The Merry Wives of Windsor

Shakespeare: the unfunny bits

Evans. If there is one, I shall make two in the company.

Caius. If dere be one or two, I shall make-a the turd.

That is the funniest joke in the whole play. Honestly. Rather than deliver his scheduled lecture on it, Auden announced that the only thing to be said in its favour was that it was the occasion of Verdi’s opera Falstaff, and played them a recording of it. This annoyed his audience, and no wonder: many of them had probably tried to read the play, and reading The Merry Wives of Windsor is what I imagine reading any Shakespeare must be like for people who hate reading Shakespeare.

3 responses to “The Merry Wives of Windsor

  1. Peter J Casey

    Did he play the whole opera? Or just Act One?

    • My edition of the lectures doesn’t say – Auden is just reported as saying “I have nothing to say about the play, so let’s hear Verdi” and playing “a recording of the opera”.

      It was 1946 -were recordings of entire operas even available then?

  2. Peter J Casey

    That’s a delicious image, because back then it would have been a pile of 78s. Imagine the audience sitting there while Auden carefully flips each disc over, every five minutes or so.

    I’ve decided that’s what happened.

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