Falstaff and Mistress Quickly from The Merry Wives of Windsor, Francis Philip Stephanoff, circa 1840
|First appearance||Henry IV, part I|
|Last appearance||Henry V|
|Created by||William Shakespeare|
Mistress Quickly is a fictional character who appears in several plays by William Shakespeare. She is an inn-keeper, who runs the Boar's Head Tavern, at which Sir John Falstaff and his disreputable cronies congregate.
Character and role
In all the plays Quickly is characterised as a woman with strong links to the criminal underworld, but who is nevertheless preoccupied with her own respectable reputation. Her speech is filled with malapropisms, double entendres and "bawdy innuendo".
Role in the plays
In Henry IV, Part 1, Mistress Quickly is described as the proprietor of the Boar's Head Tavern in the London neighborhood of Eastcheap. She is married, as Prince Hal asks after her husband, referring to him as "an honest man"; he does not appear in the play.
In Henry IV, Part 2, she asks the authorities to arrest Falstaff, accusing him of running up excessive debts and making a fraudulent proposal of marriage to her (implying that she is now a widow). Mistress Quickly has a friendship of long standing with Doll Tearsheet, a prostitute who frequents the tavern, and protects her against aggressive men she calls "swaggerers". At the end of that play, Mistress Quickly and Doll Tearsheet are arrested in connection with the beating to death of a man.
In The Merry Wives of Windsor she works as nurse to Caius, a French physician, but primarily acts as a messenger between other characters, communicating love notes in a plot largely concerned with misdirected letters.
In Henry V, she is referred to as Nell Quickly. She is with Falstaff at his deathbed, and describes his death to his friends. She marries Falstaff's ensign, Ancient Pistol, despite have previously been engaged to Corporal Nym. While Pistol is away in France, he receives a letter from which he learns that "my Doll is dead", having succumbed to the "malady of France" (syphilis). Many editors take the name Doll to be a misprint for "Nell", but it has also been interpreted as a reference to Doll Tearsheet rather than Quickly.
Alan Skinner's novel Master Quickly attempts to fill in the gaps in Shakespeare by revealing the truth about her neglected husband.
- Hattaway,, Michael (2002). The Cambridge Companion to Shakespeare's History Plays. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp. 169–171. ISBN 9780521775397.
- Silverbush, Rhona; Plotkin, Sami (2002). Speak the Speech!: Shakespeare's Monologues Illuminated. Macmillan Publishers. pp. 87–90. ISBN 9780571211227.
- Jay, Milinda (2008). Female Friendship Alliances in Shakespeare. ProQuest. pp. 12–13. ISBN 9781109046014.
- Wright, Courtni Crump (1993). The Women of Shakespeare's Plays: Analysis of the Role of the Women in Select Plays with Plot Synopses and Selected One-Act Plays. University Press of America. pp. 59–62.
- Dr Andrew Griffin, Locating the Queen's Men, 1583–1603, Ashgate, 2013, p.142
- A Shakespeare Encyclopaedia. Taylor & Francis. 1966. p. 670.
- F. E. Halliday, A Shakespeare Companion, 1550-1950, Funk & Wagnalls, New York, 1952, p.525.