Study Guide

The Merry Wives of Windsor Jealousy

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Shakespeare has obviously got a thing for writing about the dangers of male sexual jealousy. In The Merry Wives of Windsor, a mistrustful husband learns that another man plans to seduce his wife. The wife is faithful, of course, but the husband believes that all women are dishonest and, therefore, all wives cheat on their husbands. Basically, 16th and 17th century literature reads like a Men's Rights pamphlet, full of anxiety about cheating and lying women. If this were another play, we'd be in for a blood bath. But here, we're just in for a good time. In the play, a jealous husband becomes a figure of comedy when his wife exploits his suspicions in order to make him look foolish in front of the entire community. LOL!

Questions About Jealousy

  1. Why does Ford mistrust his wife sexually? Does he have any reason to mistrust her? Does she seem to be a good manager of the household?
  2. How do the "merry wives" exploit Ford's jealousy in order to teach him a lesson?
  3. How does Master Page function as a foil to Master Ford when it comes to trusting his wife?
  4. Why does the subject of "horns" come up so much in this play? Who seems more untrustworthy—men or women? Is there any equivalent symbol for unfaithful men?

Chew on This

Master Ford's insane jealousy is pretty typical of 16th and 17th century attitudes. When Shakespeare wrote The Merry Wives of Windsor, the Elizabethans were obsessed with the threat of female promiscuity.

Even though the play is full of male anxieties about promiscuous women, it ultimately tells us that male jealousy is sexist and also unfair to women.

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