Page images

deliberate, not to remember, not to have patience to

shift me.

Shal. It is most certain.

Fal. But to stand stained with travel, and sweating with desire to see him; thinking of nothing else; putting all affairs else in oblivion; as if there were nothing else to be done, but to see him.

Pist. 'Tis semper idem, for absque hoc nihil est : 'Tis all in every part."

Shal. 'Tis so, indeed.

Pist. My knight, I will inflame thy noble liver, And make thee rage. Thy Doll, and Helen of thy noble thoughts, Is in base durance, and contagious prison; Hauled thither By most mechanical and dirty hand :Rouse up revenge from ebon den with fell Alecto's

snake, For Doll is in ; Pistol speaks nought but truth. Fal. I will deliver her.

[Shouts within, and the trumpets sound. Pist. There roared the sea, and trumpet-clangor


Enter the King and his Train, the Chief Justice among

them. Fal. God save thy grace, king Hal! my royal Hal!?

Pist. The Heavens thee guard and keep, most royal imp of fame!

Fal. God save thee, my sweet boy!
King. My lord chief justice, speak to that vain man.
Ch. Just. Have you your wits? know you what ʼtis
Fal. My king! my Jove ! I speak to thee, my heart!
1 Warburton thought that we should read :-

“ Tis all in all and all in every part.” 2 A similar scene occurs in the anonymous old play of King Henry V. Falstaff and his companions address the king in the same manner, and are dismissed as in this play.

you speak?

King. I know thee not, old man.

Fall to thy prayers; How ill white hairs become a fool, and jester! I have long dreamed of such a kind of man, So surfeit-swelled, so old, and so profane;) But, being awake, I do despise my dream. Make less thy body hence, and more thy grace; Leave gormandizing; know the grave doth gape For thee thrice wider than for other men :Reply not to me with a fool-born jest; Presume not, that I am the thing I was ; For Heaven doth know, so shall the world perceive, That I have turned away my former self: So will I those that kept me company. When thou dost hear I am as I have been, Approach me; and thou shalt be as thou wast, The tutor and the feeder of my riots ; Till then I banish thee, on pain of death,As I have done the rest of my misleaders, Not to come near our person by ten mile. For competence of life, I will allow you, That lack of means enforce you not to evil; And, as we hear you do reform yourselves, We will —according to your strength and qualitiesGive you advancement. —Be it your charge, my lord, To see performed the tenor of our word.

[Exeunt King, and his Train. Fal. Master Shallow, I owe you a thousand pound.

Shal. Ay, marry, sir John; which I beseech you to let me have home with me.

Fal. That can hardly be, master Shallow. Do not you grieve at this; I shall be sent for in private to him: look


he must seem thus to the world. Fear not your advancement; I will be the man yet, tha shall make you great.

Set on.

1 Profane (says Johnson) in our author often signifies love of talk. 2 Henceforward. 3 This circumstance Shakspeare may have derived from the old play of King Henry V. But Hall, Holinshed, and Stowe, give nearly the same account of the dismissal of Henry's loose companions.

Shal. I cannot perceive how; unless you give me your doublet, and stuff me out with straw. I beseech you, good sir John, let me have five hundred of my thousand. Fal. Sir, I will be as good as my word; this that

l you heard, was but a color.

Shal. A color, I fear, that you will die in, sir John.

Fal. Fear no colors ; go with me to dinner. Come, lieutenant Pistol ;-come, Bardolph.—I shall be sent for soon at night.

[ocr errors]

Re-enter PRINCE John, the Chief Justice, Officers, &c.

Ch. Just. Go, carry sir John Falstaff to the Fleet; Take all his company along with him.

Fal. My lord, my lord, —

Ch. Just. I cannot now speak; I will hear you soon. Take them away. Pist. Si fortuna me tormenta, spero me contenta. (Exeunt Fal., Shal., Pist., BARD., Page,

and Officers.
P. John. I like this fair proceeding of the king's :
He hath intent, his wonted followers
Shall all be very well provided for;
But all are banished, till their conversations
Appear more wise and modest to the world.

Ch. Just. And so they are.
P. John. The king hath called his parliament, my

Ch. Just. He hath.

P. John. I will lay odds, that, ere this year expire, We bear our civil swords, and native fire, As far as France: I heard a bird so sing, Whose music, to my thinking, pleased the king. Come, will you hence ?




FIRST, my fear; then, my court'sy; last, my speech. My fear is, your displeasure; my court'sy, my duty; and my speech, to beg your pardons. If you look for a good speech now, you undo me; for what I have to say, is of mine own making; and what, indeed, I should say, will, I doubt, prove mine own marring. But to the purpose, and so to the venture.--Be it known to you, (as it is very well,) I was lately here in the

I end of a displeasing play, to pray your patience for it, and to promise you a better. I did mean, indeed, to pay you with this; which, if, like an ill venture, it come unluckily home, I break, and you, my gentle creditors, lose. Here, I promised you, I would be, and here I commit my body to your mercies: bate me some, and I will pay you some, and, as most debtors do, promise you infinitely.

If my tongue cannot entreat you to acquit me, will you command me to use my legs? and yet that were but light payment,—to dance out of your debt. But a good conscience will make any possible satisfaction, and so will I. All the gentlewomen here have forgiven me; if the gentlemen will not, then the gentlemen do not agree with the gentlewomen, which was never seen before in such an assembly.

One word more, I beseech you. If you be not too much cloyed with fat meat, our humble author will continue the story, with sir John in it, and make you merry with fair Katharine of France; where, for any thing I know, Falstaff shall die of a sweat, unless already he be killed with your hard opinions; for Oldcastle died a martyr, and this is not the man. My tongue is weary; when my legs are too, I will bid

you good night: and so kneel down before you :—but, indeed, to pray for the queen.'

1 Most of the ancient interludes conclude with a prayer for the king or queen. Hence, perhaps, the Vivant Rex et Regina, at the bottom of our modern play bills.

I FANCY every reader, when he ends this play, cries out with Desdemona, “O most lame and impotent conclusion!” As this play was not, to our knowledge, divided into acts by the author, I could be content to conclude it with the death of Henry the Fourth :

“In that Jerusalem shall Harry die.” These scenes, which now make the fifth act of Henry the Fourth, might then be the first of Henry the Fifth ; but the truth is, that they do not unite very commodiously to either play. When these plays were represented, I believe they ended as they are now ended in the books; but Shakspeare seems to have designed that the whole series of action, from the beginning of Richard the Second to the end of Henry the Fifth, should be considered by the reader as one work upon one plan, only broken into parts by the necessity of exhibition.

None of Shakspeare's plays are more read than the First and Second Parts of Henry the Fourth. Perhaps no author has ever, in two plays, afforded so much delight. The great events are interesting, for the fate of kingdoms depends upon them; the slighter occurrences are diverting, and, except one or two, sufficiently probable; the incidents are multiplied with wonderful fertility of invention, and the characters diversified with the utmost nicety of discernment, and the profoundest skill in the nature of man.

The prince, who is the hero both of the comic and tragic part, is a young man of great abilities and violent passions, whose sentiments are right, though his actions are wrong; whose virtues are obscured by negligence, and whose understanding is dissipated by levity. In his idle hours he is rather loose than wicked; and when the occasion forces out his latent qualities, he is great without effort, and brave without tumult. The trifler is roused into a hero, and the hero again reposes in the trifler. The character is great, original, and just.

Percy is a rugged soldier, choleric and quarrelsome, and has only the soldier's virtues, generosity and courage.

But Falstaff, unimitated, unimitable Falstaff, how shall I describe thee? Thou compound of sense and vice; of sense which may be admired, but not esteemed; of vice which may be despised, but hardly detested. Falstaff is a character loaded with faults, and with those faults which naturally produce contempt. He is a thief and a glutton, a coward and a boaster, always ready to cheat the weak, and prey upon the poor; to terrify the timorous, and insult the defenceless. At once obsequious and malignant, he satirizes in their absence those whom he lives by flattering. He is familiar with the prince only as an agent of vice; but of this familiarity he is so proud, as not only to be supercilious and haughty with common men, but to think his interest of importance to the duke of Lancaster. Yet the man, thus corrupt, thus despicable, makes himself necessary to the prince that despises him, by the most pleasing of all qualities, perpetual gayety; by an unfailing power of exciting laughter ; which is the more freely indulged, as his wit is not of the splendid or ambitious kind, but consists in easy scapes and sallies of levity, which make sport, but raise no envy. It must be observed, that he is stained ith no enormous or sanguinary crimes, so that his licentiousness is not so offensive but that it may be borne for his mirth.

The moral to be drawn from this representation is, that no man is more dangerous than he that, with a will to corrupt, hath the power to please; and that neither wit nor honesty ought to think themselves safe with such a companion, when they see Henry seduced by Falstaff.


« PreviousContinue »