- Merry Wives of Windsor, and: Titus Andronicus
Director Frank Galati's Merry Wives of Windsorrelied on several thematic contrasts, most significantly between order and disorder, in its burlesque of the burgher class's obsessions and insecurities. Set in a vaguely eighteenth-century milieu, Wivesopened before Master Page's country manor, where, over his fashionably adorned bar hung a chandelier ringed with horns—the only property on stage that disturbed an otherwise omnipresent normality.
As anticipated, these horns figured prominently in Falstaff 's final humiliation, but their subtle presence here called attention to the wildness that lurked at the margins of this stately home—and, in a broader sense, seems never to vacate the human psyche, despite our refinements and physical detachments from it. Falstaff and Master Ford illustrated this reality engagingly. Dressed in a red officer's overcoat and lodged in a gentleman's flat that featured a bearskin rug and luxurious furniture, Falstaff assumed the mannerisms of distinction—a class-conscious alternative, of sorts, to Masters Ford and Page. And yet this gentleman also sported unruly carrot-colored hair and often ridiculously mismatched the color schemes of his dress. His associates Bardolf, Nym, and Pistol also wore military habiliments, but their garb hung about them in tatters and betrayed a stubborn slovenliness—one which maligned Falstaff 's pose as a social superior. [End Page 200]
One of the more interesting nuances of this production involved Galati's conception of Falstaff as a schemer, intent upon negotiating for himself an easy movement up the social ladder. As a contrast to Ford and Page, Falstaff represented in this production a poison to the ordered, sanctioned, and "English" methods of social ascendancy. His attempts to lure Mistresses Ford and Page into sexual liaisons from which he could gain financial advantage as well as his agreement with Ford to seduce Mistress Ford, garnered him the salience of chaotic agency—a trickster or a wrench thrown into the machine. Until the end of the play, of course, Falstaff never overcame his impulses to "cony-catch" and "shift," despite his numerous setbacks at the hands of the wives.
Although Ford repeatedly revealed even less command over himself than Falstaff, most of his actions illustrated just how desperately he sought to re-establish his dominion. By nature jealous, Ford began unraveling when Pistol warned him of Falstaff 's adulterous intent and the disgracefulness implicit in wearing a "horn." As his obsession with Mistress Ford's infidelity propelled him toward a state he called "horn-mad," Ford provided the production's most satisfying...