The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.0333 Monday, 12 February 2001
Date: Friday, 09 Feb 2001 09:33:22 -0600
Subject: 12.0276 Re: Welsh etc.
Comment: Re: SHK 12.0276 Re: Welsh etc.
Ed Taft writes:
>J.C. Trewin once remarked that he could not watch the episode between
>Hal and Francis in Part 1 without losing all sympathy for Hal. He did
>not say why he felt this way, but I suspect that his feelings derive
>from Hal's demonstration that he can manipulate the poor drawer to the
>point where he is literally turning around in circles and going nowhere.
>Now, Francis is a kind of everyman isn't he? -- just like most of us in
>the audience, a poor working stiff whose only crime is that he had a
>beer with the prince. So isn't the Francis episode a demonstration of
>Hal's earlier claim that he "knows us all"? His soliloquy at the end of
>1.2 is about manipulating us and making us like it, isn't it?
Far be it from me to defend the indefensible, but maybe you should
lighten up a little on Hal. Elizabethan society relished bear-baiting
and cock-fighting, and even more a really good, gruesome public
execution. They also thought nothing amiss in beating servants (and
wives). I doubt that Shakespeare's audience would find the practical
joke that Hal and Poins play on Francis anything other than fun. I
assume it's all to the good that our standards have changed, but let's
not assume that Shakespeare held those standards, so that, holding them,
he wrote the scene to expose Hal's contempt for the lower classes. If
there's a fault of taste, manners or morality here, it surely lies with
the author not the character.
I think the evidence works the other way. Compared to the other members
of the nobility or Falstaff, Hal is remarkably concerned about the
common people, whether tavern drawers or soldiers. The danger lies in
holding him to a modern standard and seeing significant faults, while
ignoring the fact that the other characters are much more at fault --
not to mention the whole culture his play came from.