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Falstaff is regarded as one of the greatest characters Shakespeare has created, a "true and perfect image of life" (Bloom).

This article examines some of the arguments for this claim.

Falstaffs Rich Language Creates Character


Falstaffs presence, apart from his physically obese character on stage, is also evident in the richness of his prose, which gives a sense of vitality and exuberance. In contrast to King Henrys analytical and rhythmic verse as he considers the future of his kingdom, Falstaffs conversation with Hal is spontaneous and powerful: Let us be Dianas foresters, gentlemen of the shade, minions of the moon being governed...by our noble and chaste mistress the moon, under whose countenance we steal. The effectiveness of this passage might be seen how the sequencing of noble, heroic names strongly builds up to the powerful emblem of the moon, before collapsing into the anticlimactic conclusion that Falstaff has been describing the theft. Taking Falstaffs language as a means of his characterization helps to understand Mark Van Doren's statement that Falstaff was evidence of Shakespeares "mastery in the art of understanding style, and through style of creating men".

Falstaff Acts as Playwright and Mimic


Falstaff's language shows its brilliance not only in articulating himself, but also in the imitation of others. The humorous scene where Hal and Falstaff act out imagined dialogues exemplify why to Harold Bloom, Falstaff is "the most intimate link between playwright and comedic genius".

Hal Acts as Himself, and Falstaff as King Henry


In this scene, Falstaff parodies the ornate rhetoric of John Lylys Eupheus, and charmingly mocks the king and Hal: "Shall the blessed sun of heaven prove a micher, and eat blackberries?" The humour derives from how he parodies the regality of royal family with lighthearted scolding. Falstaff simultaneously elevates himself as one "with virtue in his looks", which is funny not only in the visual irony of the obese Falstaff glorifying himself, but also how Falstaff uses his verbal brilliance to show his own wit.

Falstaff Acts as Hal, and Hal as King Henry


When Hal insults Falstaff, his words lose the jesting tone of Falstaff's, instead burning with anger and maliciousness, seen in his gross imagery of Falstaff as "that huge bombard of sack, that stuffed cloak-bag of guts, that roasted Manningtree ox". This foreshadows tensions, but here, it is again Falstaffs wit that returns the comedic touch to this conversation, as he vindicates himself

with the plea: "banish plump Jack, and banish all the world", which is both humorously and genuinely pitiful. Falstaffs identity hence comes about strongly from acting. It is a means where he fills more characters than himself, paradoxically him the genuine feel that others do not possess.

Falstaff Introduces Freedom


In The Rejection of Falstaff, critic A.C Bradley points out that Falstaff is more than humour. Instead, he shows a more sophisticated philosophy that "to reduce a thing ad absurdum is to reduce it to nothing and to walk about free and rejoicing." This might be interpreted to how Falstaff transcends limitations by cutting them down through humour, thus maintaining his own hedonistic lifestyle with little concerns for the rest of the world. . These points, taken from Bradleys essay, are worth considering further:

Truth - Falstaff makes statements swearing they are true, although the characters in the play and the audience can recognize them for blatant lies. His description of being robbed, or his claim to have killed Hotspur, are hilarious for their comedic value, and their insights into Falstaffs disregard for truth. Religion - Falstaff mocks and misinterprets Christianity, such as when he tells Hal he should work in his vocation. Asides from showing Falstaffs hedonistic nature, which prefers current pleasures to religion, the mocking reference of Puritans and religion is also a motif expressed in plays such as Twelfth Night. Honour - In an uncharacteristically serious and contemplative soliloquy, Falstaff contemplates the uselessness of honour as a "mere scrutcheon" in a catechism. Admirable for its succinctness in expression, his views are an irony of his social position as a knight. War - Aside from Falstaffs dubious recruitment methods, perhaps the most wonderful instance of humour is in the midst of war, when Hal calls for Falstaffs pistol and instead unsheathes a bottle of sack. Falstaffs behaviour during war, both appalling yet humorous, culminates in his apparent rise from death, an indication of his rejection of death for existence: "Give me life".

Considering Falstaff's Relevance Falstaff, who surpasses many other fictional characters both in terms of wisdom and sense of self-consciousness, and mght be considered one of the most vivid and strong representations of human nature that English Literature has to offer. Nevertheless, his relevance in a Shakespearean History such as Henry IV Part I deserves some examination.

Beginning with the assumption that a Shakespearean History's concern is to dramatically

chronicle a segment of history, there are a few instances where Falstaff might be considered integral in Henry IV Part I.

Falstaff's Role as Representative of Common Folk


Falstaff acts as a foil to King Henry, and their duality is representative of a contrast between their two social classes. King Henry represents a court that is concerned about order and their mandate to rule, while Falstaff represents a lord of misrule, caught up in reveling and entertainment. How both of them exert a fatherly sort of influence on Hal leads to considering Hal's character development to become a king.

Falstaff's Role in The Character Development of Hal


Henry IV Part I is taken from the period where King Henry IVs power over England is waning, and Hal is in progress to take over as king by Henry V. Falstaff might be considered part of his education, which is necessary for his development prior to becoming king. Critic Marjorie Garber observes that Hal is seen as a student of language: I am so good a proficient in one quarter of an hour that I can drink with any tinker in his own language during my life. The rough prose that Hal masters is a synecdoche of a Kings understanding of his people in order to rule them well, harking back to lessons from Machiavellis The Prince. Therefore Hal, recognizing himself as a sun, only waiting for the right moment before he breaks through the foul and ugly mists /Of vapours that did seem to strangle, might regard Falstaff as an integral stepping stone to his own development.

Falstaff Renders the Rest of Henry IV Comparatively Irrelevant


While it might be acknowledged that Falstaff has a role to play to the dramatic conventions, the depth of his character, surpasses the rest of the characters and result in the paling of significance. Harold Bloom is among those, that seeing Falstaff as the focus of Henry IV, gives the opinion that the collective name of Henriad a misnomer: We do not need Henry V, and he does not need us. Falstaffs outshining presence might hence be seen as stifling the dramatization of characters such as the conflict between Hal and Hotspur. Their rivalry should have been concluded when Harry kills Hotspur, who rues the 'proud titles thou hast won of me.'Instead, Falstaff comically rises from apparent death, and promptly steals the show from both of them, insisting 'If your father will do me any honour, so; if not, let him kill the next Percy himself.' This best represents how Falstaff's drowns out of the other characters when he fills far more than what might be expected.

Falstaff is Part of a Cast of Characters

Perhaps a way to resolve this apparent conflict which weakens the play, is to re-examine the assumption that a history play should rightfully focus on its period of history. Instead, it might be understood as a drama with a focus for aesthetic value. For Mark van Doren at least, the play has a greater end then as a page for Falstaff: nothing that [Shakespeare] wrote is more crowded with life or happier in its imitation of human talk. This might be understood by examining Henry IV Part I with a circumspective view of how all its characters are distinct, yet come together within the play. Marjorie Garber identified four different dramatic worlds within the play:

The Court, Represented by King Henry


King Henry is a portrayed as a self-doubting ruler. The play questions the legitimacy and divine mandate of his rule, having grabbed it from Richard II. The apparent failure of Hal to succeed him leads him to "believe that thou art only marked/ For the hot vengeance and the rod of heaven/To punish my mistreadings." Henry IV Part I reaches an interim resolution, with King Henry's victory over Hotspurs armies, and also sets the stage for the theme of monarchy succession in Henry IV Part II.

The Tavern, Represented by Falstaff


Falstaffs role is integral to understanding the play, given not only by his amount of stage lines and presence, which exceed the rest of the cast, but also the depth of his character .

The Countryside, Represented by Hotspur


Hotspur attacks King Henrys monarchy from the countryside, presenting the idea that King Henry does not hold a secure rule over his lands. Hotspurs character is important in several aspects:

Hotspurs Heroism
Hotspur is "a son who is the theme of honours tongue", a brilliant fighter and worthy successor to kingship. Garber argues that Hotspur might be seen as a Marlovian hero portrayed in a "quasi-mythic" light, importantly firstly as contrast to Hal, and secondly as a polarity which he must mediate with, between the other spectrum of influence that is Falstaff.

Language
Mark Van Doren considers Hotspur as "he created speaking man", and critics have debated the style and importance of his thick accent. Regardless, his language strengthens his character as hot-blooded and passionate, if somewhat impatient and rash. This is best seen in two scenes, the first where he rages against the king who has "put down Richard, that sweet lovely rose,/And

plant this thorn, this canker" into rule, and secondly, in his anger at Glywndrs speeches about magic, whom he sees as foolish and tedious.

Women
Hotspur is the only character who has a lady, and his interactions with Lady Percy can be considered, as by Jean Howard, as an indication of vulnerability which characters do not possess. The role of wives and women is worth considering in greater depth, including a comparison with those in other plays. Wales, Represented by Glyndwr Glyndwr represents a realm of magic in Wales: "at my birth/ The front of heaven was full of fiery shapes", evoking images of the supernatural that Shakespeare will portray in greater vividness by Macbeth. Within the play though, his appearance might be interesting, but not as significant as the other conflicts. Garber points out that the play is not a romance and Glyndwrs role is the least stressed, though perhaps the most suggestive, of the four worlds.

Blending of Four Distinct Worlds


Jean Howard explains how Henry IV Part I exceeds a conventional chronicle history to achieve a mode of chorography, writing about the various groups in relation to specific places and societies. According to Marjorie Garber, Henry IV Part I can hence be seen to contain elements of the other Shakespearean genres of comedy, tragedy and romance. The effect is to create a sense of richness and variety, with the theatre becoming a microcosm of English society and the surroundings. Through multiple plots and the juxtaposition of worlds, Shakespeare creates "the illusion of complex temporal simultaneity and social and geographical heterogeneity."(Walter Cohen) The Elizabethan era is perhaps known best for producing one of the greatest writer in the English language: William Shakespeare. The archaic language of Early Modern English, grandiloquent in modern terms, has confused some modern readers, who assign to the Elizabethans high sophistication and a culture of enlightenment. However, this is not necessarily true. In Shakespeares day, the theatre was more akin to a raucous movie theater today or football game than the now-hallowed live theatre. But for those who have never paid attention to the baser text, there is a lot of vice, sex, and perhaps even some rock and roll lifestyles to be found in the immortal bards handiwork.

Vice in Shakespeares Character Falstaff

How was Desdemona Like a Ship? Because she was moored. It may not be a killer joke these days, but a hundred and fifty years ago it still might have caused a cautious chuckle, and four hundred years ago it would have been perfect for a late-night show opening monologue. While often overlooked now, a liberal number of jokes about sexuality, race, and other unsavory topics could be found. Frequently references are made to wide-spread STIs, such as syphilis, as well as the pleasure to be found in various forms of vice. The character Falstaff, who appears in multiple plays, or any clown found in a Shakespeare play, would frequently be a deviant for comic effect. Falstaff, for example, serves as a foil to the more noble characters seen in plays such as Henry IV Pt. 1, and is described even by his f riends in the last scene of act two as a demon in the form of an old fat man. While fellow Englishman are dying in battle, Falstaff pretends to die of a heart attack and falls down. He drinks, he lies, he sleeps the days away, and presumes hell get a nice pot of gold by hanging on to the princes coattails. He also was one of Shakespeares most beloved and most reoccurring characters, appearing or at least referenced in four plays, including The Merry Wives of Windsor, in which he is the protagonist. If one wants to see just how unsophisticated the entertainment could get in Elizabethan England, however, only one Shakespeare play will suffice. The most intriguing character in William Shakespeares Henry IV plays is Sir John Falstaff. Falstaff is a likable character of ill repute. He is a drunkard, a thief, a liar, and a coward, but we love him, because he is also humorous, jovial, childish, and free living. Eventually, his behavior becomes so apprehensible that he is rejected. The rejection of Sir John Falstaff by Prince Hal begins in The First Part of Henry Fourth with the play acting scene, is fueled by Falstaffs misuse of the kings fund's and cowardice in the field, realized by Hals acceptance of his father, and culminates in the final scene of The Second Part of Henry IV. The first sign that Hal is weary of Falstaffs behavior is in the play acting scene. Falstaff and Hal are play acting. Falstaff is making believe he is Prince Hal and the Prince plays the King. The Prince states: wherein is he good , but to taste sack and to drink it? wherein neat and cleanly, but to carve a capon and eat it? wherein cunning, but in craft? wherein crafty but in villainy? wherein villainous, but in all things? wherein worthy, but in nothing. (1H 4 2. 4. 455-459) In The film version of Henry IV, presented by the British Broadcasting company, Prince Hal becomes more serious as his speech to Falstaff progresses. Hals facial expressions and vocal tone change; as if the speech he makes pretending to be his father enlightens him about Falstaffs character (Henry IV). Falstaff seems to recognize that Hals attitude towards him is changing. He tries to sway the Prince with his own speech pitying himself.

"Valiant being old Jack Falstaff, banish not him thy Harrys company, banish not him thy Harrys company- banish plump Jack, and banish all the world. (I H 4 2. 4. 472-480) The Prince answers I do, I will (I H 4 2. 4. 481) indicating his intent to eventually reject Falstaff . Harold S. Goddard agrees. In his essay The Meaning of Shakespeare," Goddard points out that the play acting scene is in a sense a rehearsal for the banishment to come (Goddard 206-207). Goddard states about Prince Hal now he pretends to be his father and does banish Falstaff. A little later he will become like his father and will banish him (207). The play acting scene is the beginning of Falstaffs rejection. The Prince may have been enlightened to some of the faults of Falstaff, but he certainly has not yet totally rejected him. The Prince, in fact, secures Falstaff a commission in the King's army (1H4 3.3. 186). Unfortunately, Falstaffs actions while representing the Kings army are cowardly and unforgivable. Falstaff misuses the Kings funds. He accepts bribes to keep men out of battle and hires men who are worthless. Falstaff states in his soliloquy in 1H4 4.3. 11-15, If I not be ashamd of my soldiers, I am a sousd Gurnet. I have misused the Kings funds damnably. I have got. in exchange of a hundred and fifty soldiers, three hundred and odd pounds. The Prince seeing the men Falstaff has hired states I did never see such pitiful rascals (1H4 4.3. 64). Falstaffs answer Tut, tut, good enough to toss, food for powder, food for powder; they will fill a pit as well as better (1H4 4.3. 65-67). The men Falstaff has chosen are food for powder and in the Battle of Shrewsbury only three will survive and those Falstaff states are for the towns end, to beg for life (1H4 5.2. 38). The Prince being a man of the people can not be happy with Falstaffs actions and contempt for the commons. Falstaff has only added fuel to the Princes vow in 1H4 2.4. 481 I will, Ido. Falstaffs repugnant cowardice continues further into the Battle of Shrewsbury. The Prince, having lost his weapon and tired from battle, comes across Falstaff resting on his sword. What, stands thou idle here? Lend me thy / sword. / Many a nobleman lies stark and stiff / under the hoofs of vaunting enemies, / Whose deaths are yet unrevengd. I prithee lend me / thy sword (1H4 5.3. 44-47). Falstaff in classic cowardice refuses to lend Hal his sword. Falstaff tells the Prince that if Percy is alive thou gets not my sword, but take my pistol, if thou wilt (1H4 5.3. 50-51). The Prince grabs the pistol and finds it to be a bottle of sack. He is quite annoyed with Falstaff stating What, is it a time to jest and dally now (1H4 5.3. 55)? Hals anger at Falstaffs irresponsible behavior is shown when he takes the bottle of sack and throws it at Falstaff before exiting to re-enter the battle. A. C. Bradley in his essay The Rejection of Falstaff claims Falstaff was not a coward. Bradley states that when he saw Henry and Hotspur fighting, Falstaff, instead of making off in a panic, stayed to take his chance if Hotspur be the victor. He led his hundred and fifty ragamuffins where they were peppered, he did not send them (105). Bradley is wrong. Falstaff made believe he was dead during the fight between Hal and Hotspur and would have continued to do so had Hal lost. Falstaff shows his true colors when he states the better part of valor is discretion, in which the better part I have savd my life. Zounds, I am afraid of this gunpowder Percy though he be dead. How if he should counterfeit too and rise(1H4 5.4. 119 -124)? Falstaff, the coward, is afraid of the dead Percy. Falstaff did lead his ragamuffins into

battle, as Bradley says, but he knew fully well they would not live. A brave man would have chosen more gallant soldiers, not the dregs of society. The stage is now set for Falstaffs later rejection. The future King certainly will not be able to socialize with such a cowardly, irresponsible character after his coronation. Henry, IV the current King, detests Hals socializing with Falstaff and his companions. Clarence, the Princes brother, informs the King that the Prince is in London with Poins, and other his continual followers (2H4 4.4. 53). The King is not happy and states Most subject is the fattest soil to weeds, And he, the noble image of my youth, Is overspread with them; therefore my grief Stretches itself beyond the hour of death. (2H4 4.4. 54-58) The King is upset that on his death bed Hal chooses to be with his rogue friends. He uses his anger later to help turn Hal against Falstaff when he berates Hal about taking his crown (2H4 4.5. 92-135). Warwick, however, sees wisdom in young Hal associating with Falstaff and his companions he states that The Prince doth study his companions / Like a strange tongue, wherein to gain the language (2H4 4.4. 68-69). D. A. Traversi in An Approach to Shakespeare notes that Falstaff represents all the humanity which the politicians, bent on the attainment of success, seem bound to exclude (30). The Prince is merely learning from Falstaff what he cannot learn from his father. The King, blind to his own short comings can not foresee his sons intentions. Warwick, as we discussed in class, has a much better understanding of the Prince than the King. Warwick predicts to the King that Hal will Cast off his followers, and their memory / Shall as a pattern or measure live, / by which his Grace must mete the lives of other, / Turning past evils to advantages(2H4 4.4. 75-78). Warwick is capable of seeing Hal for who he is, a fun loving young man that will meet his responsibilities when it his time. The King remains irate despite Warwicks explanation. He later awakens to find his crown missing along with the Prince. The Prince thought the King dead when he took the crown and was deeply upset. He states to the King upon his return to the Kings chambers I never thought to hear you speak again (2H4 4.5. 61). The King believes the Prince had other intentions Thy wish was father, Harry, to that thought. / I stay to long by thee, I weary thee (2H4 4.5. 92-94). The King feels Hal wants him dead, so he can ascend the throne. He uses the opportunity of Hals mistake to give Hal an old fashioned father to son lecture. The lecture is pure psychology. Henry tells Hal Thy life did manifest thou lovdst me not, / and thou wilt have me die assurd of it (2H4 4.5. 105106). Henry is doing the same thing every parent does; he uses guilt to discipline his son. He asks Hal canst thou bear me half an hour(2H4 4.5. 109)? Henry is asking

could not you wait till I was dead? Do you really hate me that much? The lecture, as we discussed in class, is full of irony in an attempt to gain Hals sympathy. Hal is extremely moved by his fathers dying words. He has tears in his eyes and is completely repentant for his past and current behavior in his reply: O, let me in my current wildness die, And never live to show th incredulous world The noble change that I have purposed! Coming to look on you, thinking you dead, And dead almost, my liege, to think you were. . . . (2H4 4.4. 151-156) Hal tells Henry that he wore the crown to try with it, as with an enemy / That had before my face murdered my father (2H4 4.4. 166-167). The Princes reply to the King is the turning point in Hals relationship with Falstaff. He is his fathers son and will bear the honor of King admirably from this point forward in the play. Falstaff hears of Henry IVs demise and immediately leaves for the Princes coronation. He believes the new King will dispose upon him great honors and wealth. Falstaff is unaware the Prince has rejected him and accepted the wishes of his father and responsibilities of a King. Harold E. Toliver in his essay Falstaff, The Prince, and the History Play, notes the rejection scene is the first time, of course, that Falstaff is aware that a tutor and feeder of riots is unwelcome in court (Toliver 150). Falstaff is surprised when the King responds to his shouts of my King, my Jove! I speak to thee my heart (2H4 5.5. 46)! I Know thee not, old man . . . When thou dost hear I am as I have been Approach me, and thou shalt be as thou wast, The tutor and feeder of my riots. Till then I banish thee, on pain of death. . . . (2H4 5.5. 45, 60-63) The King has severed all ties with his former comrades. He is King now and beyond their approach. A Kings responsibilities will not allow the young man once dubbed the nimble-footed madcap Prince of Wales (1H4 4.1. 95) by Harry Hotspur, to associate with his former mentor, Falstaff.

Harold E. Tolliver believes the King was merely acting when associating with Falstaff and his companions and now he gets to be himself (Toliver 150-151). The Prince, however, was not acting, but merely enjoying life while he had a chance. The Prince was quite aware of the strains of the crown. He proves so in 2H4 4.5. 158-159 when he says of the crown the care on thee depending / Hath fed upon the body of my father. Hals rejection of Falstaff is not the culmination of a great long acting ruse, but; a culmination of all of Falstaffs misdeeds, Henry IVs guilt ridden death bed speech, and Hals coming of age as King. The rejection was a necessary step in the Princes elevation to King. Hal no longer can be a follower; he has to be a leader. Falstaff was always the leader of his cohorts. Hal was merely a member of Falstaffs troop, a student. King Hal is now the divine ruler of all England and can no longer follow in the footsteps of a drunkard and a fool. What makes portly Sir John so entertaining? How is it, when his actions would repulse many in both a modern and medieval context, we find ourselves so attracted to this lying tub of lard? Speculation over the years has produced many possible answers, one no more likely than the next. Whether or not the Queen of England truly requested Merry Wives... for herself because she was so fond of the "huge hill of flesh" (Henry IV pt I, Hal, Tavern Scene), most do find some sort of affectionate connection. Possibly his openness in his crimes, his lack of loyalty being so apparent essentially his frankness (not so much honesty) in life, and his grinning selfdetermination, self observance. At best, it can be said that Shakespeare's Falstaff reaches beyond merely making the audience laugh. He is aware that life is a charade and is markedly responsible for his situation. He besets our hearts, yea deeper still, to our diaphragms. We are his. He has been too great a humoristic character to forfeit all good impressions within the length of one play. MacLeish, Kenneth, Longman Guide to Shakespeares Characters, Harlow, England: Longman, 1986. pp87-88 Falstaff is a central element in the two parts of Henry IV, a natural portion of their structure. Yet he does at times seem to be mainly a fun-maker, a character whom we both laugh with and laugh at, and almost in the same breath. Nothing has helped more to give this impression than the fat knights account of the double robbery at Gadshill. Even his name invites humor, as it is a sort of pun on impotence, brought on by the character's excessive consumption of alcohol. Scholars also note the potential for a pun on the author himself - Fall-Staff; Shake-Spear. Falstaff's character is necessary to Hal's character development just as Hotspur's temperament is necessary to his. Falstaff's wit, humor and amusing antics are needed to develop Hal. He helps us relate to Hal and his decision. We know people of all types of character and personality in our lives. They influence our thinking and decisions. So it is also necessary for Hal. The character of Falstaff seems to have been inspired by the theatrical forerunners Vice and miles gloriosus, but Falstaff has a unique, and undeniable depth of character. Beneath Falstaffs contagious panache, he is a Homeric burlesque, an iconoclast, a philosopher, and a paradox.

Falstaff is hailed by Harold Bloom and other literary scholars as one of Shakespeares greatest creations. Falstaff is closely scrutinized because his character is a revolution on the stage; he represents the transition from flamboyant, 'carnivalesque' comedy to the modern, aesthetic character. Hes a point of transcendent subjectivity3 from which we see roots of the modern, western human.