The Merry Wives of Windsor
by William Shakespeare is a five-act play that centers on Falstaff, a courtier from out of town, who is now in Windsor. As act 1 opens,Parson Hugh Evans is looking for Falstaff,who is charged with robbing both Justice Robert Shallow and his nephew, Abraham Slender the night before. Falstaff is honest about having stolen from them, and goes to dine with Mister and Mistress Page. Shallow and Evans convince Slender to try to earn Anne Page’s affections. Anne, the daughter of Mister and Mistress Page, is the heir to a fortune.
Evans summons his servant and sends him to Mistress Quickly to implore her to help in this matchmaking scheme. While she agrees, she is also working for Doctor Caius and a gentleman named Fenton. Falstaff has plans of his own—to sleep with both Mistress Page and Mistress Ford in order to get some money. Until then, he cannot afford to keep his servant, Bardolph, whom he sends to work for the innkeeper at the Garter Inn.
In act 2, both Mistress Page and Mistress Ford have received love letters from Falstaff. They decide they are going to let him think they want to be with him, and that they will keep all of this from their respective husbands. But the husbands know because Falstaff’s servants, who are not loyal to him, told them. Ford disguises himself as Mister Brook in order to learn the details of Mistress Ford and Falstaff’s relationship. Doctor Caius wants to duel Evans over Anne Page; Mister Page, Shallow, and Slender prepare to watch the fight, which does not happen because the innkeeper discovers the plan for the duel and uses misdirection to keep Caius and Evans apart.
At the beginning of act 3, Evans and Caius find one another. The host admits his role in tricking them to keep them apart, and in turn, they make peace with one another and decide to take their anger out on the host. Meanwhile, Page prefers Slender as his son-in-law, and Ford convinces everyone to accompany him to his home in the hope of catching Falstaff and Mistress Ford.
To protect Falstaff, Mistress Page and Mistress Ford hide him in the laundry. They have two servants carry it out to the Thames and dump it into a ditch filled with mud. Fenton and Anne Page fall in love, meanwhile, though her parents do not want her to marry Fenton because he is a poor aristocrat. Falstaff finds his way to the Garter Inn, where he complains about how he was treated—that he was tossed into the Thames. Mister Ford, masquerading still as Brook, learns that Mistress Ford and Mistress Page deceived him. His jealousy is renewed.
As act 4 opens, Mistress Page and her son, William, go to school. William meets Parson Evans, who sends William home. Meanwhile, Mistress Page and Mistress Ford are at it again with Falstaff. To keep him from being found out, they disguise him this time as an elderly fortune-teller. Unfortunately for Falstaff, Ford does not like him even when he thinks he is a fortune-teller, and beats him as he flees.
Mistress Page and Mistress Ford tell their husbands about their plots with Falstaff, and the two couples decide to work together to trick Falstaff. With the promise of a tryst, they lure him to meet under an old oak tree. They tell him he must come dressed as Herne the Hunter.They get their children to act as fairies to overcome him. Meanwhile, at the inn, Falstaff continues to complain about how he is treated, while Caius and Evans tell the host that Germans stole his horses—though it might have been them. Fenton offers to pay the host to fetch a priest, so that he and Anne Page can marry in secret.
In the fifth act, Falstaff goes to meet Mistress Ford at the oak tree. Page informs Slender that of the fairies, Anne will be the one dressed in white. He suggests that Slender should steal away with Anne and marry her. However, Mistress Page tells Caius that Anne will be wearing green—and that Caius should marry her.
When everyone arrives at the oak tree, Mistress Page and Mistress Ford flirt with Falstaff before running away. The children, dressed as fairies, come upon him and find he has fallen on the ground. They use candles to burn his fingertips. They pinch him. Slender carries off the white-clad fairy, and Caius carries off the fairy dressed in green. Fenton and Anne Page leave together.
At the end of the play, all are revealed to Falstaff. He accepts the trick they played on him. Caius and Evans both come back, having discovered that the fairies dressed in white and green were boys, not Anne. Fenton returns and the Pages forgive him for marrying Anne. They invite everyone for dinner, even Falstaff.