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An egotist like Falstaff can suffer no severer defeat than from the honesty in which he does not believe, and from the ignorance which he does not esteem," Shakespeare Commentaries, 1875. I don't find much superfluous piety in the schoolmaster-parson.

Hazlitt says: "The Welsh parson, Sir Hugh Evans, is an excellent character in all respects. He is as respectable as he is laughable, . . . Nym, Bardolph, and Pistol are but the shadows of what they were; and Justice Shallow himself has little of his consequence left. But his cousin, Slender, makes up for this deficiency. He is a very potent piece of imbecility. In him the pretensions of the worthy Gloucester family are well kept up, and immortalised. He and his friend Sackerson, and his book of songs and his love of Anne Page and his having nothing to say to her can never be forgotten. It is the only first-rate character in the play; but it is in that class. Shakespeare is the only writer who was as great in describing weakness as strength," Characters of Shakespeare's Plays, ed. 1869 (by William Hazlitt, 1st ed., 1817).

Dowden says:

"The Merry Wives of Windsor is a play written expressly for the barbarian aristocrats, with their hatred of ideas, their insensibility to beauty, their hard efficient manners, and their demand for impropriety. The good folk of London liked to see a prince or a duke, and they liked to see him made gracious and generous. These royal and noble persons at Windsor wished to see the interior life of country gentlemen of the middle class. . . The comedy of hearing a French physician and a Welsh parson speak broken English was appreciated by these spectators... Shakspeare did not make a grievance of

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his task. . . . But Falstaff he was not prepared to recall

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He dressed up a fat rogue

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in Falstaff's clothes he made it impossible for the most laborious nine

teenth century critic to patch on the Merry Wives to Henry IV" Shakespeare, His Mind and Art, p. 370, 1875.

Dowden quotes from Hartley Coleridge: "That Queen Bess should have desired to see Falstaff making love proves her to have been, as she was, a gross-minded old baggage. Shakespeare has evaded the difficulty with great skill. But the Falstaff of the Merry Wives is not the Falstaff of Henry the Fourth. It is a big-bellied impostor. . . . Ford's jealousy is of too serious a complexion for the rest of the play. The merry wives are a delightful pair. . . . And sweet Anne Page, she is a pretty little creature," etc., Essays and Marginalia, vol. ii. pp. 133, 134. Dowden quotes this in support of the view that Falstaff cannot be the same person in the two plays or series of plays. In his Shakespeare Primer, however, he somewhat modifies this opinion.

The

My notes I leave to speak for themselves. illustrations in them are almost entirely such as I have come across in my own study, and where possible they are of a date prior to that of Merry Wives. The New English Dictionary has been constantly referred to for necessary help and guidance. Thanks to its final decisions, in several cases, much futile work of the early commentators can be safely set aside. Some of my illustrations and explanations may be far-fetched, and I would plead for them that they be regarded as tentative. Many are undoubtedly

correct.

My thanks are due to Dr. Dowden and Mr. Craig for valuable advice. The latter has kindly helped me in the laborious task of correcting the proofs, enabling me to remedy errors which might have escaped notice.

THE MERRY WIVES OF WINDSOR

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MISTRESS FORD.

MISTRESS PAGE.

ANNE PAGE, her Daughter.

MISTRESS QUICKLY, Servant to Doctor Caius.

Servants to Page, Ford, etc.

SCENE: Windsor, and the Neighbourhood.

1 Not in Qq, Ff. Inserted by Rowe.

2 Sir Hugh Evans, a Welsh Parson] Rowe, Steevens (Welch) et seq.; Syr Hugh the Welch knight Q 1 (a mistake).

3 Followers] Rowe, Steevens, Craig, Sharpers Globe.

2

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