Sir John Falstaff and the Merry Wives of Windsor was first printed in 1602 and reprinted in 1619, before it appeared in 1623 in a version that was nearly twice as long. (A surviving copy of the second quarto is held in the Stanley J. Kahrl Renaissance and Restoration Drama Collection of the Ohio State library.) Though the play has been a perennial favorite with audiences throughout the intervening centuries, these performances have always been based on the Folio version of the play. This naturalization of the Folio as the “complete” or “authentic” version of Merry Wives has caused critics to make specious and often inaccurate claims about the provenance of Shakespeare’s plays in print and the performability of the earlier text onstage. Characterized as the baddest of Shakespeare’s so-called “bad quartos,” the 1602 play text has endured little from scholarship but scorn. The Lord Denney's Players' student-driven production in April 2018 redeemed Q1’s crossed-fortune by giving it an opportunity to stretch its legs upon the boards.
And make no mistake, this production was not only student-driven, but student flown, ridden, piloted and steered. Alongside their work learning lines, practicing choreography, designing costumes, sets, sound, makeup and music, undergraduate students collaborated on promotional material, organized ticket sales and commissioned poster artwork, constructed props and managed spreadsheets. They did all this while simultaneously completing the written work of an upper-level undergraduate course in Shakespeare specializing in thorny textual problems and the eccentricities of early modern book publication, allowing the laboratory space of the theatre to inform their reading of primary and secondary material. As a result of their long and deep investigation, these students’ knowledge of the Q1 text of the play surpasses that of all but a handful of Shakespeare scholars, many of whom traveled many miles in order to come see the production and participate in a conference on this text of the play.
"I’ve learned in the discussion of so-called “bad quartos” that Shakespeare wasn’t perfect. His plays often went through many revisions, contrary to the popular myth that Shakespeare was an infallible playwright."
—Maxwell Steele (BA'18)
The Conference: ‘Wives may be merry, and yet honest, too’: Shakespeare’s The Merry Wives of Windsor in Context
A joint undergraduate and faculty conference held alongside our production, ‘Wives may be merry, and yet honest, too’: Shakespeare’s The Merry Wives of Windsor in Context was held April 6 and 7, 2018. The conference featured a keynote address from Professor Jean Howard (Columbia University) and talks by David Lindley (University of Leeds), Helen Ostovich (McMaster University), Richard Dutton (Ohio State/Queen’s University-Belfast), James J. Marino (Cleveland State University), Adam Zucker (University of Massachusetts-Amherst) and Musa Gurnis (independent scholar). Fourteen undergraduate students presented their current scholarly work on medieval and early-modern women through a variety of topics, offering fascinating arguments such as the Trobairitz, Elizabeth Cary, evolutionary perspectives in literature, Antony and Cleopatra, Queen Elizabeth and printed drama.
For our efforts in bringing the 1602 quarto text of Sir John Falstaff and the Merry Wives of Windsor to life for the first time since the play had been printed, the City Council of Columbus awarded the Lord Denney's Players a Resolution of Expression commending our production. A film has been made of the production; to acquire a copy, please contact Professor Sarah Neville.
Mistress Ford—Kallen Alsdorf
Mistress Page—Hanna Mandernach, senior studying English on the pre-education track
Sir John Falstaff—Levi Prudhomme
Master Ford—Isaiah Johnson, third year studying theatre and political science
Master Page—Joey Hoffmann, third year studying English
Mistress Quickly—Hannah Woods
Doctor Caius—Conner Limbaugh, junior studying English
Justice Shallow—Keir Lamont, Program Manager for the Program on Data and Governance at The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law
Parson Hugh Evans—Antony Shuttleworth
Master Slender—Joseph Glandorf, second year majoring in philosophy and political science
Host of the Garter—Ellie Rogers
Anne Page—Madison Task
Master Fenton—Joseph Flynn, second year studying English with a specialization in creative writing
Ensign Pistol—Shanna Smith Jaggars, Director for Student Success Research for ODEE at Ohio State
Corporal Nim—Jake Cody, junior majoring in English and minoring in professional writing, and music, media and enterprise
Bardolph—Hannah Nelson, second year English and Anthropology major
John Rugby—Pablo Tanguay
John Simple—Natalie Dalea, fourth-year studying English and Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies
Falstaff’s Page—Bri Clemens, English and professional writing major
Children of Windsor—Mary Dolley-Kinsey, double major in English and economics
Children of Windsor—Miriam Nordine
Chorus—Hannah Grace, senior studying Chinese and International Studies with minors in Geographic Information Science and English
Assistant Director—Clara Davison, third year studying Arts management and business with a specialization in philanthropy.
Stage Manager—Heather Frazier, PhD candidate in English literature
Assistant Stage Managers—Mary Dolley-Kinsey, double major in English and economics
Assistant Stage Managers—Hanna Mandernach, senior studying English on the pre-education track
Assistant Stage Managers—Levi Prudhomme
Assistant Dramaturges—Hanna Mandernach, senior studying English on the pre-education track
Assistant Dramaturges—Levi Prudhomme
Assistant Choreographer—Madison Task
Costume Designers—Tiffany Evans, English major
Costume Designers—Natalie Dalea, fourth-year studying English and Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies
Costume Designers—Danielle Meller, junior studying biology
Costume Designers—Hannah Woods
Makeup Artist—Melissa Theodore
Fight Choreographer—Jason Speicher
Music Director—Hannah Grace, senior studying Chinese and International Studies with minors in Geographic Information Science and English
Sound Designer—KP Boadu
Set Designer—Ashton Ansel, sophomore studying English on the pre-Education track
Set Designer—Jake Cody, junior majoring in English and minoring in professional writing, and music, media and enterprise
Set Designer—Melissa Theodore
Props Master—Miriam Nordine
Promotions—Bri Clemens, English and professional writing major
Front of House—Isabel Ciminello, senior studying English
Front of House—Danny Reese
Conference Secretaries—Alli Gill, fourth year English major
Conference Secretaries—Sam Schrama
The productions of Lord Denney’s Players are made possible through the generous support of an anonymous donor. We remain deeply grateful for the work—and play—their gift makes possible.
The Lord Denney's Players would also like to extend thanks to Associate Professor Scott DeWitt and his English 4569 class; Tracee Mohler; Wayne Lovely; Breanne LeJeune; Professors Brad Steinmetz, Rebecca Turk and Jennifer Schlueter; the Ohio State University College of Medicine; Professors Helen Ostovich and Steven Urkowitz; Bethany Christiansen; Manny Jacquez; and Brett Greatley-Hirsch. We also want to express our gratitude to Douglas Dangler and his team of miracle workers at Ohio State's ASCTech.