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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
Scenes from the Comedies and Histories
Falstaff’s Army
By William Shakespeare (1564–1616)
 
From First Part of ‘King Henry IV.’

Scene: A public road near Coventry.  Enter Falstaff and Bardolph.

FALSTAFF—Bardolph, get thee before to Coventry; fill me a bottle of sack. Our soldiers shall march through; we’ll to Sutton-Colfield to-night.
  Bardolph—Will you give me money, captain?
  Falstaff—Lay out, lay out.
  Bardolph—This bottle makes an angel.
  Falstaff—An if it do, take it for thy labor; and if it make twenty, take them all,—I’ll answer the coinage. Bid my lieutenant Peto meet me at the town’s end.        5
  Bardolph—I will, captain: farewell.  [Exit.]
  Falstaff—If I be not ashamed of my soldiers, I am a soused gurnet. I have misused the King’s press damnably. I have got, in exchange of a hundred and fifty soldiers, three hundred and odd pounds. I pressed me none but good householders, yeomen’s sons; inquired me out contracted bachelors, such as had been asked twice on the bans: such a commodity of warm slaves, as had as lief hear the Devil as a drum; such as fear the report of a caliver worse than a struck fowl or a hurt wild-duck. I pressed me none but such toasts and butter, with hearts in their bellies no bigger than pins’-heads, and they have bought out their services; and now my whole charge consists of ancients, corporals, lieutenants, gentlemen of companies, slaves as ragged as Lazarus in the painted cloth, where the glutton’s dogs licked his sores; and such as indeed were never soldiers, but discarded unjust serving-men, younger sons to younger brothers, revolted tapsters, and ostlers trade-fallen; the cankers of a calm world and a long peace; ten times more dishonorable ragged than an old pieced ancient: and such have I, to fill up the rooms of them that have bought out their services, that you would think that I had a hundred and fifty tattered prodigals, lately come from swine-keeping, from eating draff and husks. A mad fellow met me on the way, and told me I had unloaded all the gibbets and pressed the dead bodies. No eye hath seen such scarecrows. I’ll not march through Coventry with them, that’s flat;—nay, and the villains march wide betwixt the legs, as if they had gyves on; for indeed I had the most of them out of prison. There’s but a shirt and a half in all my company: and the half shirt is two napkins, tacked together, and thrown over the shoulders like a herald’s coat without sleeves; and the shirt, to say the truth, stolen from my host at St. Albans, or the red-nosed innkeeper of Daventry. But that’s all one: they’ll find linen enough on every hedge.
Enter Prince Henry and Westmoreland
  Prince Henry—How now, blown Jack! how now, quilt!
  Falstaff—What, Hal! how now, mad wag! what a devil dost thou in Warwickshire?—My good lord of Westmoreland, I cry you mercy: I thought your Honor had already been at Shrewsbury.
  Westmoreland—Faith, Sir John, ’tis more than time that I were there, and you too; but my powers are there already. The King, I can tell you, looks for us all: we must away all night.        10
  Falstaff—Tut, never fear me: I am as vigilant as a cat to steal cream.
  Prince Henry—I think, to steal cream indeed; for thy theft hath already made thee butter. But tell me, Jack: whose fellows are these that come after?
  Falstaff—Mine, Hal, mine.
  Prince Henry—I did never see such pitiful rascals.
  Falstaff—Tut, tut! good enough to toss; food for powder, food for powder; they’ll fill a pit as well as better: tush, man, mortal men, mortal men.        15
  Westmoreland—Ay, but, Sir John, methinks they are exceeding poor and bare; too beggarly.
  Falstaff—Faith, for their poverty, I know not where they had that; and for their bareness, I am sure they never learned that of me.
  Prince Henry—No, I’ll be sworn; unless you call three fingers on the ribs, bare. But, sirrah, make haste: Percy is already in the field.
  Falstaff—What, is the King encamped?
  Westmoreland—He is, Sir John: I fear we shall stay too long.        20
  Falstaff—Well—
 
    To the latter end of a fray, and the beginning of a feast,
    Fits a dull fighter, and a keen guest.
 
 
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