William Shakespeare and his Merry Wives at UWA

One of The University of Western Australia’s resident peacocks gracing the New Fortune Theatre Stage

Poet, actor, partner in the Lord Chamberlain’s Men, world’s most famous dramatist: William Shakespeare needs little introduction.

This year marks 400 years since his death in 1616. Around the globe, an eclectic mix of #Shakespeare400 talks, workshops, conferences and performances will celebrate Shakespeare’s legacy, including a number of events hosted by CHE. At The University of Melbourne, for example, Professors Paul Yachin (Tomlinson Professor of Shakespeare Studies at McGill University) and Ben Schmidt (Giovanni & Amne Costigan Endowed Professor of History at the University of Washington in Seattle) will convene a workshop on ‘The World of Conversion and the Conversion of the World: Shakespeare and China’ on 14 March. In Adelaide, CHE (in collaboration with the School of Humanities and Creative Arts and Flinders Institute for Research in the Humanities at Flinders University) will screen Silent Hamlet, a 1920 German film starring Asta Nielsen, on 21 March. The film will be accompanied by an improvised live score by Ashley Hribar (piano), Julian Ferraretto (violin) and Rachel Johnston (cello). In Queensland, CHE Partner Investigator Professor Indira Ghose (University of Fribourg) will deliver a public lecture on ‘Shakespeare and the Humanities’ on 22 April.Merry Wives of Windsor poster.PNG

This illustrious program of CHE Shakespeare events will start at The University of Western Australia this evening with the opening of a production of The Merry Wives of Windsor. Directed by Rob Conkie, it will be performed by actors from Melbourne’s ‘Nothing But Roaring’ theatre company, on the New Fortune stage, from 16–18 February 2016. As Bob White explains, The New Fortune Theatre is a replica of the Elizabethan Fortune Playhouse in London where many of Shakespeare’s plays were performed. It provides CHE researchers with a unique opportunity to consider how emotions were portrayed on the early modern stage:

Bob White (UWA), ‘Shakespeare 400 and the New Fortune Stage’ from History of Emotions on Vimeo.

In The Merry Wives of Windsor, a seductive young gentleman and an obese, lustful and down-at-heels knight descend on the god-fearing, middle-class town of Windsor. One is courting a young girl, while the other is seeking cash through affairs with married women. In a comedic sequence of events involving duplicate letters,[1] a laundry basket, cross-dressing, some unexpected beatings and more than one case of mistaken identity, they instead find themselves deceived and humiliated in front of the town.

Offering a brief summary of the play,[2] Bob White suggests that it ‘portrays a lively battle of the sexes in which the mature, “fartuous wives” of Windsor decisively put the debauched Sir John Falstaff in his place and cure a jealous husband of his mistrust.’

Bob White (UWA), ‘Shakespeare 400 and The Merry Wives of Windsor at UWA’ from History of Emotions on Vimeo.


Tickets are still available for The Merry Wives of Windsor at http://www.historyofemotions.org.au/events/the-merry-wives-of-windsor/.

Joanne McEwan is a Research Assistant at the UWA node of the Centre of Excellence for the History of Emotions, 1100–1800.

Bob White is Winthrop Professor of English at The University of Western Australia, Chief Investigator for the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for the History of Emotions, and Leader of the Centre’s Meanings Program. His book on The Merry Wives of Windsor for the Harvester New Critical Introductions to Shakespeare Series remains the only single-author critical monograph devoted to the play. He has published widely on many other plays by Shakespeare, as well as Literature and Natural Law, Natural Rights, and Pacifism. He has recently published Avant-Garde Hamlet: Text, Stage, Screen (Fairleigh Dickinson Press). Forthcoming in 2016 is Shakespeare and the Cinema of Love (Manchester University Press).

[1] On letter-writing and epistolarity in The Merry Wives of Windsor, see Diana G. Barnes, ‘A Subject for Love in The Merry Wives of Windsor’, in Authority, Gender and Emotions in Late Medieval and Early Modern England, ed. Susan Broomhall (Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2015).

[2] For more sustained summary and analysis, see R. S. White, The Merry Wives of Windsor (New York: Harvester, 1991).

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