Degraded Role Of Women In The Merry Wives Of Windsor

1196 words - 5 pages

Degraded Role of Women in The Merry Wives of Windsor  

 
In Shakespeare's comedy, The Merry Wives of Windsor, there are two plots that ultimately converge into the concept of marriage; one is the antics executed by the wives, and the other is the marriage of Anne Page. Both of these plots subversively yield a disheartening attitude towards the view of women within the scope of the play. Wives in The Merry Wives of Windsor are not acknowledged as much beyond commodities, not to be entrusted to their own wills, and are considered anonymous, degraded figures by men. By examining the use of the word "wife", the characters who use it most frequently, how it is used, and by examining the ...view middle of the document...

Comparing Ford's proposition to Falstaff with a business transaction would not be degrading the situation. When Pistol enlightens Ford to the advances of Falstaff upon his wife, Ford responds that it is most unlikely because his wife is not young. Pistol advises that this does not depreciate Mistress Ford's value to Falstaff because," He woos both high and low, both rich and poor, Both young and old, one with another, Ford. He loves the gallimaufry. Ford, perpend," (2.1.108-110). This conversation establishes Mistress Ford's value; it is an appraisal. It is important to note that not here, and at no place else, is Mistress Ford's name, nor any form of it mentioned; she is referred to as simply my or thy wife. Ford even goes so far as to personally address one of the women as simply, 'wife'. This can be observed in act four, when talking to Mrs. Page Ford says, "Pardon me, wife"(4.4.6). It is equally noteworthy that in listing various qualities of a wife, Pistol includes rich and poor. Usually such factors would be considered circumstances rather than personal attributes. Once Ford's plan is in action the next step in the process is negotiation. In act two, scene two Ford (under the visage of Master Brook) straightforwardly makes his proposal to Falstaff. Ford offers Falstaff money and encourages him to spend it freely. Though Ford acknowledges that he is giving the money in exchange for Falstaff's time, the money is essentially for the possession of Ford's wife. "Only give me so much of your time in exchange of it as I may lay an amiable siege to the honesty of this Ford's wife...win her to consent you,"(2.2.224-27).

 Another concept associated with the word wife in Merry Wives of Windsor, though not unique to Shakespeare, is that of winning her. This notion debases women to objects, more specifically, to prizes. Eventually Falstaff finalizes the deal by accepting the money and shaking on it. The insinuation of this is obvious and supportive of the conception that Ford's wife is, in this case, vendible. It is conclusive that Ford has indeed purchased his wife rather than Falstaff's time when Falstaff states, "...I will first make bold with your money; next, give me your hand; and last, as I am a gentleman, you shall, if you will, enjoy Ford's wife," (2.2.243-45, emphasis added). Thus, the deal has been made and Mistress Ford purchased. Falstaff reflects on the contract he has made and revels in...

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