Today we look at a double feature, revolving around Falstaff the Broke Fatso Casanova. The scenes depicted derive from the Shakespeare play the Merry Wives of Windsor, or the Italian opera Falstaff, your pick. I confess I have not read or seen either of these, but based on my intense Wikipedia-based research, the gist seems to be as follows:
The rotund gentleman in question decides to make some quick cash by seducing not one, but two married women who are apparently friends, by sending them identical love letters. Clearly there are no flaws with this plan. After the two ladies meet up and compare letters, they decide to have some fun with the would-be loverboy, by leading him on into awkward situations where they playfully dump him in a river, dress him in drag to be beaten, and have children set him on fire. Oh, those merry wives!
These two paintings by John Henry Fuseli (or Johann Heinrich Füssli) in the late 18th century reflect a couple of these scenes. In the first one, the ladies trick him into hiding in a basket of disgusting laundry, before dumping the laundry and him in the river.
I assume they had a couple of Olympic weightlifters on hand to transport the basket, because there’s no way the creepy guy leering in the doorway would manage it.
The ladies are wearing mutant children’s craft projects on their heads.
This is perhaps to highlight their whimsical nature, as they prepare to attempt to drown this paragon of erotic desire.
Just look at those full, supple lips. That alluring pose. That piercing gaze. It’s no wonder he thought seducing two women at once was necessary; just going after one would have been a waste of his powers.
In fact, I feel like he may have been the model for another cultural icon…
Moving on to example two, the ladies convince Falstaff to dress as “Herne the Hunter,” a ghost with horns, and meet them in the forest. They then convince the local children to dress up like fairies and “pinch and burn Falstaff to punish him.” Here they are wandering the woods before the invasion of the midget fairies.
It seems the ladies chose this costume to highlight his horniness—literally.
“Oh, the things I do to maintain a couple of sugar mommas. They keep suggesting the weirdest dates. Good thing I’m so sexy.”