«by JANE ELIZABETH KINGSLEY-SMITH A thesis submitted to the Faculty of Arts of the University of Birmingham for the degree of DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY The ...»
A similar parallel is drawn at 4.1.248-52.
Falstaff is a crucial part of this abuse. He plays the role of 'base, contagious clouds', 'foul and ugly mists' from whose obscurity Hal will emerge. Hal's experience at Eastcheap is in itself such a contagion, but it is also a lesson in the abuse of countenance, that is, a lesson hi theatre.
That the relationship between Hal and Falstaff is partly based on a shared taste for theatricals is repeatedly shown in Part One 2.5. Before the knight's entrance, Hal has been making a mockery of his absent rival, Hotspur, and wishes to play a scene with Falstaff as Percy's wife (109-11). This proposal is forgotten in the revelation of the Gads Hill caper and the Prince's eagerness to see how Falstaff will acquit himself: 'What trick, what device, what startinghole canst thou now find out to hide thee from this open and apparent shame?' (266-8). After his brilliant improvisation in defence, the knight tries to distract his audience from Gads Hill by proposing a 'play extempore' (282-3) but the others prefer to hear more of Falstaff s playing. Harvey and Russell describe how the knight instructed them to hack their swords and then to make their noses bleed and to smear the blood on their garments to counterfeit a furious battle (308-16). Nevertheless, a few lines later, Hal countenances a similar adoption of props and make-up to enact an interview with his father.
From the beginning, Hal has been playing a deliberately debased version of himself. Yet he believes that he can control the interpretation of this playing. Without knowing the circumstances, Henry IV suggests otherwise, using the same metaphor of sun and clouds that Hal used in his soliloquy. The King describes his own ecstatic reception by the populace in comparison with that of Richard II. The latter was
Crucially, it is the clouds created by the spectators that ruin the performance and equally it is in their gaze that the 'wonder' of the king inheres.
This was a point perhaps unconsciously conceded by Edward Forset in A Comparative Discourse of the Bodies Natural and Politique (1606):
so when the person of a Prince is looked upon (wheron we doe seldome gaze enough) our inward cogitations filled with a reverence of the regall maiestie feared in that flesh (otherwise as infirme and full of imperfections as other is) ought to surmount all sensuall conceits (scant thinking of any humane nature) but making an infinit difference berweene that body, so (as it were) glorified with the presence, representation & in dwelling of that supreme or exalted eminencie, and other ordinarie persons, which yet doeth consist materially of the same substance, and perhaps endued by nature with equall graces. 53 Forset claims at first an inherent connection between the king's appearance and his divine substance. To look upon the king is to think upon his 'regall maiestie". Indeed, he implies in parenthesis that one's apprehension of majesty would be increased if one had greater freedom to look. Yet in I Henry /Fthe King warns that to become the object of the common gaze is to 53 Forset. A Comparative Discourse (London 1606), STC 11188, 32-3.
be increasingly stripped of power (184.108.40.206-91). Forset does not recognise the dangers of familiarity. Yet he undermines his own assumption of the king's inherent charisma. The spectator ought to ignore the 'sensuall' body of the king and its possible imperfections. It is up to the spectator to correct his gaze with the ideological spectacles of divine kingship. But again the parenthesis 'as it were' undermines the statement that the body is 'glorified' with the incarnation of sovereignty. Forset teaches his readers how to look at a king (though at the same time allowing for subversive readings).
This lesson in gazing on majesty is one that Falstaff has never learnt. It is here perhaps that we come closest to understanding the implications of that intimacy between Prince and Eastcheap player that Hal would destroy through banishment.54 Falstaff threatens to become the heckler at the reformation spectacle who will show how the puppets dally behind the scenes. When he looks on the King he sees his Eastcheap companion, the one with a taste for small beer and an intimate acquaintance with Poins' wardrobe, the one with a taste for theatricals. Hal knows this. In a discussion with Poins on Henry IV's illness, he recognised that to grieve would inevitably be interpreted as hypocrisy. Poins agreed, 'because you have been so lewd, and so much engrafted to Falstaff (220.127.116.11-5). At his coronation, Hal has put on the robes, the crown and the symbols of rule. His body is now possessed by majesty and invested with the body politic. This transformation is threatened by Falstaff s refusal to recognise it. He greets Henry V as 'King Hal', signifying his rejection of Hal's alteration.
Nor does he perceive the need to change the manner or the tone in which he greets him.
There is no respectful or ceremonious distance. Moreover, Falstaff assumes that the words of 54 David Scott Kastan explores the creation of sovereign power through theatricality in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries and in particular the risks of making that power contingent upon the spectators' assent, "Proud Majesty Made a Subject': Shakespeare and the Spectacle of Rule', Sh. Q. 37 (1986), 459-75. 466.
condemnation are merely the player king s lines. He tells Shallow that banishment is a 'colour' and at night everything will be as it was (5.4.75-9, 83-4).
Moreover, Falstaff threatens to proclaim this 'false' interpretation of Hal to the world.
The old knight is an incorrigible liar and slanderer who abuses the countenances of friend and foe. He tells the Lord Chief Justice that Mistress Quickly proclaims him the father of her child (18.104.22.168-7) and warns Hal that Poins swears the Prince will marry his sister (22.214.171.124-20). In particular, Falstaff consistently misrepresents and degrades the Prince, casting aspersions on his identity as heir apparent. 55 Even when Sir John seems bent on
flattering Hal. he casts further doubt on his legitimacy:
By the Lord. I knew ye as well as he that made ye. Why, hear you, my masters. Was it for me to kill the heir-apparent? Should I turn upon the true prince? Why. thou knowest I am as valiant as Hercules; but beware instinct.
The lion will not touch the true prince - instinct is a great matter. I was now a coward on instinct. I shall think the better of myself and thee during my life I for a valiant lion, and thou for a true prince. (126.96.36.1990-8).
Those critics who argue that Falstaff knew it was Hal all along emasculate the threat of this speech. 56 The fact that he did not know renders this belief in the power of instinct potentially treasonous. Falstaff denies what Forset could not entirely believe, that majesty is inherent in the flesh.
In Part One. Hal has enjoyed the knight's lies as an exuberance of wit, a kind of poetic genius in which he has tried to match him. But in Part Two, Rumour enters the stage and Falstaff s 55 See 188.8.131.52-40, 286-7.
56 See for example Dover Wilson who opposes the arguments of Morgann and Bradley concerning Falstaff s cowardice but agrees that the knight must recognise Hal and Poins at Gadshill, The Fortunes of Falstaff, 43-54.
conceits become increasingly seditious. Like Rumour, the knight spreads lies and half-truths throughout the kingdom. Where the personification appears 'painted with tongues', the old knight declares he has a bellyful of tongues (4.2.18-9). After his father's death, Hal has promised 'To frustrate prophecies, and to raze out/ Rotten opinion, who hath writ me down/ After my seeming' (184.108.40.206-8). The personified Opinion of whom Hal speaks could easily
be identified with Rumour and thus with Falstaff. David Bergeron writes of the knight:
His rejection, expulsion, and imprisonment become the overthrow of "Rumour", or false history, so that a "correct" historical discourse can be inscribed in national life. 57 Falstaff s 'poetry' promises to immortalise his 'incorrect' perception of Henry V's past.
Before Gads Hill he threatened, 'An I have not ballads made on you all and sung to filthy tunes, let a cup of sack be my poison' (2.2.44-6). In 2 Henry IV he proposes to have his fictitious defeat of Coleville recorded in another ballad to the detriment of Prince John (4.2.49-53).
Hence, one final context in which we might view the banishment of Falstaff is that of the poet and player who misrepresents authority and is silenced for it. The most obvious source for such a banishment is Plato's Republic. It may be a cliche that Plato banished the artist, in the twentieth century as it was in the sixteenth and seventeenth. Yet this cliche was perceived as deeply relevant to the reception of theatre and poetry in early modern England. 58 It may also explain the condemnation of Hal and Falstaff s relationship in Henry IV We have already seen how frequent are the assumptions of the knight's power to corrupt. The theatricality of Falstaff s company may be a part of his vice.
5 7 David M. Bergeron, "Shakespeare Makes History: 2 Henry IV, SEL31 (1991). 231-45, 233.
58 See introduction on the influence of Plato's Republic on the anti-theatrical debate.
John Northbrooke's A Treatise against Dicing, Dancing, Plays and Interludes (1577) inveighs at length against the corruption taken from the stage. He refers to, those filthie and unhonest gestures and movings of enterlude players, what other thing doe they teache than wanton pleasure and stirring of fleshly lusters, unlawfull appetites and desires, with their bawdie and filthie sayings and counterfeyt doings?59 Philip Stubbes in his Anatomie of Abuses (1583) offers an exhaustive list of the vices to be caught by attending a play including rebellion and treason as well as lechery, gluttony and idleness.60 Whilst these authors primarily refer to the infection taken from the subject matter of plays, and from the experience of attending the theatre, Stephen Gosson is one who refers to the corruption of a poetic education. He likens poetry to the Circean magic that
transformed men into beasts and views with horror poetry's corruption of a prince:
are not they accursed thinke you by the mouth of God, which having the government of young Princes, with Poetical fantasies draw them to the schooles of their owne abuses, bewitching the graine in the greene blade, that was sowed for the sustenance of many thousands, & poisoning the spring with their amorous layes, whence the whole common wealth should fetch water?61 Of greater concern perhaps than the moral influence, is the threat poetry and drama seemed to pose to social identity. The audience at a theatre has been literally misled. Its members should be at work, at church or, if women, at home. Moreover, the profession of player requires man's abandonment of his proper vocation. Actors are profitless members of the commonwealth and, like all masterless men at this period, were readily perceived as lawless 59 Northbrooke's Treatise (London: The Shakespeare Society, 1843), 92.
60 A Critical Edition of Philip Stubbes' Anatomie of Abuses an as yet unpublished PhD by Margaret Jane Kidnie, University of Birmingham, 1996, 238-41.
6 ' The Schoole of Abuse in Markets ofBawdrie. 81.
and subversive. Under the law of 1572. referred to by both Northbrooke and Stubbes,62 players were included among the rogues and vagabonds who, without the protection of a patented company, were to be whipped and sent back to their parishes with the other poor.
Yet on stage, such men could put on the robes of the clergy, of the nobility, even of a king, and transcend their lowly social status. In the Republic, Socrates juxtaposes Poetry and Justice, the latter defined as 'keeping what is properly one's own and doing one's own job' (205). This principle is breached by the audience's imaginative identification with characters of poetry or drama beyond their social rank and by the actors who put on different identities as a profession. Socrates warns that if the three classes (guardians, auxiliaries, and businessmen/artisans) tried to usurp one another's civic identities, the consequences would be 'the greatest harm to our state [...] the worst of evils' (206).
In Plays Confuted in Five Actions (1582), Gosson concludes:
So in a commonweale, if privat men be suffered to forsake theire calling because they desire to walke gentlemanlike in sattine & velvet, with a buckler at theire heeles, proportion is so broken, unitie dissolved, harmony confounded, that the whole body must be dismembred and the prince or the heade can not chuse but sicken.63 Yet perhaps the aspect of the anti-theatrical debate which most closely touches upon Falstaff and his relationship with the Prince is the poet/player's pernicious misrepresentation of authority. Socrates condemns a poetry that is invariably composed of 'lies' about authority and Justice. He singles out a number of passages from Homer's Odyssey and Iliad which should not be allowed in the ideal state for their representations of heroes and gods. Socrates contends that it is pernicious to offer a false image of the gods, that is. as wicked and unjust, 62 Northbrooke's Treatise, 98, and Stubbes' Anatomie, 242.
63 Markets ofBawdrie, 138-200, 196. This possibility of upward mobility was realised in the case of a few players, most notably Edward Alleyn and Shakespeare himself. See Andrew Gurr on the plaver's status in The Shakespearean Stage 15^4-1642 3 rd ed. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. IW2), 80-4.
capable of deception or metamorphosis: