Production history in pictures

  • 1848 playbill

    1848
    Playbill for a performance of The Merry Wives of Windsor on 27 June 1848 at the Theatre Royal Birmingham.

    The performance featured the writer Charles Dickens as Shallow. Dickens was then 36 years old and an established author with titles including A Christmas Carol and The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby to his name, but with many more, including David Copperfield, still to come. He loved the theatre and, as a young man, seriously considered acting as a profession. Instead, he followed a literary career, but made a number of performances as an amateur.

    This performance took place to raise money to provide ongoing curatorship for Shakespeare's Birthplace.

    Reproduced with permission of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust.

  • 1863 playbill

    1863
    Playbill for a performance of The Merry Wives of Windsor, 27 March 1863, at the Manchester Theatre Royal, featuring Henry Irving in the role of Mr Page.

    Irving was a major figure in English theatre, who became the first actor to receive a knighthood. He formed a partnership with Ellen Terry and became actor-manager at the Lyceum Theatre, London, playing leading roles as well as taking responsibility for sets, lighting and direction.

    This production took place early in Irving's career, three years before he made his debut on the London stage.

    Reproduced with permission of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust.

  • 1940 production

    1940
    This production was directed by Ben Iden Payne and designed by Don Finley. It played in the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon from April 1940.

    The photo shows Mistress Ford (Thea Holme) and Mistress Page (Clare Harris) attempting to hide Falstaff (Jay Laurier) in the laundry basket, Act 3 Scene 3. Photo by Ernest Daniels.

    This was one of three wartime productions of The Merry Wives of Windsor that took place in Stratford-upon-Avon. A second took place in 1943, directed by Baliol Holloway and designed by Charles Reading, and a third followed for the end of the war in 1945, directed by Robert Atkins and designed by Martin Battersby.

  • 1955 production

    1955
    Dr Caius (Michael Denison, right) and his servant Rugby (John Southworth, left) wait for Evans to arrive for his duel in the 1955 production at the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon, directed by Glen Byam Shaw and designed by Motley. Photo by Angus McBean.

    The Merry Wives of Windsor was extremely popular during the first half of the 20th century, with regular productions in Stratford-upon-Avon. After 1945, the number of productions reduced, to about two per decade.

  • 1964 production - Clive Swift

    1964
    The Merry Wives of Windsor, 1964, directed by John Blatchley, designed by Andre Francois. Photo shows Clive Swift as Falstaff. Photo by Reg Wilson.

    The Royal Shakespeare Company was founded in 1964 and this was our first production of The Merry Wives of Windsor,  which played at the Aldwych Theatre, London, from July.

  • 1964 production - Brenda and Patsy

    1964
    The Merry Wives of Windsor, 1964, directed by John Blatchley, designed by Andre Francois. Photo shows, from left to right, Mistress Page (Brenda Bruce) and Mistress Ford (Patsy Byrne). Photo by Reg Wilson.

  • 1968 production

    1968
    Directed by Terry Hands, designed by Timothy O'Brien. The photo shows Mistress Ford (Elizabeth Spriggs) and Ford (Ian Richardson).

    This was the first Royal Shakespeare Company production of the play that took place in Stratford-upon-Avon. The role of Mr Page was taken by Jeffery Dench, who would also appear in the 1991 and 2006 productions of the play.

    The Tom Holte Theatre Photographic Collection © Shakespeare Birthplace Trust.

  • 1979 production

    1979
    The Merry Wives of Windsor, 1979, directed by Trevor Nunn with John Caird, designed by John Napier, with John Woodvine as Falstaff. Ben Kingsley appeared as Frank Ford and David Threlfall as Abraham Spender.

    The production opened at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre and transferred to the Aldwych Theatre, London the following year.

    The photograph shows Dr Caius (Geofrey Hutchings) chastising Simple (Timothy Spall). Photo by Reg Wilson.

  • 1985 production

    1985
    Bill Alexander's production, designed by William Dudley. The set incorporated a sculpture of traffic lights, chimney pots, umbrellas and house frames, with the Fords inhabiting mock Tudor suburbia.

    Here Mistress Page (Janet Dale) and Mistress Ford (Lindsay Duncan) discover that Falstaff has sent them identical love letters, Act 2 Scene 1. Photo by Reg Wilson.

    The production opened in the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in April and the role of Falstaff was played by Peter Jeffrey.

  • 1992 production

    1992
    The Merry Wives of Windsor, 1992, directed by David Thacker, designed by William Dudley.

    The photograph shows Dr Caius and Hugh Evans preparing to duel, Act 3 Scene 1. From left to right are Dr Caius (Ron Cook), Justice Shallow (Jeffrey Dench, wheelchair), Host (Andrew Jarvis), Sir Hugh Evans (Paul Webster, with sword).

    Photo from the Malcolm Davies Collection © Shakespeare Birthplace Trust.

  • 2006 production - Falstaff

    2006
    The last production of The Merry Wives of Windsor was a musical version of Shakespeare's comedy, directed by Gregory Doran.

    The music for Merry Wives The Musical was written by Paul Englishby, with lyrics by Ranjit Bolt.

    The production featured Judi Dench as Mistress Quickly and Simon Callow as Falstaff. Photo by Stewart Hemley.

  • 2006 production - Paul Chahidi

    2006
    Paul Chahidi as Dr Caius in the 2006 production of The Merry Wives of Windsor, directed by Gregory Doran. Photo by Stewart Hemley.

  • 2006 production - punks

    2006
    Merry Wives The Musical, designed by Stephen Brimson Lewis. Photo by Stewart Hemley.

  • 2006 production - Jeffrey Dench

    2006
    Merry Wives the Musical directed by Gregory Doran. Photo by Stewart Hemley.

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