Love versus Money
In the town of Windsor, money plays a bigger role than love in the selection of marriage partners as well as in extra-marital affairs. But in the end the primacy of love over money is affirmed.
Anne Page is considered an attractive bride not only because of her looks but because she is to inherit money from her grandfather. This is why Evans thinks she is a suitable match for Slender. But Mrs. Page favors Dr. Caius as a match for her daughter because he has money, which apparently trumps all his other less attractive qualities. By the same token, Fenton is rejected by Page as a suitor for Anne in part because he has no money, and Page is determined that Fenton will not use marriage to repair his financial fortunes.
The substitution of money for love is also apparent in the Falstaff plot. Falstaff is motivated not by love, nor even by lust, but by a desire to gain control of the merry wives' money. They in their turn plan to relieve Falstaff of all his money by making the courting of them a very expensive business for him (a plan that does not in fact materialize).
In addition to this, Ford, in his disguise as Brook, pays Falstaff money to seduce Mrs. Ford. "If money go before, all ways do lie open," he says, which sums up the courting rituals of Windsor. Money is what counts, and true love does not seem to matter.
Love does matter, however, to Fenton and Anne. They represent the younger generation, and they are genuinely in love with each other (even though Fenton at first sought Anne for her money). When they succeed at the end of the play, it represents the triumph of youth and love over age and narrow, materialistic values.
Restoration of Order in the Community
The first scene of the play makes it clear that Falstaff is a threat to the stability and order of the community in Windsor. Justice Shallow accuses him of beating his men, killing his deer and breaking into his lodge. Falstaff admits as much, but he does not care. He believes he is above the law. Then when Falstaff hatches his plan to seduce Mrs. Ford and Mrs. Page, his disruptive influence on law and morality in the community becomes pervasive. He is the outsider who must be rejected, the amoral intruder who must be repulsed by the "honest" wives, who repeatedly emphasize how moral they are and how outraged they are by Falstaff's overtures. This is why the private humiliation of Falstaff in the first two episodes, both of which take place in Ford's house, are not sufficient: the whole community must come together in public to insult and belittle him in Windsor Forest. By doing so, they reaffirm their own values, although in an ironic twist, they find that they too are taught a lesson because both of their competing schemes for Anne's marriage come to nothing.
Merry Wives of Windsor: Theme Analysis
Love versus Money