The Merry Wives of Windsor
Society and Class Quotes Page 2
How we cite our quotes:
Ay, and 'Rato-lorum' too; and a gentleman born,
master parson; who writes himself 'Armigero,' in any
bill, warrant, quittance, or obligation, 'Armigero.'
Ay, that I do; and have done any time these three
hundred years. (1.1.7-11)
Slow down there, Shallow. Here, he makes a big deal out of the fact that he was born a "gentleman" and that his family has had the right to bear a coat of arms for over three generations. (That's what the term "armigero" refers to.) It seems like Shakespeare's having a big laugh at people who think they're awesome just because they were born into high-ranking families.
Now, the report goes, she has all the rule of her hus- band's purse; (1.3.45-46)
Guess what? These merry wives ladies don't spend their time eating bon-bons and getting mani-pedis. They oversee the servants and do a lot of the housework themselves. And we're not talking pressing some buttons on a washing machine. We're talking lugging around heavy baskets of dirty, dripping laundry. Plus, they oversee large household budgets and keep a watchful eye on their husbands' property—we're thinking more CEOs than ladies of leisure.
[...] She bears the purse too; she is a region in Guiana, all gold and bounty. I will be cheater to them both, and they shall be exchequers to me; they shall be my East and West Indies, and I will trade to them both. (1.4.58-62)
Once again, Falstaff tells us that he wants to seduce the housewives in order to get at their husbands' money. Here, he compares the merry wives to "Guiana" and the "East and West Indies." Crazy, right? Falstaff sees himself as some kind of merchant or an explorer in search of wealth. In reality, he's just a down-and-out knight who's trying to prey on a couple of middle-class women. See what we mean when we say the play is distrustful of aristocrats and portrays them as immoral outsiders?