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In The Merry Wives of Windsor, the character of Falstaff is a much-deteriorated transplant from Henry IV. In this play, he is not nearly as humorous or effective as in the earlier play. By writing identical "love" letters to two women who are friends and neighbors, he proves himself to be quite foolish. Nevertheless, his soliloquy after he is dunked in the Thames and his account of his experience with the disguised Ford are as good as the best scenes is Henry IV.
Falstaff is depicted as a man with an inflated ego and a wily nature. From the very beginning of the play, he shows himself to be a scoundrel. Before the play has begun, Falstaff has offended Shallow and refuses to be apologetic or feel remorse for his behavior. He further shows that he is a total rascal by his plan to seduce the wives of Ford and Page. Once he forms a liaison with them, he hope to extract some money from these wealthy wives. In his exaggerated self-importance and naïveté, Falstaff imagines that Mrs. Ford and Mrs. Page return his feelings. As a result, he does not hesitate to send the two wives love letter, asking each of them for a tryst.
The ladies, of course, have no romantic feelings for Falstaff. In their repulsion to his boldness and anger over the letter and its implications, the two wives plot out a series of incidents to totally humiliate Falstaff, proving to the world that he is truly a scoundrel.
The first time Falstaff calls upon Mrs. Page, he is forced to hide in the laundry basket, from where he is thrown into the river by the servants. Not learning his lesson, Falstaff invites the ladies for a second meeting. This time Falstaff is forced to dress up like an old lady, the witch of Bainbridge; when Mr. Ford finds this creature in his house, he beats her in order to get rid of her. Falstaff, in humiliation, is forced to flee to his lodging.
Mrs. Ford and Mrs. Page carefully arrange the third meeting with Falstaff, asking him to come to the forest dressed as Herne the Hunger. In the forest, Falstaff is finally humiliated in public at the hands of children dressed as fairies. At the end of the play, it seems that Falstaff has been sufficiently punished; there is also hope that he has finally learned his lesson and will be less proud and self-confident in the future.
Mr. Ford, largely seen only as Mrs. Ford's husband, is portrayed as a jealous and non-trusting man. He believes Falstaff tales about seducing his wife and wants to catch the two of them together. He disguises himself as Mr. Brook to dupe Falstaff, who unknowingly confesses his "crimes" to Mr. Ford. These false confession serve to make Ford even more jealous and determined to catch his wife in a compromising situation. He barges into his own home in a rage on two different occasions, sure that he will find Falstaff present. Both times Falstaff has been hidden from view, first in the laundry basket and then in the disguise of an old lady. Even though Ford fails to find the scoundrel, he is still suspicious of his wife. When she finally tells him the truth and reveals the plans that she has made with Mrs. Page to expose Falstaff, Ford is truly repentant for having falsely accused his wife. He eagerly joins in the plans of making a fool of Falstaff, for he feels the man has also made a fool of him.
Mrs. Quickly, although she does not have an important role in the development of the plot, is seen repeatedly throughout the play. She mediates between different characters and serves as a character link between the main plot and the sub-plot. Although Mrs. Quickly is Dr. Caius' servant, she ends up serving many people. She delivers letters, accepts bribes from the suitors, and incongruously plays the Queen of the Fairies in the final scene. Mrs. Quickly is a simple, but highly entertaining character; her malapropisms are particularly funny.