In The Merry Wives of Windsor, why is the unmarried daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Page referred to as Mrs. Anne Page? I have two editions using this term in 'PERSONS REPRESENTED', published by Springs Books and also Collins Clear-Type Press.
In the text of the play, she's referred to either as "Anne Page" or as "Mistress Anne Page", where Mistress is an older form of address for a woman that, unlike "Miss" and "Mrs" nowadays, does not differ according to whether she is married or not. I tried to search for "Mrs Anne Page" in any literature related to Shakespeare's Merry Wives of Windsor and only found one single source (a paper from 1924) referring to her as Mrs Anne Page, which may be an error.
According to research by Cambridge University historian Amy Erickson, both Mrs and Miss are derived from short forms of the word "mistress", and the meanings of all three titles have changed through the ages:
In his Dictionary of 1755, Samuel Johnson defined mistress as: '1. A woman who governs; correlative to subject or servant; 2 A woman skilled in anything; 3. A woman teacher; 4. A woman beloved and courted; 5. A term of contemptuous address; 6. A whore or concubine.'
Neither ‘mistress’ nor ‘Mrs’ bore any marital connotation whatsoever for Dr Johnson. When in 1784 he wrote about having dinner with his friends “Mrs Carter, Miss Hannah More and Miss Fanny Burney”, all three women were unmarried. Elizabeth Carter, a distinguished scholar and lifelong friend of Johnson’s, was his own age and was invariably known as Mrs Carter; Hannah More and Fanny Burney were much younger and used the new style Miss.
Erickson's article was published in the History Workshop Journal in 2014, but it is paywalled.