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good cheer, of his ease, of his vanity, in the ideal exaggerated descriptions which he gives of them, than in fact. He never fails to enrich his discourse with allusions to eating and drinking, but we never see him at table. He carries his own larder about with him, and he is himself "a tun of man." His pulling out the bottle in the field of battle is a joke to shew his contempt for glory accompanied with danger, his systematick adherence to his Epicurean philosophy in the most trying circumstances. Again, such is his deliberate exaggeration of his own vices, that it does not seem quite certain whether the account of his hostess's bill, found in his pocket, with such an out of the way charge for capons and sack, with only one halfpenny-worth of bread, was not put there by himself as a trick to humour the jest upon his favourite propensities, and as a conscious caricature of himself. He is represented as a liar, a braggart, a coward, a glutton, &c. and yet we are not offended but delighted with him; for he is all these as much to amuse others as to gratify himself. He openly assumes all these characters to shew the humorous part of them. The unrestrained indulgence of his own ease, appetites, and convenience, has neither malice nor hypocrisy in it. In a word, he is an actor in himself almost as much as upon the stage, and we no more object to the character of Falstaff, in a moral point of view, than we should think of bringing an excellent comedian, who should represent him to the life, before one of the police officers. We only consider the number of pleasant lights in which he puts certain foibles, (the more
pleasant as they are opposed to the received rules and necessary restraints of society) and do not trouble ourselves about the consequences resulting from them, for no mischievous consequences do result. Sir John is old as well as fat, which gives a melancholy retrospective tinge to the character; and, by the disparity between his inclinations and his capacity for enjoyment, makes it still more ludicrous and fantastical.
The secret of Falstaff's wit is, for the most part, a masterly presence of mind, an absolute self-possession, which nothing can disturb. His repartees are involuntary suggestions of his self-love; instinctive evasions of every thing that threatens to interrupt the career of his triumphant jollity and self-complacency. His very size floats him out of all his difficulties in a sea of rich conceits; and he turns round on the pivot of his convenience, with every occasion, and at a moment's warning. His natural repugnance to every unpleasant thought or circumstance of itself makes light of objections, and provokes the most extravagant and licentious answers in his own justification. His indifference to truth puts no check upon his invention, and the more improbable and unexpected his contrivances are, the more happily does he seem to be delivered of them, the anticipation of their effect acting as a stimulus to the gayety of his fancy. The success of one adventurous sally gives him spirits to undertake another he deals always in round numbers, and his exaggerations and excuses are open, palpable, monstrous as the father that begets them." His dissolute carelessness of what he says discovers itself in the first dialogue with the Prince.
"Falstaff. By the lord, thou say'st true, lad; and is not mine hostess of the tavern a most sweet wench?
P. Henry. As the honey of Hybla, my old lad of the castle; and is not a buff jerkin a most sweet robe of durance?
Falstaff. How now, how now, mad wag, what, in thy quips and thy quiddities? what a plague have I to do with a buff-jerkin?
P. Henry. Why, what a pox have I to do with mine hostess of the tavern?"
In the same scene he afterwards affects melancholy, from pure satisfaction of heart, and professes reform, because it is the farthest thing in the world from his thoughts. He has no qualms of conscience, and therefore would as soon talk of them as of any thing else when the humour takes him.
Falstaff. But Hal, I pr'ythee trouble me no more with vanity. I would to God thou and I knew where a commodity of good names were to be bought: an old lord of council rated me the other day in the street about you, sir; but I mark'd him not, and yet he talked very wisely, and in the street too.
P. Henry. Thou didst well, for wisdom cries out in the street, and no man regards it.
Falstoff. O, thou hast damnable iteration, and art indeed able to corrupt a saint. Thou hast done much harm unto me, Hal; God forgive thee for it. Before I knew thee, Hal, I knew nothing, and now I am, if a man should speak truly, little better than one of the wicked. I must give over this life, and I will give it over, by the lord; an I do not, I am a villain. I'll be damn'd for never a king's son in Christendom.
P. Henry. Where shall we take a purse to-morrow, Jack?
Falstaff. Where thou wilt, lad, I'll make one; and I do not, call me villain, and baffle me.
P. Henry. I see good amendment of life in thee, from praying to purse-taking.
Falstaff. Why, Hal, 'tis my vocation, Hal. 'Tis no sin for a mau to labour in his vocation."
Of the other prominent passages, his account of his pretended resistance to the robbers, "who grew
from four men in buckram into eleven," as the imagination of his own valour increased with his relating it, his getting off when the truth is discovered by pretending he knew the Prince, the scene in which, in the person of the old king, he lectures the prince and gives himself a good character, the soliloquy on honour, and description of his new raised recruits, his meeting with the Chief justice, his abuse of the Prince and Poins, who overhear him, to Doll Tearsheet, his reconciliation with Mrs. Quickly, who has arrested him for an old debt, and whom he persuades to pawn her plate to lend him ten pounds more, and the scenes with Shallow and Silence, are all inimitable. Of all of them, the scene in which Falstaff plays the part, first, of the King, and then of Prince Henry, is the one that has been the most often quoted. We must quote it once more in illustration of our remarks.
"Falstaff. Harry, I do not only marvel where thou spendest thy time, but also how thou art accompanied for though the camomile, the more it is trodden on, the faster it grows, yet youth, the more it is wasted, the sooner it wears. That thou art my son, I have partly thy mother's word, partly my own opinion; but chiefly, a villanous trick of thine eye, and a foolish hanging of thy nether lip, that doth warrant me. If then thou be son to me, here lies the point ;Why, being son to me, art thou so pointed at? Shall the blessed sun of heaven prove a micher, and eat blackberries? A question not to be ask'd. Shall the son of England prove a thief, and take purses? A question to be ask'd. There is a thing, Harry which thou hast often heard of, and it is known to many in our land by the name of pitch: this pitch, as ancient writers do report, doth defile; so doth the company thon keepest: for, Harry, now I do not speak to thee in drink, but in tears; not in pleasure, but in passion; not in words only, but in woes also:-and yet there is a virtuous man, whom I have often noted in thy company, but I know not his name.
P. Henry. What manner of man, an it like your majesty?
Falstaff. A goodly portly man, i' faith, and a corpulent; of a cheerful look, a pleasing eye, and a most noble carriage; and, as I think, his age some fifty, or, by'r-lady, inclining to threescore; and now I do remember me, his name is Falstaff: if that man should be lewdly given, he deceiveth me; for, Harry, I see virtue in his looks. If then the fruit may be known by the tree, as the tree by the fruit, then peremptorily I speak it, there is virtue in that Falstaff: him keep with, the rest banish. And tell me now, thou naughty varlet, tell me, where hast thou been this month?
P. Henry. Dost thou speak like a king? Do thou stand for me, and I'll play my father.
Falstaff Depose me? if thou dost it half so gravely, so majestically, both in word and matter, hang me up by the heels for a rabbit-sucker, or a poulterer's hare.
P. Henry. Well, here I am set.
Falstaff. And here I stand :-judge, my masters.
P. Henry. Now, Harry, whence come you?
Falstaff. My noble lord, from Eastcheap.
P. Henry. The complaints I hear of thee are grievous.
Falstaff. S'blood, my lord, they are false-nay, I'll tickle ye for a young prince, i'faith.
P. Henry. Swearest thou, ungracious boy? henceforth ne'er look on me. Thou art violently carried away from grace: there is a devil haunts thee, in the likeness of a fat old man; a tun of man is - thy companion. Why dost thou converse with that trunk of humours, that bolting-hutch of beastliness, that swoln parcel of dropsies, that huge bombard of sack, that stuft cloak-bag of guts, that roasted Manning tree ox with the pudding in his belly, that reverend vice, that grey iniquity, that father ruffian, that vanity in years? wherein is he good, but to taste sack and drink it? wherein neat and cleanly, but to carve a capon and eat it? wherein cunning, but in craft? wherein crafty, but in villany? wherein villanous, but in all things? wherein worthy, but in nothing?
Falstaff. I would, your grace would take me with you; whom means your grace?
P. Henry. That villanous, abominable misleader of youth, Falstaff, that old white-bearded Satan.
Falstaff. My lord, the man I know.