The Merry Wives of Windsor tells the story of a small town disrupted by an outsider, of high stature, who reveals the characters of Windsor's darker traits. While Shakespeare's play mainly focuses on the intrusion of the portly knight, John Falstaff, and his rippling effect in the town, it also displays other events and stories independent of Falstaff's havoc. Besides the focus that is aimed at the wives whom Falstaff intends to seduce away from their husbands, another intricate story manifests itself, independent of Falstaff's mayhem. The story of love between Ms. Anne Page and her preferred suitor, Fenton, tells of the boy's struggle for her love and his competition with the other men who also desire to wed Ms. Page. Caius and Slender (a doctor and a blubbering fool, respectively) both also desire Ms. Page's hand, and each have the blessing of one of her parents. Fenton begins as the underdog, and his motivation for wanting to marry Ms.
Page changes as the play progresses, but nonetheless, Fenton's goal and desire throughout this play is to earn Anne Page's love and her hand in marriage. By examining specific moments in the play (beats), it becomes obvious that Fenton struggles constantly and works tirelessly for his goal.
Fenton's first appearance on stage in Act I, Scene iv, lines 140 to 170 (I, iv, 140-170) contains the first two of his many beats. In this moment, Fenton's immediate goal in his first beat is to determine whether Anne Page is interested in him from Mrs. Quickly.
Fenton: How does pretty Mistress Anne?Mistress QIn truth sirÃ¢ÂÂ¦ Ã¢ÂÂ¦ I praise heaven for it.
Fenton: Shall I do any good, think'st thou? Shall I not lose my suit?The dialogue expressed by Fenton above reveals his immediate goal. His motivation, at the time, is to gain Ms. Page's father's money through marriage. (That isn't revealed in the play just yet, though the audience can assume.) An obstacle facing Fenton in this beat is the deception of Mrs. Quickly. Twice already she has told Fenton's competitors that Anne Page is interested in them. So when Mrs. Quickly tells Fenton that Anne loves him, he is fooled, and although he thinks he accomplishes his immediate goal, he truly does not. Within the same scene another beat arises, because after learning that "Anne loves him," Fenton desires to gain Mrs. Quickly's preference and for her to put a good word out to Anne about him.
Fenton:Ã¢ÂÂ¦ Let me have thy voice in my behalf. If thou see'st her before me, commend me.
Mistress QWill I? I' faith, that we willÃ¢ÂÂ¦The dialogue above shows what Fenton wants in this beat, and his motivation is the same as the beat before. This dialogue also shows that Mrs. Quickly seems to agree, which suggests to Fenton that he has again achieved what he wanted. Yet, nay, the obstacle of Mrs. Quickly's deception foils Fenton's goal once again. For her dialogue after Fenton exits suggests the truth: that Anne does not love him, and that Mrs. Quickly has no preference for who Anne should marry, yet, and thus she has no intention of commending Fenton to Anne.
Another important beat in the play that expresses Fenton's momentary goal, and whether he achieves it or not, comes from III, iv, 1-20. Another beat in the same scene follows this beat, but each beat represents a different goal, and obstacle for Fenton. In this beat, Fenton's goal is to convince Anne to let go of her desire for him to gain her father's approval in order to gain her hand. In this beat, we discover Fenton's original motivation for his overall goal in the play, and his new motivation.
Fenton:Ã¢ÂÂ¦ Albeit I will confess thy father's wealth; Was the first motive that I wooed thee, Anne; Yet, wooing thee, I found thee of more value; Than stamps in gold or sums in sealed bags. ; And tis the very riches of thyself that now I aim at.
Anne:Gentle Master Fenton; Yet seek my father's love, still seek it, sir.
This dialogue also shows what was one of Fenton's obstacles, and how he was able to overcome it. His obstacle was convincing Anne that he didn't love her just for her money, and he convinces her. However, he is not able to convince her to let him stop seeking her father's approval. So in this beat, Fenton fails again.
Later in the same scene another beat for Fenton arises in lines 75-95, and this time his desire is to convince Anne's father to let him marry Anne. He is unsuccessful again, this time his obstacle being Anne's father, who believes Fenton to be a cheapskate. The following dialogue reveals Fenton's goal, his obstacle, and his failure.
Fenton:Sir, will you hear me?Page:No, good Master Fenton; -Come Master Shallow- Come, son Slender, in- ; Knowing my mind, you wrong me, Master Fenton.
The final beat to be analyzed shows Fenton's first true success at accomplishing his immediate goal. It comes from IV, vi, 1-55. This beat expresses Fenton's desire to convince the Host to gather a priest and meet him in the church at midnight, so he and Anne can be married. This beat also reveals the schemes of both Anne's mother and father to marry her to other suitors. Anne has already decided to deceive them both, and marry Fenton. The obstacle in this beat, and Fenton's final obstacle to achieve his overall goal of marriage to Anne, is convincing the Host to procure a priest and meet him at midnight. While at first the Host seems wary of doing this favor, he eventually agrees, as revealed by the following dialogue.
Fenton: Ã¢ÂÂ¦ And here it rests, that you'll procure the vicar; To stay for me at church 'twixt twelve and one; And, in the lawful name of marrying; To give our hearts united ceremony.
Host:Well, husband your device. I'll to the vicar; Bring you the maid, you shall not lack a priest.
Luckily for Fenton and Anne, the Host is able to procure the Priest, and Fenton and Anne are married. Though throughout the play Fenton received failure after failure during his beats, his overall goal was achieved through his preservation and commitment. He never gave up, and after each failure, he moved on to his next desire in the next moment and eventually got his heart's ultimate goal, and his love, Anne. At the end of V, when Fenton and Anne reveal they got married, Anne's parents dismiss their disappointment and welcome Fenton into their family.Works CitedShakespeare, William. Merry Wives of Windsor. Ed. Barbara A. Mowat and Paul Werstine.
New York: Washington Square Press, 2004.