The Merry Wives of Windsor (1597–1598)

First official record: version of the play entered into the Stationers' Register on 18 January 1602

First published: version of the play published in quarto in 1602 as A most pleasaunt and excellent conceited comedie, of Sir John Falstaffe, and the merrie wives of Windsor. Entermixed with sundrie variable and pleasing humours, of Sir Hugh the Welch knight, Justice Shallow, and his wise cousin M. Slender. With the swaggering vaine of Auncient Pistoll, and Corporall Nym

First recorded performance: 4 November 1604 at Whitehall Palace.

Evidence: Textual evidence and certain topical allusions suggest the play was composed as a specially commissioned piece for a Garter Feast (an annual meeting of the Order of the Garter), possibly the Feast on 23 April 1597. It is theorised that Shakespeare interrupted his composition of 2 Henry IV somewhere around Act 3-Act 4, so as to concentrate on writing Merry Wives.

ACT I

SCENE I. WINDSOR. BEFORE PAGE'S HOUSE.

 

 Enter SHALLOW, SLENDER, and SIR HUGH EVANS

SHALLOW

 Sir Hugh, persuade me not; I will make a Star-
chamber matter of it: if he were twenty Sir John
Falstaffs, he shall not abuse Robert Shallow, esquire.

SLENDER

 In the county of Gloucester, justice of peace and
'Coram.'

SHALLOW

 Ay, cousin Slender, and 'Custalourum.

SLENDER

 Ay, and 'Rato-lorum' too; and a gentleman born,
Full text of play