The Character Falstaff in Shakespeare's Henry IV Essay

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The Character Falstaff in Shakespeare's Henry IV

Sir John Falstaff has a number of functions in 1 Henry IV, the most obvious as a clownish figure providing comic relief. His many lies and exaggerations entertain because of the wit and cleverness he employs to save himself from paying debts and answering for crimes. He in many ways represents an everyman--a sinner with little shame or honor, who nonetheless maintains at least an outward concern for honor and appearances. "If sack and sugar be a fault, God help the wicked! If to be old and merry be a sin, then many an old host that I know is damn'd. . . . [Banish the others] but for sweet Jack Falstaff, kind Jack Falstaff, true Jack Falstaff, valiant Jack Falstaff . . . banish plump
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Hal and Falstaff's bantering and wit sparring is mirrored by Hotspur and Glendower in III.i. What the former do in jest; the latter do in earnest. Like Falstaff and his boasting, Glendower holds forth on the mythical portents of his birth and his powers to change the weather. Hotspur suffers the fool far from gladly. They eventually quarrel over their "moi'ty," and Hotspur shows himself to be utterly uncompromising on matters of principle and honor. "But in the way of bargain, mark ye me,/I'll cavil on the ninth part of a hair." He shows himself an unattractive character; his rigid insistence on points of "honor" is self- centered and self-destructive. (In fact, Shakespeare impales all the conspirators by showing them carving up England like a roast--no English audience could be sympathetic.)

In his instance on protecting his rights and honors, while at the same time engaging in the most egregious dishonor of rebelling against his sovereign king, Hotspur shows
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