The Merry Wives of Windsor
Written by: William Shakespeare
Directed by: David Girard
July 16th – July 28th
(Tues-Sat, 6:30PM / Sundays, 3PM)
Congress Park, Saratoga Springs
Imagining that Mistress Ford and Mistress Page have each fallen for him, the fat knight Sir John Falstaff decides to seduce them both, as much for their husbands’ money as for their personal charms. Wise to the old rogue’s tricks, the women turn the tables on him with a series of humiliating assignations and a very damp, extremely smelly laundry basket.
For our 2013 Summer season, Saratoga Shakespeare Company will be presenting Merry Wives of Windsor, Shakespeare’s jolly romp featuring the bombastic rascal, Falstaff. Shakespeare skewers both the rising middle class and the decadent nobility in his most farcical English comedy.
Featuring many characters from Henry IV Parts 1 and 2, Shakespeare’s brilliantly constructed farce, which gave birth to a tradition that reaches down to the modern Television sitcom.
Saratoga Shakespeare Company performs outdoors in beautiful Congress Park. As always, our shows are free to the public. Our plays are a favorite of local theatergoers, including families with children and audience members throughout the Capital Region.
Our productions have a history of drawing on an excellent artistic and production staff. Always on the cutting edge of concept, this year we will be using a Prohibition Saratoga inspired theme for the costumes and sets in our production of Merry Wives in conjunction with Saratoga 150 Festival celebrating 150 years of the Saratoga Race Course
Not one of Shakespeare’s best known works, this play is great fun for all. According to tradition, THE MERRY WIVES OF WINDSOR was written at the request of Queen Elizabeth I. She enjoyed the merry antics of the fat, rascally, knight, Sir John Falstaff so much in KING HENRY IV that she wanted to see him in love. Shakespeare, obliged with this delightful play, the only one he set in contemporary England.
Outside the Page home, Justice Shallow Slender, complain to Parson Hugh Evans, that they’ve been wronged by Falstaff’s followers, Pistol, Bardolph, and Nym. Master Page settles matters by talking to Falstaff who is a bit down on his luck. Alice, John Ford’s wife, joins them and catches Falstaff’s roving eye. When they go in for a drink to seek peace, Shallow, Evans, and Slender discuss the foolish Slender’s wooing of Page’s daughter, Anne. Dr. Caius, a Frenchman, is also pursuing Anne. Evans asks Mistress Quickly, Dr. Caius’s housekeeper, to speak to Anne about Slender. She, however, is already doing the same for Dr. Caius. When Caius discovers this he challenges Evans to a duel. Mistress Quickly has also promised to speak to Anne for young Master Fenton, another wooer, but one who has little hope due to his lack of income.
Falstaff, as always, is short of cash and must fire his followers. The Host of the Garter Inn hires the hard-drinking Bardolph as a tapster. Falstaff plots to raise some money sending identical love letters to Mistress Ford and Mistress Page in hopes of getting at their husbands’ money.
Mistress Ford reads Falstaff’s letter and is appalled at his proposal for an affair. When Mistress Page enters with an identical letter, they decide to punish the buffoon. Mistress Quickly is sent to invite Falstaff to meet with Mistress Ford when Ford is away.
Angry at Falstaff, Nym and Pistol tell Page and Ford of Falstaff’s plan. Page, but the jealous Ford, disguised as a Master Brooke, goes to the Falstaff and offers him money to seduce Mistress Ford on his behalf. Falstaff tells him he is about to meet with her and Ford decides that he will catch the two of them together.
Meanwhile, Sir Hugh Evans reluctantly arrives at the site for the duel but discovers that both he and Dr. Caius have been sent by the Host to different places. When they finally do meet, the Host admits the joke and manages to make peace between them.
Slender continues to pine for Anne and manages to get her father’s consent to marry. However, Mistress Page hopes she will marry Dr. Caius. Meanwhile, Anne and Fenton have fallen in love.
When Falstaff visits Mistress Ford, Mistress Page enters and tells them Ford is coming to deal with Falstaff. The women hide him in a laundry basket and tell servants to dump it into the river. Ford searches for Falstaff but finds nothing. The wives send Mistress Quickly to Falstaff to set another rendezvous and he reluctantly agrees. When Ford finds him, Falstaff tells of his escape and his plan to visit Mistress Ford again. Alone, Ford vows that he won’t allow Falstaff to escape this time.
Falstaff revisits Mistress Ford is once again interrupted by her husband who looks through the laundry. The women dress Falstaff in women’s clothes and tell Ford that she is the fat witch of Brainford. Ford hates her and beats the disguised Falstaff away.
Eventually, the women tell their husbands about their pranks and Ford apologizes to Mistress Page for having doubted her fidelity. Page suggests yet one more prank to humiliate Falstaff. Mistress Page remembers the legend of Herne the Hunter who haunts Windsor Forest. They plan to get Falstaff to meet them underneath Herne’s Oak tree at midnight. Anne will lead the children disguised as goblins to scare and torment Falstaff.
Master Page has his own plot. He tells Slender to elope with Anne during Falstaff’s humiliation. At the same time, Mistress Page plans to have Anne elope with Dr. Caius. Anne, however, plans to elope with Fenton who tells this to the Host of the Garter.
Falstaff comes into the park dressed with a pair of antlers on his head. He meets Mistress Ford and Mistress Page and they hear the spirits in the woods. The women run away and Falstaff hides by the tree. The children, disguised as fairies, torture Falstaff by pinching and poking him.
Nym and Bardolph are disguised as Anne and are mistakenly taken away by Slender and by Caius. Fenton takes the real Anne and the lovers run off. When Bardolph nears Falstaff, the knight realizes that he’s been tricked. Once all is revealed everyone has a good laugh at the expense of the fat knight who is forgiven by all. When Anne and Fenton return having been married, Master and Mistress Page discover that they, too, have been tricked. Master Page decides there is no use bemoaning this and invites everyone, including the new couple, and Falstaff and his friends, to his home to celebrate.