The Merry Wives of Windsor
Marriage and Wealth Quotes
How we cite our quotes:
Why, thou must be thyself. He doth object I am too great of birth—, And that, my state being gall'd with my expense, I seek to heal it only by his wealth: Besides these, other bars he lays before me, My riots past, my wild societies; And tells me 'tis a thing impossible I should love thee but as a property. (3.4.4-10)
This is where Fenton tells us that Anne's father doesn't want her to marry him for the following reasons: (1) he's an aristocrat and therefore above Anne's social class, (2) he is now broke because he was (3) a rowdy teenager and got into a lot of trouble back in the day, and (4) it seems likely Fenton just wants to marry Anne for her money.
As it turns out, Anne's dad wants her to marry Slender. As we know, Slender is definitely interested in Anne's money and hasn't been shy about it. So, what's the difference between Slender and Fenton? In Master Page's mind, Fenton is a typical spoiled aristocrat (aristobrat?) who blew through all his family money and now wants to hook up with a girl from a wealthy family. Slender, on the other hand, can "maintain [Anne] like a gentlewoman" and offers "a hundred and fifty pounds jointure" (3.4.43; 46-47). A jointure is a widow's settlement so, Anne would get 150 pounds if Slender died while they were married.
Apparently, in Shakespeare's day, plenty of broke aristocrats were trying to hook up relationships with rich girls from non-aristocratic households. Sound familiar? That's basically what Falstaff is trying to do. Check out "Themes: Society and Class" for more on this.
Albeit I will confess thy father's wealth Was the first motive that I woo'd thee, Anne: Yet, wooing thee, I found thee of more value Than stamps in gold or sums in sealed bags; And 'tis the very riches of thyself That now I aim at. (3.4.13)
Hey, look, someone is finally being honest. Here, Fenton admits that he was initially motivated by money when he first pursued Anne. (Kind of like fortune-hunter Petruchio in The Taming of the Shrew.) Things are different now: he's grown to "value" her for her inner "riches" and doesn't care about her money. Okay, but are we the only ones a little concerned that he's still talking about her in terms of money?
You would have married her most shamefully, Where there was no proportion held in love. The truth is, she and I, long since contracted, Are now so sure that nothing can dissolve us. The offence is holy that she hath committed; And this deceit loses the name of craft, Of disobedience, or unduteous title, Since therein she doth evitate and shun A thousand irreligious cursed hours, Which forced marriage would have brought upon her. (5.5.197-207)
When Fenton lectures Anne's parents for trying to force her into loveless marriage, he says that marrying for anything other than love is unholy and "irreligious." Notice how nobody argues with Fenton on this point? Even Anne's parents accept that their daughter has married (behind their backs) for love. In fact, they throw a big wedding feast in the couple's honor and invite the whole community to celebrate as a way to accept Fenton into their family. Score one for love.