The Merry Wives of Windsor by William Shakespeare

Leo Tolstoy was not a fan of the work of William Shakespeare, even condemning the superb tragedy of King Lear. I am not sure what the great novelist and moralist would have made of ‘The Merry Wives of Windsor’ as this bawdy entertainment might have appalled him. Further, an undertone of nationalism may have antagonised the Christian anarchist.

Tolstoy staked out his position thus:

“Am I to submit my conscience to the acts taking place around me, am I to proclaim myself in agreement with the Government, which hangs erring men, sends soldiers to murder, demoralises nations with opium and spirits, and so on, or am I to submit my actions to conscience, i.e., not participate in Government, the actions of which are contrary to reason?”

Fortunately for comedy, Shakespeare was not too censorious. His familiar hero Falstaff becomes embroiled in a complex plot of puns, drinks, tricks and innuendoes. Falstaff is too old to outwit the other characters. A victim of his appetites, the large knight is forced into several uncomfortable situations. Admirers of Tolkien might be surprised to see a reference to a bilbo. Coincidentally perhaps, Evans declares:

“But, stay, I smell a man of middle earth!”

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