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Having reviewed over 1200 books on this blog, I have now written two myself. Motherdarling is a story about a search for a missing Will which reveals long-hidden family secrets. The Kids of God is a thriller set in a dystopia ruled by fascist paramilitaries. Both are available as paperbacks and on Kindle through Amazon. I live in Canterbury, England. I lived for more than thirty years in Bedford. Having retired from teaching; I became a research student at the University of Bedfordshire researching into Liminality. I achieved my PhD in 2019. I am now properly retired. I love reading! I enjoy in particular fiction (mostly great and classic fiction although I also enjoy whodunnits), biography, history and smart thinking. Follow me on twitter: @daja57

Saturday, 22 December 2018

"The Merry Wives of Windsor" by William Shakespeare

Not so much a comedy as a farce with a couple of interlocking plots.

Sir John Falstaff wishes to seduce either Mistress (Mrs) Page or Mistress Ford but they compare the love letters they have been sent and decide to trick him. Each time he meets Mistress Ford her husband happens to turn up and the cowardly Sir John has to escape in some humiliating way.

Slender, and Doctor Caius, and Fenton all want to marry Anne Page. Page, Anne's father, wants her to marry Slender, and Mistress Page favours the Doctor.

I saw an RSC production of this play at the Barbican Theatre on 22nd December 2018 (matinee). It starred David Troughton as Sir John Falstaff; he was excellent in the part. I saw him last year as an excellent Gloucester in King Lear. He was joined by a host of wonderful talents. Charlotte Josephine had a lovely cameo as Bardolph; I saw her last month as Mercutio in Romeo and Juliet. Katy Brittain made a hilarious Hostess of the Garter Inn although most of her comedy was physcial as I found it sometimes difficult to follow her quick-fire delivery. Josh Finan was a brilliant Nym (he had also been great as Benvolio in R&J). Mistresses Ford and Page were played as a couple of Essex girls (Merry Wives of Dagenham perhaps?) and were brilliant in their roles; Rebecca Lacey as Mistress Page was a dead ringer for Sybil Fawlty in Fawlty Towers. Nima Taleghani was a great Robin. This was an adaptation that ditched some of Shakespeare's untranslatable word play in favour of some wonderful physical comedy and some great updates: in particular the laundry basket became a wheelie bin. I had gone to the theatre expecting little from a play that is not one of Shakespeare's best and was bowled over by the adaptation. It extended to all the little business and small parts being brought to life. For example, when Ford disguised himself as Brook (Vince Leigh was great) he became a Russian, complete with an 'I love Putin' suitcase sticker and a theme song whenever he arrived. The Welshman got the audience to sing a line from Bread of Heaven. And the lads who were assigned to dispose of the wheelie bin discussed the job in an Eastern European language before agreeing to do it. Oh my goodness, this was an exceptional day at the theatre.

The play itself isn't so easy. There are too many characters. It was difficult to see why one needs Justice Shallow or Dr Hugh Evans or why Slender needs a servant. The first thing that Falstaff does is to get rid of Bardolph, Pistol and Nym but that could have been done (if needed) in a speech rather than having yet more actors on the stage. The plots are more or less done one by one: thus, the mix-up over where the duel is to be held happens first and then there is the main business with the three humiliations of Falstaff and then the matter of Anne Page's marriage is tacked on to the end. In the RSC production it was noticeable that the character of Fenton is kept almost completely separate from the other characters.

Shakespeare also throws in a scene in which the schoolteacher/ parson quizzes one of his pupils (sensibly cut by the RSC) and a reference to counterfeit Germans and a Duke which I don't really understand.

But hey, it is Shakespeare. There are some great lines:
  • If I be drunk, I'll be drunk with those that have the fear of God, and not with drunken knaves.
  • I will marry her, sir, at your request; but if there be no great love in the beginning, yet heaven may decrease it upon better acquaintance, when we are married and have more occasion to know one another; I hope upon familiarity will grow more contempt.”
  • I do mean to make love to Ford's wife; I spy entertainment in her; she discourses, she carves, she gives the leer of invitation
  • She did so course o'er my exteriors with such a greedy intention that the appetite of her eye did seem to scorch me up like a burning-glass.
  • O, what a world of vile ill-favor'd faults
  • Looks handsome in three hundred pounds a-year!”
  • You may know by my size that I have a kind of alacrity in sinking ... my belly's as cold as if I had swallowed snowballs
  • Mistress Ford! I have had ford enough; I was thrown into the ford; I have my belly full of ford.
  • O powerful love! that, in some respects, makes a beast a man, in some other, a man a beast. ... When gods have hot backs, what shall poor men do?
December 2018;

Other Shakespeare plays reviewed in this blog include (productions mentioned in parentheses; RSC = Royal Shakespeare Company; NT = National Theatre):

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