It turns out that you can't talk about marriage in this play without talking about wealth, too. That's not so surprising because 16th and 17th century nuptials were mostly business transactions. (Go read about "Marriage" in The Taming of the Shrew if you don't believe us.) And The Merry Wives of Windsor is no different: in the subplot, the daughter of a rich citizen is pursued by three suitors primarily motivated by her family's bank account. In the play's main plot, a down-and-out nobleman tries to seduce two housewives in order to gain access to their husbands' cash. That gives the Kardashian/Humphries marriage a run for its money. (So to speak.) But don't worry: in the end, a young, crazy-in-love couple manages to run off and elope. Why does that matter? Well, in its final moments, the play supports the idea that holy matrimony should be motivated by one thing: love. Oh, that Shakespeare. He sure is a softy.
Questions About Marriage and Wealth
What motivates each of Anne Page's suitors? Why do they want to marry her?
What does Falstaff hope to gain from seducing the housewives?
What does Anne's marriage to Fenton suggest about the play's attitude toward marriage and love?
Think about the relationships between the older married couples in this play (Mr. and Mrs. Ford and Mr. and Mrs. Page). How would you characterize these couples? Are they happy? In love? Do you think Fenton and Anne will end up like this older generation?
Chew on This
Even though Shakespeare goes out of his way to show us that money talks, the play isn't all that cynical. When Anne and Fenton run off and elope like a couple of crazy kids, the play suggests that it's better to marry for love than for money.
The Merry Wives of Windsor suggests that, in Shakespeare's time, men were the gold-diggers rather than women.