What I love about this play: First of all, I love the slightly askant relationship it has with the history plays. It doesn’t quite fit into the histories’ chronology, but I like to think of it as an alternate ending – a sort of subversive mirror for Henry V, where the kings and nobles are the ones banished from the stage, and the tavern characters find a space where they can live and thrive. Windsor is above all expansive, a little suspicious of the court and of outsiders, but ultimately generous, even with ne’er-do-wells. I like the fact that Pistol and Mistress Quickly have parts in the fairy pageant in the final scene (and that Quickly, in her second turn as player-queen, gets to be the one to pronounce the final blessing on Windsor Castle – which suggests something rather interesting about the interdependence of ruler and subject). I don’t know that it’s a complete reversal of the power politics in the history plays – which incorporate, after all, plenty of challenges to top-down rule – but it’s certainly a world in which one can imagine all kinds of possibilities that are foreclosed in the histories.
And I adore Alice Ford and Margaret Page, who are the kind of women that I can easily imagine the heroines of the other comedies becoming when they are older: competent, witty, able to recognize and laugh at their own blind spots, and devoted to each other as much as they are to their husbands. It’s like having a glimpse of Rosalind and Celia, or Beatrice and Hero, at forty, and it’s lovely. It’s also nice to see middle-aged, middle-class women getting to do something interesting and fun.
We don’t see that much of Anne Page – unlike in the other comedies, the young lovers aren’t really the point – but she does have some nice moments in 3.4. I like her slightly skeptical attitude toward Fenton, as well as her reaction to the prospect of marrying Slender: “I had rather be set quick i’ the earth / And bowled to death with turnips.”
Favorite memory: Actually visiting Windsor for the first time. I’d been blithely writing away about how the final scene takes place literally in the shadow of Windsor Castle, but I hadn’t realized that the whole play does: it’s massive, it’s on a hill, it dwarfs the town. What’s cool is that it doesn’t dwarf the play; the court is mentioned now and again, and we see characters going and coming from there, but it’s always in the background, and it’s the ordinary lives that matter.