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date: 25 February 2021

Abstract and Keywords

In Merry Wives of Windsor Falstaff tries to clandestinely meet Mistress Ford three separate times and, each time, Mistresses Ford and Page play pranks on their ardent and clueless suitor. This article argues that each incident is an adaptation of a distinct form of shaming ritual usually reserved for unruly women: Mistresses Ford and Page subject Falstaff to a cucking, a Skimmington, and the placing of horns. Drawing on work by social historians, this chapter analyses these three forms of ritual shaming to provide a richer understanding of how Shakespeare’s most English comedy relates to its surrounding social, political and cultural environment.

Keywords: Merry Wives of Windsor, Falstaff, Elizabeth I, Shakespeare, skimmington, tiding, cowl staff, horns, cucking stool, shaming rituals, sexual scandal

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