Study Guide

Master Fenton in The Merry Wives of Windsor

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Master Fenton

If Anne Page is the play's ultimate bachelorette, then Fenton is Windsor's most eligible bachelor. As the Host points out, "he capers, he dances, he has eyes of youth, he / writes verses, he speaks holiday, he smells April / and May" (3.2.65-67).

In other words, out of all the guys trying to make a run at Anne, Fenton is most definitely the best candidate for our girl. What's not to like about a guy who's young, likes to dance, writes poetry, is fun to talk with, and smells good? Anne seems to think he's pretty neat. That's why she blows off her parents' wishes and runs off to elope with the guy in the last act of the play.

What's that, you say? Fenton is completely broke and used to party like a rock star back in the day? Oh, yeah. We guess we forgot to mention that Fenton isn't exactly perfect. It's a good thing Anne's dad is around to remind everyone that former wild child Fenton is totally penniless. Fenton tells us all about why Master Page hates his guts in the following lines:

He doth object I am too great of birth,
And that, my state being galled 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—

Okay, so Master Page doesn't want Fenton anywhere near his daughter because he thinks the guy is just another down-and-out aristocrat (like Falstaff) who has partied way too hard, blown through all the money he inherited, and wants to fix his financial problems by marrying a rich citizen's daughter. Is this really true? Let's see what Fenton has to say about all this when he chats up Anne:

Albeit I will confess thy father's wealth
Was the first motive that I wooed thee, Anne,
Yet, wooing thee, I found thee of more value
Than stamps in gold or sums in sealèd bags.
And 'tis the very riches of thyself
That now I aim at.

Now this is interesting. Here, Fenton completely 'fesses up that, originally, he tried to woo Anne for her money. Gosh. Who does this remind us of. Oh! We know. That would be Bassanio, the broke dude who goes after a rich heiress named Portia in The Merchant of Venice. To tell you the truth, it also sounds a lot like Petruchio in The Taming of the Shrew. Remember him? He's the guy who comes right out and tells us that he's traveled to Padua to "wive it wealthily" (read: bag a rich wife). *Note to Kanye West: Elizabethan literature is chock full of "gold-digging" men, not women.

But what's even more interesting is that Fenton seems to have changed his fortune-hunting ways. He admits that he's actually fallen in love with Anne and "values" her more than her dad's cash. This is a pretty big deal because it's the first time in The Merry Wives of Windsor that we've seen anything close to romantic love. In the play, marriage and other kinds of heterosexual relationships usually boil down to one thing: money. Shakespeare uses Fenton as a mouthpiece to show us that, when it comes to marriage, young love triumphs over all else.

We know, we know, Shmoopers. We're just as surprised as you. Who knew Shakespeare was such a romantic? Go to "Themes: Love" or "Themes: Marriage and Wealth" for more about this.

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