Reference > Anthologies > Warner, et al., eds. > The Library > Verse

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 in Battle
By William Shakespeare (1564–1616)
From First Part of ‘King Henry IV.’

Scene: Plain near Shrewsbury.  Prince Henry fights with Hotspur.  Enter Douglas: he fights with Falstaff, who falls down as if he were dead, and exit Douglas.  Hotspur is wounded, and falls.

HOTSPUR—O Harry! thou hast robbed me of my youth.
I better brook the loss of brittle life,
Than those proud titles thou hast won of me;
They wound my thoughts worse than thy sword my flesh.—
But thought’s the slave of life, and life time’s fool:        5
And time, that takes survey of all the world,
Must have a stop. Oh, I could prophesy,
But that the earthy and cold hand of death
Lies on my tongue.—No, Percy, thou art dust,
And food for—  [Dies.]        10
  Prince Henry—For worms, brave Percy. Fare thee well, great heart:—
Ill-weaved ambition, how much art thou shrunk!
When that this body did contain a spirit,
A kingdom for it was too small a bound;
But now, two paces of the vilest earth        15
Is room enough;—this earth that bears thee dead,
Bears not alive so stout a gentleman.
If thou wert sensible of courtesy,
I should not make so dear a show of zeal;
But let my favors hide thy mangled face,        20
And even in thy behalf, I’ll thank myself
For doing these fair rites of tenderness.
Adieu, and take thy praise with thee to heaven:
Thy ignomy sleep with thee in the grave,
But not remembered in thy epitaph.—        25
[Seeing Falstaff on the ground.]  What, old acquaintance! could not all this flesh
Keep in a little life? Poor Jack, farewell:
I could have better spared a better man.
Oh! I should have a heavy miss of thee,
If I were much in love with vanity.        30
Death hath not struck so fat a deer to-day,
Though many dearer, in this bloody fray.—
Emboweled will I see thee by-and-by;
Till then, in blood by noble Percy lie.  [Exit.]
  Falstaff  [rising]—Emboweled! If thou embowel me to-day, I’ll give you leave to powder me, and eat me too, to-morrow. ’Sblood! ’twas time to counterfeit, or that hot termagant Scot had paid me scot and lot too. Counterfeit? I lie; I am no counterfeit: to die is to be a counterfeit; for he is but the counterfeit of a man who hath not the life of a man: but to counterfeit dying, when a man thereby liveth, is to be no counterfeit, but the true and perfect image of life indeed. The better part of valor is discretion; in the which better part, I have saved my life. ’Zounds! I am afraid of this gunpowder Percy, though he be dead. How if he should counterfeit too, and rise? By my faith, I am afraid he would prove the better counterfeit. Therefore I’ll make him sure; yea, and I’ll swear I killed him. Why may not he rise, as well as I? Nothing confutes me but eyes, and nobody sees me; therefore, sirrah, with a new wound in your thigh come you along with me.  [He takes Hotspur on his back.]        35
Re-enter Prince Henry and Prince John
  Prince Henry—Come, brother John: full bravely hast thou fleshed
Thy maiden sword.
  Prince John—            But soft! whom have we here?
Did you not tell me this fat man was dead?
  Prince Henry—I did; I saw him dead, breathless, and bleeding
On the ground.—        40
Art thou alive, or is it phantasy
That plays upon our eyesight? I pr’ythee, speak;
We will not trust our eyes, without our ears.
Thou art not what thou seemest.
  Falstaff—No, that’s certain: I am not a double man; but if I be not Jack Falstaff, then am I a Jack. There is Percy  [throwing down the body]: if your father will do me any honor, so; if not, let him kill the next Percy himself. I look to be either earl or duke, I can assure you.        45
  Prince Henry—Why, Percy I killed myself, and saw thee dead.
  Falstaff—Didst thou?—Lord, lord, how this world is given to lying!—I grant you I was down and out of breath, and so was he; but we rose both at an instant, and fought a long hour by Shrewsbury clock. If I may be believed, so; if not, let them that should reward valor bear the sin upon their own heads. I’ll take it upon my death, I gave him this wound in the thigh: if the man were alive, and would deny it—’zounds! I would make him eat a piece of my sword.
  Prince John—This is the strangest tale that e’er I heard.
  Prince Henry—This is the strangest fellow, brother John.—
Come, bring your luggage nobly on your back:        50
For my part, if a lie may do thee grace,
I’ll gild it with the happiest terms I have.
[A retreat is sounded.]
The trumpet sounds retreat; the day is ours.
Come, brother, let us to the highest of the field,
To see what friends are living, who are dead.  [Exeunt Prince Henry and Prince John.]        55
  Falstaff—I’ll follow as they say, for reward. He that rewards me, God reward him: if I do grow great, I’ll grow less; for I’ll purge, and leave sack, and live cleanly, as a nobleman should do.  [Exit, dragging out Percy’s body.]

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