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is present at a conference in his father's camp. Matters of state occupy his mind; and when Falstaff interposes an ill-timed pleasantry, he puts him down with a "Peace, chewet, peace!" Yet there is no unkindly neglect of an old acquaintance; and when they part at the end of the scene, it is with a jest and a cheery farewell. Meanwhile the Prince has shown his mettle; he has won the esteem of all, even of the enemy. With praise of Hotspur and with "a blushing cital of himself," he challenges Percy to fight single-handed with him and thus " save the blood on either side". We have forgotten his roistering and his youthful follies, gradually led as we have been to a just appreciation of his real worth. And when on the battlefield he meets the irrepressible Falstaff (v. iii.), he is incensed by Falstaff's inopportune jesting, and leaves him with a rebuke-" What, is it a time to jest and dally now?"

He distinguishes himself in the battle by deeds of surpassing valour, which are crowned by his slaying the great Percy in hand-to-hand fight (v. iv.). He is modest and generous withal; and he cannot repress a sigh when he sees, as he thinks, Falstaff, his "old acquaintance," struck down by death. But his grief will soon pass, for his life and ways are gradually changing. He can, however, admit

O, I should have a heavy miss of thee,
If I were much in love with vanity !

-v. iv. 105, 106.

He is rejoiced when the "dead" Falstaff, bearing the corpse of Hotspur, comes to claim the honour that was really his And if a lie will help his friend, he is willing to confirm Falstaff's story.


That is as far as Shakespeare carries the evolution of Henry's personality in this play; but it is impossible to appraise the Prince's character without considering the other two plays in which he appears. In the Second Part of Henry IV. it is noticeable that the Prince, although not so altered in character as not to appreciate still the pleasures of tavern life, is nevertheless only once brought on the stage with Falstaff before the parting scene in which he firmly but

without unkindness banishes Sir John for ever from his sight. And even in the one tavern scene1 where they are together the Prince very soon is recalled to serious matters of state and declares himself

much to blame,

So idly to profane the precious time.

-2 Henry IV. II. iv. 390, 391.

However, he is not yet altogether out of love with vanity, and his father is still troubled by the wildness of his ways; but when at last responsibility falls suddenly on his shoulders, we accept as a matter of course the worthy manner in which he assumes regal dignity and responsibilities. So the way is prepared for his progress in Henry V. to the sober, soldierly kingliness-relieved withal by occasional flashes of homely humour-which he sustains throughout the French campaign in which he gained a kingdom and a wife.

3. Hotspur.-Percy is the dramatic complement and setoff to the Prince. Whilst Harry Plantagenet lets the world pass, and devotes his life to barren and unworthy pleasures, apparently without ambition, Harry Hotspur is intent on 'winning honour and renown. Not his is the deep and subtle craft of the King or of his own father, Northumberland; his way is along the soldier's path. Brave almost to foolhardi

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He will not waste his time

ness, his soul is single in its aim. on such sentimental trifles as poetry or love. Nothing sets his teeth on edge so much as "mincing poetry";" and as for love, this is no world "to tilt with lips". He will have "bloody noses and crack'd crowns and he will "pass them current too". His very sleep-talk is of "all the currents of a heady fight". Hotspur's English bluntness and matter-of-factness are an effective contrast to the poetical and superstitious Celtic temperament of the Welshman, Glendower.

As ambitious as Henry IV. himself, Hotspur lacks the King's patience and balance of mind. He will not see the difficulties and dangers that are set between him and his goal; or if he does see them he recks not of them. If there is danger, so much the better :

12 Henry IV. 11. iv.

2 III. i. 133, 134. 4 Ibid. 52-64.

3 11. iii. 93-96.

Send danger from the east unto the west,
So honour cross it from the north to south,
And let them grapple.

For one so covetous of honour

it were an easy leap,

-1. iii. 195-197 post.

To pluck bright honour from the pale-faced moon,
Or dive into the bottom of the deep,

Where fathom-line could never touch the ground,
And pluck up drowned honour by the locks.

-Ibid. 201-205.

4. Minor Characters.-A striking contrast to the Prince is his brother John of Lancaster. Prince John, "this same young sober-blooded boy" who did not love Falstaff,1 was as far removed from his wilder brother as was the impetuous. Percy. But whereas Hotspur was passionate and heady, Lancaster seems to have inherited his father's character. He is early given responsibility, for he is old beyond his years. Whilst Harry has been wasting his youth in folly, John has been studying statecraft under his father's tuition. He will become a practical man of affairs who will avoid excesses of all sorts, and will rest content in a mediocre, negative virtue.

Crafty and cunning in a base sense are Northumberland and Worcester. Northumberland malingers at home while his son is rushing to almost certain defeat, if not destruction. And Worcester can, for merely selfish ends, pervert the message which has been entrusted to him, and so plunge his country into civil strife and bloodshed.

Falstaff-Lastly, there remains for consideration the character of Falstaff, one of the subtlest of all Shakespeare's creations. It does not suffice to study the character as depicted in this play only. Falstaff appears again in the Second Part of Henry IV. and in the Merry Wives of Windsor; the latter play, however, may he neglected, for the Falstaff of that play is not a true re-embodiment of the old knight. Did of wit or humour, he is there haled about like any “head-lugged bear," to make sport for the vulgar court which is said to have commanded his resurrection.

1 2 Henry IV. IV. iii. 94, 95.

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The chief point of contention with regard to Falstaff's character concerns his personal courage. It would be impossible to traverse the whole of this well-threshed subject. Falstaff has been warmly defended against the charge of cowardice by his eighteenth century champion, Maurice Morgann.1 Morgann collects with the utmost care every scrap of available evidence in the two parts of Henry IV., weighing impartially the evidence for and against Falstaff; and, with subtle argument and ingenious reasoning, he contends that Falstaff is not a coward. If, however, he is not cowardly, his behaviour is often disgraceful. What, according to ordinary standards, could be more indecent than his treatment of Percy's corpse, or more inglorious than his feigning death when the Douglas confronts him, or more unknightly than his famous soliloquy on "that word honour"? To do justice to the character of Falstaff one must conceive of him as a good-humoured cynic, "a kind of military free-thinker." He belongs to the world of comedy in which there are no moral laws, or in which they may be in abeyance for the nonce.

It is interesting to note the stress laid by Shakespeare in this play on various conceptions of honour. There is the mocking attitude of Falstaff, who dismisses honour as useless alike to the living and to the dead. There is Hotspur, on the other hand, who pursues honour with a rash fury that regards no consequences. In the Prince, Shakespeare embodies a nobler and saner ideal of honour. Not to fly madly in the face of circumstance; but with never-failing kindliness and humour, without too conscious a seeking after reputation, to act courageously when the call of duty comes: such is the conception of honour presented in the person of Prince Henry.

Falstaff wins our affection, if not our regard: he charms us, he carries us away, even despite ourselves, by the very enormity of his humour, his nimble wit and imperturbable good nature. Even in the scene at Gadshill and its sequel in the tavern, we are so bewitched that it is impossible to feel dislike or resentment. Yet towards the end of the play


1 M. Morgann, Essay on the Dramatic Character of Sir John Falstaff, 1777. See W. A. Gill's (fourth) ed., 1912.

21 Henry IV. II. iv.

Falstaff's jesting seems to us, as it did to Prince Henry, to be like the crackling of thorns under a pot. He shows a complete lack of honour and self-respect by his words and actions on the battle-field. It is doubtful, perhaps, whether we are to believe his own account of his leading his hundred and fifty ragamuffins to their death; but he was sufficiently unscrupulous to have done so had it suited his pocket or his whim.


The key to Falstaff's outlook on life is his keen sense of humour. We can understand his counterfeiting death at the Battle of Shrewsbury if we realise that to him his performance was eminently sensible and immensely humorous in the acting. "Falstaff falls," says Morgann, "Douglas is cheated, and the world laughs. But does he fall like a coward? No, like a buffoon only." Here, as in every other instance in which Falstaff is the object of laughter, he is but achieving his purpose. He has neither modesty nor self-respect. All his boasting, so utterly absurd, and never intended to be believed, is but to evoke laughter. He never makes himself ridiculous to any but his friends; he never tells his gross, palpable lies but to his acquaintances, who, he knows, will not for one moment believe them. He seems to love putting himself into a difficult pass for the very joy of extricating himself by the dexterity of his wit. Even in the famous tavern scene (II. iv.) we do not think of Falstaff as a coward; we laugh at and love him for his portly presence and unblushing effrontery. When he bursts into the tavern, tingling with the expectancy of a trial of wit, which he will need to ply so skilfully after his flight at Gadshill, he breaks out with, "A plague of all cowards! Give me a cup of sack, rogue. Is there no virtue extant?" As Morgann joyfully exclaims, "We are at once in possession of the whole man, and are ready to hug him, guts, lies and all, as an inexhaustible fund of pleasantry and humour."

Though we may be repelled by Falstaff's villainy, it is impossible not to enjoy the sallies of his inventive wit. It is, perhaps, as Morgann points out, because this charactermade up "wholly of incongruities;-a man at once young and old, enterprising and fat, a dupe and a wit, harmless and wicked, weak in principle and resolute by constitution, cowardly in

11 Henry IV. v. iii. 36-38.

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