to a duel, he quickly and surreptitiously convinces his adversary that friendship is preferable to fighting. He joins the final plot against Falstaff and, dressed as a satyr, leads the “elves” and “fairies” to the knight.
Dr. Caius (keez), a French doctor, a rather stupid man and one of Anne Page’s suitors. His ignorance of the English language provides much amusement for his companions.
Justice Shallow, a foolish old country squire who is determined to sue Falstaff for injuries to his men, his property, and his pride. He avidly pursues his scheme for wedding his nephew to Mistress Anne Page and her...
(The entire section is 734 words.)