Let's face it. Reading just about any one of Shakespeare's plays can offer a depressing glimpse into the kinds of gender inequalities faced by 16th- and 17th-century women. (Just ask Katherine Minola if you don't believe us.) That said, The Merry Wives of Windsor is a little different. Sure, its leading ladies are up against guys who think all women are either untrustworthy, promiscuous, or simply a means of securing s financial future. (Falstaff and Ford, we're talking to you.) But, the coolest thing about Merry Wives is that its women always end up on top. No wives were harmed or "tamed" during the production of this play. In fact, it's the men who are taught a thing or two about how to behave.
Questions About Gender
Which spouse has more power in the Fords' relationship? Explain why.
How does Anne Page overcome her status as a girl whom most men just value for her money? Does she do anything to change Fenton's mind?
How would you characterize the friendship between Mistress Page and Mistress Ford? Which relationship seems more important to them—their friendship, or their marriages?
Why do you think Falstaff underestimates the "merry wives"?
Chew on This
In this play, Shakespeare goes out of his way to show us that middle-class housewives are forces to be reckoned with.
Even though Anne Page doesn't have a lot of speaking lines and only shows up in three scenes, we can see that she's a strong character, just like her mother.