By the end of Merry Wives, romantic love triumphs over all when young Fenton and Anne run off and elope behind everyone's backs. But, in case you hadn't noticed, that's not necessarily the theme running through the first nine-tenths of Merry Wives. Seriously, until the final act, there's less romance in this play than the graffitied walls of a public school bathroom. But that doesn't stop characters from trying to get their groove on. Plenty of folks run around claiming to be in "love" but Shakespeare shows us that these characters (like a lot of real life people) are simply misguided. Bottom line? Here's what Uncle Shakespeare wants you to take away from this play: Love isn't a desire to be rich. Love isn't a desire to have adulterous sex. Love isn't jealousy. According to our favorite playwright, Love is a desire to be with a person you value for their inner qualities rather than their trust fund. No wonder Shakespeare is still popular.
Questions About Love
Do any of the suitors really love Anne Page? What kind of evidence can you point to back up your answer?
According to the Host, who's the best romantic match for Anne Page? Do you agree?
Why are the housewives offended when they receive letters from Falstaff? What role does love play in their reaction?
At the play's end, Master Ford says "In love the heavens themselves do guide the state; / Money buys lands, and wives are sold by fate" (5.5.209-210). What does this mean? Is it true?
Chew on This
Even though there's a lot of talk about "love" in this play, most of the characters aren't really interested in romantic companionship.
In Falstaff's mind, "love" is the same as the desire for sex and money.