Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Wives May Be Merry

In Shakespeare's The Merry Wives of Windsor, Mistress Alice Ford and Mistress Meg Page ultimately triumph not only over Sir John Falstaff but also over a prejudicial notion that was widely shared in Elizabethan times. Audiences then, as now, admired their sharp wits and quick tongues – but their candid talk defied a key element in the Renaissance ideal of womanhood as "chaste, silent, and obedient."

They’re definitely not silent, so people of the era could wonder about the other two qualities. Falstaff, partly flattering himself, is especially convinced of Alice’s being inclined to stray from chastity and obedience. " I do mean to make love to Ford’s wife," he says. "I spy entertainment in her: she discourses, she carves, she gives the leer of invitation" (1.3.41-43).

To talk extensively (as suggested by discourse) and skillfully (another sense of the word carve) means – for Falstaff and others – to be sexually available. Master Frank Ford, torturing himself, may feel insecure about his wife partly for the same reason.

Meg Page, however, provides a deft moral for the entire play: "We’ll leave a proof, by that which we will do, / Wives may be merry, and yet honest too" (4.2.94-95).

The Flatwater Shakespeare Company presents The Merry Wives of Windsor in the open-air Swan Theatre at Wyuka Cemetery and Park, 3600 O Street in Lincoln, beginning Thursday, June 4, at 7:30 p.m. Performances continue Friday through Sunday, June 5-7; and Thursdays through Sundays, June 11-14 and 18-21. All show times are 7:30 p.m. Ticket prices are $18 for adults, $15 for seniors, and $10 for students. Call 484-7640 for reservations.

Photo: Becky Key Boesen as Meg Page and Sasha Dobson as Alice Ford in Flatwater Shakespeare's The Merry Wives of Windsor. Photo credit: Brad Boesen.


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