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Home :: Archive :: 2004 :: March ::
A Thought for St. David's Day
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 15.0684  Monday, 15 March 2004

[1]     From:   D Bloom <
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        Date:   Friday, 12 Mar 2004 11:59:37 -0600
        Subj:   RE: SHK 15.0670 A Thought for St. David's Day

[2]     From:   Terence Hawkes <
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        Date:   Friday, 12 Mar 2004 13:05:38 -0500
        Subj:   SHK 15.0670 A Thought for St. David's Day

[3]     From:   Bill Lloyd <
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        Date:   Sunday, 14 Mar 2004 08:51:47 EST
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.0670 A Thought for St. David's Day


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           D Bloom <
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Date:           Friday, 12 Mar 2004 11:59:37 -0600
Subject: 15.0670 A Thought for St. David's Day
Comment:        RE: SHK 15.0670 A Thought for St. David's Day

Peter Bridgman remarks

"Oldcastle may have been Welsh but surely Shakespeare's purpose was to
ridicule a Puritan, not a Welshman."

I don't know that Shakespeare's *purpose* is readily identifiable, but
what he offers in Falstaff (nee Oldcastle) is an extraordinarily witty
drunken bum who occasionally uses Puritan cant for satiric purposes.
Malvolio and Zeal-of-the-Land Busy can be said to ridicule Puritans,
because they *are* such, and their folly and hidden motives are exposed.
  If WS's purpose was to ridicule the historical Oldcastle as a Puritan
(and he may have done so), the effort fails rather notably, since
Falstaff is the antithesis of a Puritan. You cannot see what's wrong
with Puritans by reading or watching the Prince Hal plays.

In other words, the idea suggests that WS was merely taking a cheap shot
at a revered Lollard / Puritan martyr. I repeat: he may have done so.
But as with other cheap shots, it would have very little literary interest.

Cheers,
don

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Terence Hawkes <
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Date:           Friday, 12 Mar 2004 13:05:38 -0500
Subject: A Thought for St. David's Day
Comment:        SHK 15.0670 A Thought for St. David's Day

Peter Bridgman comments that

'Oldcastle may have been Welsh but surely Shakespeare's purpose was to
ridicule a Puritan, not a Welshman.'

Oldcastle was not Welsh. Nobody ever said he was. Nobody knows what
Shakespeare's 'purpose' was either. What we can allow is that, in these
plays,  Oldcastle's undoubted historical connection with Wales acquires
significance in the context of other references to the Principality.
These readily imbue Oldcastle/Falstaff with Welshness as part of a
discourse which stresses that characteristic's traditionally disruptive
role. When Henry suddenly and firmly announces his own Welshness, the
effect is electric.  This is a man who has, after all, been Prince of
Wales. Holders of that office -even to the present day- are not notably
wedded to harmony and good order. I repeat my question: does Hal, even
when he becomes King, ever completely reject what his erstwhile
companion stands for?  It would be pretty to think that he does not. And
that remains a thought entirely appropriate for St David's Day.

T. Hawkes

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Bill Lloyd <
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Date:           Sunday, 14 Mar 2004 08:51:47 EST
Subject: 15.0670 A Thought for St. David's Day
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.0670 A Thought for St. David's Day

 >Falstaff tells Hal "There's neither honesty nor manhood nor good
 >fellowship in thee," if he will not come robbing. He claims robbery as
 >his vocation and says, "Tis no sin for a man to labour in his vocation."
 >Apparently this is part of his essential Welshness...

... and Peter Bridgman wrote:

 >Oldcastle may have been Welsh but surely Shakespeare's purpose was to
 >ridicule a Puritan, not a Welshman.

I should probably have placed "essential Welshness" in quotes, for I
didn't mean to claim full card-carrying Welshness for Falstaff,  but
rather to indite him as a fellow-traveller. [I think the issue of
Falstaff/Oldcastle's actual-or-not Welshness was discussed a few posts
back in this thread.]

My purpose was to draw parallels between Falstaff's inversion of values
and that of the confessing Welshman in the Merry Tale. It's true that
"vocation" was a Puritan buzzword. But Falstaff also claims that it's
"no sin" to commit the crime of robbery and finds a small positive
element that he can magnify thru the distorted lens of his topsy-turvy
values-- that he's just doing his job. Likewise, he claims robbery as an
act of "good fellowship" -- just helping out a friend.  Using some of
the identical words, the confessing Welshman, although he fears
damnation for swallowing a morsel of cheese on a Friday, holds it "no
sin" to rob and slay rich travelers, and does it for "good fellowship"--
just helping out his neighbors.  Without wanting to press this too far,
it seems possible to me that Shakespeare may have been recalling this
Tale when he composed this scene. He was certainly familiar with the
Hundred Merry Tales, as he refers to it in Much Ado [1598]-- perhaps it
earns a mention partly because it was in his mind from having used it
recently in the writing of 1H4?

Don't miss the Merry Tale about how St. Peter evicted the babbling
Welshmen from heaven!

Bill Lloyd

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