The Merry Wives of Windsor was almost certainly required at short notice for a court occasion in 1597: Shakespeare threw into it all the creative energy that went into his Henry IV plays. Falstaff is here, with Pistol, Mistress Quickly, and Justice Shallow, in a spirited and warm-hearted 'citizen comedy'. Boisterous action is combined with situational irony and rich characterization.
In his introduction T. W. Craik discusses the play's probable occasion (the Garter Feast of 1597 at court), its relationship to Shakespeare's English history plays and to other sources, its textual history (with particular reference to the widely diverging 1623 Folio and 1602 Quarto), and its original quality as drama. He assesses various interpretations of the play, topical, critical, and theatrical. In the commentary he pays particular attention to expounding the literal sense (he proposes
some new readings) and evoking the stage business.
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`T.W. Craik's edition of The Merry Wives is excellent ... can be recommended as one of the most scholarly, helpful, and authoritative texts so far to appear in the Oxford series.'
The Review of English Studies
`One of the strengths of Craik's edition is his careful and subtle analysis of the construction of the play ... Professor Craik's close attention to structure and staging is particularly valuable in dealing with the conundrums of the last act in Windsor Forest ... The commentary to this edition is as careful and thoughtful as the introduction, and, in its scrupulous distinction between material accepted from earlier editors and new material, it shows a
scholarly responsibility that is now positively old-fashioned. The commentary is particularly helpful on the double meanings which so many characters accidentally stumble into.'
Durham University Journal
'Craik is as good an advocate as one could wish for The Merry Wives, ... his disapproval of 'irony-obsessed' critics who are determined to deny it a happy ending is admirable'
English Studies, Volume 72, Number 6, December 1991
'Stanley Wells' OUP Complete Works of Shakespeare is now eight years old and has spawned a new Oxford Shakespeare which appears now in splendidly affordable volumes in that nonpareil of libraries of good reading The World's Classics.'
The Oxford Times
List of illustrations; Introduction: Shakespeare's Garter Play: The occasion and the date of The Merry Wives of Windsor; Shakespeare's English Comedy: The substance and the dramatic structure of the play; Interpretations, critical and theatrical, of the play; The quarto and folio texts; Editorial procedures; Abbreviations and references; THE MERRY WIVES OF WINDSOR; Appendix A: The Textual Crux at 1.1.20-1; Appendix B: Evan's Song in Act 3, Scene 1;
Appendix C: Falstaff's Disguise as Herne the Hunter; Appendix D: Alterations to Lineation of the Folio