The Merry Wives of Windsor | Study Guide

William Shakespeare

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Course Hero, "The Merry Wives of Windsor Study Guide," March 22, 2018, accessed September 19, 2018, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/The-Merry-Wives-of-Windsor/.

The Merry Wives of Windsor | Act 1, Scene 3 | Summary

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Summary

Falstaff arrives at the Garter Inn with his gang of followers: Bardolph, Nym, Pistol, and Robin the page. When Falstaff complains about the expense of maintaining such an entourage, the Host offers to hire Bardolph as a "tapster" (bartender). Falstaff approves and encourages Bardolph to "follow him. A tapster is a good / trade. An old cloak makes a new jerkin, a withered / servingman a fresh tapster." In fact Falstaff is glad to be rid of Bardolph, for "his thefts were too open." Bardolph happily accepts the new job.

Falstaff then divulges his plan to make some quick money by wooing the wealthy wives of the town, Mistress Page and Mistress Ford, both of whom Falstaff imagines have given indications of erotic interest in him and both of whom, he has learned, control their husbands' money. Seeing Falstaff up to his old tricks, Nym and Pistol surprise him by refusing to carry his love letters to the two wives. Falstaff fires them on the spot and instead entrusts Robin with the letters. As Falstaff and Robin leave the stage, Pistol and Nym plan to avenge themselves by revealing Falstaff's plot to the unwitting husbands.

Analysis

This scene is crammed with Elizabethan slang, which can make it hard to follow. The Host in particular is an exaggerated "cool-guy" figure who loves using funny but dated terms like "bullyrook" ("my fine fellow") and "Hercules." He's the sort of person who, if this play took place in the 2010s, would often say YOLO a lot and put hashtags at the end of spoken sentences.

Nym, meanwhile, overuses the word humor to a comical extent. In late Elizabethan English, a "humor" was a mood or impulse, but Shakespeare evidently recognized the term as seriously overplayed. He may also have intended to mock fellow playwright Ben Jonson, whose comedies were intended to caricature different personality traits, or "humors." Notable examples of this Jonsonian "comedy of humors" include the 1598 play Every Man in His Humour and its 1599 sequel Every Man out of His Humour.

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