The Merry Wives of Windsor is a comedy by William Shakespeare, first published in 1602, though believed to have been written prior to 1597.
The Windsor of the play's title is a reference to Windsor Castle in Berkshire, England, and though nominally set in the reign of Henry IV, the play makes no pretense to exist outside contemporary Elizabethan era English middle class life. It features the character Sir John Falstaff, the fat knight who had previously been featured in Henry IV Parts 1 and 2. It has been adapted for the opera on several occasions.
Most critics consider Merry Wives to be one of Shakespeare's weakest plays, and the Falstaff of Merry Wives to be much inferior to the Falstaff of the two Henry IV plays. That Shakespeare would so stumble with one of his greatest creations is puzzling and a satisfactory reason for this remains to be found. The most obvious explanation is that it was written very quickly.
William Shakespeare (1564-1616) was an English poet, playwright and actor, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world's pre-eminent dramatist. His extant works, including some collaborations, consist of about 38 plays, 154 sonnets, two long narrative poems, and a few other verses. His plays have been translated into every major living language and are performed more often than those of any other playwright.
Shakespeare was a respected poet and playwright in his own day, but his reputation did not rise to its present heights until the 19th century. His plays remain highly popular today and are constantly studied, performed, and reinterpreted in diverse cultural and political contexts throughout the world.
In 2016, celebrations will commence in the United Kingdom and across the world to honour The Bard's 400th anniversary.