William Shakespeare
THE MERRY WIVES OF WINDSOR

1597–1602
[First performance on 23 April 1597 often urged]

a synoptic, alphabetical character list

ABRAHAM SLENDER

Slender, cousin to country justice Shallow, is made drunk and then robbed by Falstaff's followers, Bardolph, Pistol and Nym. Falstaff has slighted Shallow as well. To make amends, Evans suggests marriage to Page's daughter Anne because she will inherit 700 on her seventeenth birthday. Anne's father approves of Slender and tells him to steal her away and marry her at the fairy revel set to humiliate Falstaff. Slender makes it possible for Anne and her true love Fenton to marry. He steals away not with Anne but rather with a boy that Margaret Page has placed in a white dress.

BARDOLPH

Bardolph, is a follower of Falstaff who, with Pistol and Nym, succeed in making Slender drunk and picking his purse. He is fired because Falstaff can no longer pay him. Bardolph is then apprenticed to a tapster at the Garter Inn.

BROOKE

A disguise assumed by Frank Ford when he bribes Falstaff to "lay amiable siege" to Mistress Ford for him. Later, again as Mr. Brooke, Ford learns from Falstaff how he escaped Ford while hidden in a laundry basket.

CAIUS, DOCTOR

Dr. Caius is a French physician in love with Mistress Anne Page. He has been promised Anne's hand by Mistress Page. He finds Simple has been hidden by Mistress Quickly in his closet and also discovers Slender's plot to woo Anne, a plot conceived by Evans. Dr. Caius vows to fight Evans to the death. The Host of the Garter sends the duelists to different places. When Caius and Evans discover the cheat, they join forces and cozen the Host of three horses. While Falstaff is being tormented in Windsor Park, Caius steals off with a person he thinks is Anne but discovers that he has married a boy.

FENTON

Fenton is the true love of Mistress Anne Page and conspires with the Host of the Garter to whisk her away at Herne's Oak.

FRANCIS FORD

He is the husband of Mistress Ford. Master Ford is apprised by Pistol of Falstaff's plot to seduce Mistress Ford. Furious and not trusting the fidelity of his wife, he disguises himself as "Mr. Brook" to trick Falstaff into being in his wife's chambers (where he hopes to humiliate the fat knight with a prearranged discovery). Falstaff manages to escape by hiding in a laundry basket. On a second occasion, Ford again fails to find Falstaff and in frustration beats "Mother Prat" (who is actually Falstaff in disguise). After helping to torment the fat knight in Windsor Park, Ford forgives him, realizing that his jealousy was unwarranted.

GEORGE PAGE

He is the father of William and Anne and the husband of Margaret Page. He will not agree to let Fenton marry his daughter. Nym tells him that Falstaff is wooing his wife, but he has faith in her integrity. He agrees to let Slender marry his daughter and plans to have her dressed in white at Herne's Oak so that Slender may steal her away and marry her. In the first act he is called Thomas, probably a mistake on the part of the writer or printer.

HOST OF THE GARTER INN

A "mad" host, he takes Bardolph on as his tapster. He first instigates a fight between Evans and Dr. Caius, only to then beg them to make peace. He sends the combatants to different places, but when they discover the deceit, they join forces and cheat him of three horses. He also conspires with Fenton by providing two young boys to pose as Mistress Anne Page in "white" and in "green" and a priest to marry Fenton and Anne.

JOHN RUGBY

John is a servant to Dr. Caius. Mistress Quickly laments his worst fault, which is being somewhat addicted to prayer.

MISTRESS ALICE FORD

She is the wife of Francis Ford. Furious at having discovered that she and Mistress Page have received the same letter from Falstaff, she plots with Margaret Page to "cozen" Falstaff by agreeing to his wooing. First, Falstaff is humiliated in Margaret Page's home (in three laundry basket incidents ending in a wetting in the Thames), next at Ford's (where, disguised as 'Mother Prat," he is beaten by Francis Ford), and finally at Herne's Oak, this time by a myriad of "pinching" fairies.

MISTRESS ANNE PAGE

She is the daughter of George and Margaret Page. She wishes to marry Fenton. She agrees to both her father and her mother's marriage choices, but is rescued by Mistress Quickly who makes sure Anne can be spirited away from Herne's Oak by Fenton to be married.

MISTRESS MARGARET PAGE

The wife of George Page, who calls her "Meg," mother of William and Anne. Furious at having discovered that she and Mistress Ford have received the same letter from Falstaff, she plots with Alice Ford to "cozen" Falstaff by agreeing to his wooing. First, Falstaff is humiliated at her home (in three laundry basket incidents) and then at Herne's Oak, by a myriad of "pinching" fairies. Margaret also does not want Fenton to marry Anne and conspires with Dr. Caius, telling him Anne will be dressed in green and that he should take her away from Herne's Oak and marry her. This plan is spoiled, however, by the machinations of the Host and Mistress Quickly.

MISTRESS QUICKLY

A servant to Dr. Caius, Mistress Quickly attempts to help Slender in his quest to woo Mistress Anne. However, she is responsible not only for knowing the true feelings of Anne Page, but also for ensuring that her heart's desire is answered. She informs Mistress Anne of her parent's plans at Herne's Oak. She also conspires with Mistress Margaret Page and Mistress Alice Ford to help "cozen" Falstaff.

NYM

Nym is a follower of Falstaff who, with Pistol and Bardolph, succeed in making Slender drunk and picking his purse. He is fired because he will not deliver a love letter to Margaret Page. To avenge his discharge, Nym tells George Page about Falstaff's plans to seduce his wife.

PETER SIMPLE

Simple is the servant to Slender who takes a letter to Mistress Quickly asking that she assist in Slender's wooing of Anne. Believing the disguised Falstaff is in fact the wise woman of Brainford, he accosts "Mother Prat" at the Garter with questions on Slender's behalf.

PISTOL

Pistol is a follower of Falstaff who, with Nym and Bardolph, succeed in making Slender drunk and picking his purse. He is fired because he will not deliver a love letter to Alice Ford. To avenge his discharge, Pistol tells Francis Ford about Falstaff's plans, which Ford does not believe. This leads Ford to disguise himself as a man named Brook to discover the truth from Falstaff.

PRAT, MOTHER

A disguise assumed by Falstaff when he is trapped in Mistress Ford's home. Mother Prat, according to Mistress Ford is her "maid's aunt of Brainford." The disguise hardly saves Falstaff, however, because Ford has already forbidden the fortune–telling witch from entering his home. He beats the "old woman" while bellowing "you witch, you rag, you baggage, you polecat, you runnion!" When he arrives back at the Garter, he is pestered by Peter Simple, who believes him to be the wise woman of Brainford, and made to answer questions regarding Slender.

ROBERT SHALLOW

Shallow, cousin to Slender, is an elderly country justice. Falstaff's followers have robbed Slender, and Falstaff has slighted Shallow by beating his men, stealing his deer, and breaking open his lodge. Shallow seeks amends by having Slender marry Anne Page for her inheritance. He even rather foolishly attempts to woo the young woman on his cousin's behalf, but the plan goes awry when Anne Page steals off with Fenton.

ROBIN

Robin serves as Falstaff's page and deliverer of letters to Margaret Page and Alice Ford. He helps the two women to cozen the fat knight, and assists Falstaff into the laundry basket. He is likely the same character known as "Page" in 2 Henry IV and "Boy" in Henry V.

SIR HUGH EVANS

A Welsh parson who conspires with Slender to woo Anne Page in order to garner George Page's wealth. His efforts on Slender's behalf win him the enmity of Dr. Caius, but when the Host of the Garter sends the two of them to different places to duel, they discover the trickery and join forces to steal three of the Host's horses. During Falstaff's torment in Windsor Park, he takes the part of a satyr.

SIR JOHN FALSTAFF

Falstaff is a fat, cowardly knight who devises a plan to obtain money from the Page and Ford families by wooing the Mistresses of each house. His discharging of Bardolph causes ill will between him and Pistol and Nym, starting their revenge. When he then fires Pistol and Nym for not carrying his letters to Mistresses Ford and Page, they reveal his plans to the husbands. The discovery of his plan by the Mistresses starts another revenge. Each time he is nearly discovered, the fat knight is either hidden in laundry baskets (only to be dumped into the Thames) or else disguised as Mother Prat, who is persona non grata at the Ford home, and beaten in that disguise. At last he is tricked into Windsor Park, at Herne's Oak, ridiculously disguised as Herne (complete with buck's head and antlers). There he is set upon by a "satyr" (Evans) and "fairies" (William and Anne Page with children), who pinch him mercilessly.

WILLIAM PAGE

William is the son of George and Margaret Page. Evans quizzes him on his Latin. Later, he joins with his sister, Anne, and a group of boys. Pretending to be fairies, they pinch Falstaff mercilessly in Windsor Park.