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Home :: Archive :: 2000 :: April ::
Re: Falstaff
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 11.0852  Wednesday, 19 April 2000.

[1]     From:   Clifford Stetner <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 18 Apr 2000 10:36:20 -0400
        Subj:   Falstaff

[2]     From:   Tom Bishop <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 18 Apr 2000 11:06:01 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.0837 Re: Falstaff


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Clifford Stetner <
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Date:           Tuesday, 18 Apr 2000 10:36:20 -0400
Subject:        Falstaff

I neglected to mention the fact that Chaucer's patron was John of Gaunt,
Hal's granddaddy, and that he is believed to have hung around the royal
court of Richard II, but to have fallen a little, but not altogether,
out of favor under Henry IV.  I'm at the end of Boece, which I am
guessing he translated for one aristo patron or another.  All in all, he
stands as a presence in Hal's childhood, a representative of
anti-clericalism which smacks of Lollardy (he shared his distinguished
patronage with Wyclif) and of what some probably regarded during his
time as a vulgarization of English poetry, but which by Shakespeare's
time had become (along with Protestantism) the cultural ideal.  He died,
along with the first English Reformation, some years before Hal's
accession.

I might also point out (if necessary) that the name Falstaff, which
Shakespeare substituted at some point for the orignal name Oldcastle,
contains two elements synonymous with the latter poet's: Fall + Staff=
Shake + Spear.  This might lend credence to the idea that Will
identified with the role of underappreciated loyal, but admittedly
debauched, friend to the crown.

Clifford Stetner

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Tom Bishop <
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Date:           Tuesday, 18 Apr 2000 11:06:01 -0500
Subject: 11.0837 Re: Falstaff
Comment:        Re: SHK 11.0837 Re: Falstaff

It's frequently forgotten in discussions of Sir John Falstaff that his
"first appearance" in Shakespeare is as a minor character in 1 Henry VI
(3.2 and 4.1), where he runs away from the Battle of Poitiers and is
then un-Gartered by Talbot and exiled by King Henry. Thus he "begins" as
a coward and only later takes up girth, drink, etc. When Shakespeare was
forced to rename his Oldcastle, he seems to have recalled Sir John from
exile and back-dated him.  And some have greatness thrust upon them.

>>It's just that I always saw Falstaff as special in that he clearly
>>occupies a special place.  He is one of the few characters that owes his
>>whole nature to Shakespeare, and he is (leaving aside MW) a fictional
>>character in a play about real people.  Where did Shakespeare,
>>accustomed to carving characters from rough statues left to him by
>>others, get the material to compose Falstaff?
>
>In part, from two real persons:  Oldcastle, famously, but also Sir John
>Fastolfe, a freelancer in the 100 years war.  I recall looking up
>Fastolfe in Brittanica, to be told that "his depiction in Shakespeare is
>libellous" or words to that effect.  That said, the Brittanica article
>didn't mention him being fat, drunken and lecherous, or prone to hang in
>bars.  No doubt the DNB would have been a better source, anyway.
 

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