When Sir John Falstaff decides that he wants to have a little fun he writes two letters to a pair of Window wives: Mistress Ford and Mistress Page. When they put their heads together and ...
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Imagining that Mistress Ford and Mistress Page have each fallen for him, the fat knight Sir John Falstaff decides to seduce them both, as much for their husbands' money as for their ... See full summary »
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James Cellan Jones
Viola and Sebastian are lookalike twins, separated by a shipwreck. Viola lands in Illyria, where she disguises herself like her brother and goes into the service of the Duke Orsino. Orsino ... See full summary »
When Sir John Falstaff decides that he wants to have a little fun he writes two letters to a pair of Window wives: Mistress Ford and Mistress Page. When they put their heads together and compare missives, they plan a practical joke or two to teach the knight a lesson. But Mistress Ford's husband is a very jealous man and is pumping Falstaff for information of the affair. Meanwhile the Pages' daughter Anne is beseiged by suitors. Written by
David Hugh Jones was determined that the two wives not be clones of one another, so he had them appear as if Page was a well-established member of the bourgeoisie and Ford a member of the nouveau riche. See more »
On the whole, this production of "The Merry Wives of Windsor" is admirable. It contains nearly all of Shakespeare's lines (including a few insertions from the Quarto version); it includes some excellent performances; the staging is generally deft, and the atmosphere of the play is warmly engaging; and the sets are pleasing to the eye.
Prunella Scales and Judy Davis as Mistresses Page and Ford (respectively) are especially good, but nearly all the other members of the cast -- ranging from Richard Griffiths as Falstaff to Elizabeth Spriggs as Mistress Quickly -- are also highly commendable. The one exception, surprisingly, is Ben Kingsley as Ford. To be sure, anyone playing the role of Ford has to go over the top occasionally. However, Kingsley is annoyingly histrionic in the pejorative sense of the term; his high-strung mannerisms and his falsetto utterances become quite tiresome. His performance is not unalloyedly woeful, but it is well below the level of the other performances.
A few of the other reviewers on this site have criticized Richard Griffiths for his portrayal of Falstaff, but Griffiths aptly captures the nature of Falstaff in "Merry Wives" -- a play that presents Falstaff as a somewhat less shrewd character than the Falstaff of the Henry IV plays. Moreover, the girth of Griffiths made him more suitable for the role than was Anthony Quayle in the BBC's Henry IV productions (though Quayle's excellent acting compensated for his physical unsuitability).
Apart from Ben Kingsley's performance, the main objectionable feature of this otherwise admirable production is that a few scenes and smaller portions of the play are rearranged. The rearrangements aren't damaging, but they strike me as pointless. (Much the same can be said about the handful of small excisions of Shakespeare's lines.) All in all, I can recommend this production heartily to anyone who wants to experience the charms of Shakespeare's play.
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