The Merry Wives of Windsor has recently experienced a resurgence of critical interest. At times considered one of Shakespeare’s weaker plays, it is often dismissed or marginalized; however, developments in feminist, ecocritical and new historicist criticism have opened up new perspectives and this collection of 18 essays by top Shakespeare scholars sheds fresh light on the play. The detailed introduction by Phyllis Rackin and Evelyn Gajowski provides a historical survey of the play and ties into an evolving critical and cultural context. The book’s sections look in turn at female community/female agency; theatrical alternatives; social and theatrical contexts; desire/sexuality; nature and performance to provide a contemporary critical analysis of the play.
Introduction: A Historical Survey, Phyllis Rackin and Evelyn Gajowski Part 1: Female Community / Female Agency 1. Agonistic Scenes of Provincial Life, Catherine Belsey 2. "Let’s Consult together": Women’s Agency and the Gossip Network in The Merry Wives of Windsor, Cristina León Alfar 3. "Who hath got the right Anne?": Gossip, Resistance, and Anne Page in Shakespeare’s Merry Wives, Rachel Prusko 4. "May we, with the Warrant of Womanhood and the witness of a good conscience, pursue him with any further revenge?": Feminist Citizen Revenge Comedy in The Merry Wives of Windsor, Susan Gushee O’Malley Part 2: Theatrical Alternatives 5. Sharp-Tongued Women and Small-Town Social Relations in Porter’s Two Angry Women of Abington and Shakespeare’s The Merry Wives of Windsor, Jean E. Howard 6. Shakespeare’s Quantum Physics: Merry Wives as a Feminist ‘Parallel Universe’ of 2 Henry IV, Kay Stanton 7. Bucking Tradition in The Merry Wives of Windsor, 1602: Not a Bad Quarto, Really, Helen Ostovich Part 3: Social and Theatrical Contexts 8. Teaching Children Their Behaviors in The Merry Wives of Windsor, Jennifer Higginbotham 9. A French Physician in an English Community, Barbara Traister Part 4: Desire / Sexuality 10. Finding Desire in Windsor: Gender, Consumption, and Animality in Merry Wives, Wendy Wall 11. Hysterical Shakespeare: Celebrations of Merry Sexuality, Jessica McCall 12. "Preposterous" Actions and "Tainted" Desires in The Merry Wives of Windsor, Carolyn E. Brown Part 5: Nature 13. Falstaff Becomes the (Hu)man at the Expense of The Merry Wives of Windsor, Rebecca Ann Bach 14. "Cabbage and Roots" and the Difference of Merry Wives, Rebecca Laroche Part 6: Performance 15. Young Falstaff and the Performance of Nostalgia, Adrian Kiernander 16. Queerly Wiving It in Windsor: Shakespeare, John Dennis, and Alison Carey, David McCandless 17. Theatrical Afterlives, Irene G. Dash