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The Merry Wives of Windsor | Study Guide

William Shakespeare

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The Merry Wives of Windsor | Act 5, Scene 3 | Summary



Meanwhile, Mistresses Page and Ford are on their way to the park with Doctor Caius. Mistress Page and the Doctor discuss his plan to run off with Anne, who—Mistress Page says—will be dressed in green. He bids her adieu and goes on ahead into the park. Mistress Page reflects on how disappointed her husband will be when he finds out Anne has married the Doctor. "But 'tis no matter," she decides. "Better a little chiding than a great deal of heartbreak."

Before heading into the park themselves, the two wives review the arrangements for the evening's prank. Satisfied that everything is ready, they hurry to the appointed spot.


This scene's contribution to the plot is fairly straightforward: it spells out how the Doctor will recognize Anne and thus sets up the comic misrecognition that will take place in Act 5, Scene 5. In doing so it closely parallels the action of Act 5, Scene 2, in which Page goes through basically the same routine with his favored suitor, Slender—the same plan, foreshadowing the same failure. In fact, placing Doctor Caius and Slender in such neatly parallel scenes makes the suitors themselves seem almost interchangeable. Each is in some way an unsuitable husband for Anne, and each has been able to woo her only because her parents approve. Neither one can "win" her hand if the play is to have the happy ending typical of an Elizabethan comedy.

This scene also includes a subtle gesture that further differentiates Ford from Page, even though neither appears onstage here. When Mistress Page says, "Better a little chiding than a great deal of heartbreak," she reveals a lot about her relationship with her husband. Page's response to having his daughter elope would, she suggests, be no worse than a mild scolding. In other words Page really is the "forgive and forget" type he presents himself as being throughout the play. If the jealous and violent Ford were in Page's situation, "chiding" would be the least of Mistress Ford's worries.

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