The Merry Wives of Windsor

Gender Roles and Women's Initiative in The Merry Wives of Windsor 12th Grade

One of the major themes of The Merry Wives of Windsor is the change in gender roles that was happening in Shakespeare’s time. Gender roles were changing to allow women more freedom and power. In the play, men are depicted as fools, delusional, jealous, and bestial. Women are depicted as happy, independent, and intelligent. We see a fear of the changing social structure in the play represented in the characters of Falstaff, Shakespeare’s famous enjoyable, bawdy knight and Mister Ford, the scheming, jealous husband. Without the independence their husbands give them, the schemes of Mistress Ford and Mistress Page would not be possible.

Mister Page accepts the social revolution and allows his wife independence and trusts her. However, Mister Ford mistrusts his wife and suffers from jealousy because of her freedom. Mister Ford is a man who resists the social revolution and change. Falstaff also resists change and transformation, which makes him a target for the wives’ schemes. It is interesting that Ford and Falstaff hold similar views of the women and are both victims of the schemes. Anne Parten points out that Ford and Falstaff, “may believe in the clichés equating feminine independence and vivacity with a predilection for marital...

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