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Home :: Archive :: 2007 :: November ::
Shakespeare as Falstaff
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 18.0756  Friday, 9 November 2007

[1] 	From:	John Briggs <
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	Date:	Wednesday, 7 Nov 2007 18:47:21 -0000
	Subj:	Re: SHK 18.0746 Shakespeare as Falstaff

[2] 	From:	Mike Shapiro <
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	Date:	Thursday, 8 Nov 2007 13:16:48 -0500
	Subj:	RE: SHK 18.0746 Shakespeare as Falstaff


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:		John Briggs <
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Date:		Wednesday, 7 Nov 2007 18:47:21 -0000
Subject: 18.0746 Shakespeare as Falstaff
Comment:	Re: SHK 18.0746 Shakespeare as Falstaff

Jack Heller wrote:

 >John Briggs did mean to say John Oldcastle, didn't he?

No, he didn't :-)

Sean B. Palmer wrote:

 >Given that the part was originally Oldcastle, it would be strange to
 >base your claim at all on evidence from the name Falstaff.

The part was originally "Oldcastle" because it was based on a historical 
character. When Shakespeare was forced to change the name, he was free 
to choose any name - he was not constrained by history (actually, it has 
been argued that "Fastolf" is open to much the same objections as 
"Oldcastle".) It is generally accepted that Shakespeare took the name of 
the cowardly knight from 1 Henry VI. Now, although "Falstaff" 
[Falstaffe] is a valid 15th and 16th century spelling for "Fastolf" (the 
historical character represented in 1H6) we have no way of knowing how 
it was originally spelt - the F1 text of IH6 could well have been 
retro-edited for consistency. Giorgio Melchiori has argued that 
Shakespeare substituted the name "Falstaff" in 1H4 because in 1597 he 
was writing a Garter Day entertainment (later much expanded into the 
1600 play "Merry Wives") featuring the character from 1H6, but this time 
as a comic figure - the name was therefore hastily appropriated. The 
play of "Fall (or False) Staff" against "Shake Spear" could have 
happened at any stage, but seems unlikely to be accidental.

 >Furthermore, it's a leading role which most have presumed would call
 >for the leading clown, Kemp, though Malone said it was Heminges.

It is now generally accepted that Falfaff is not a clown's role - or at 
least, not "the" clown's role - and that Kemp was more likely to have 
been Bardolph. Kemp's successor, Robert Armin, was a singer (Feste - 
whoever played Falstaff also played Sir Toby Belch), and specialised in 
comic Welshmen (Fluellen, Sir Hugh Evans). I would argue that John 
Heminges took over Shakespeare's roles. There is some suggestion that 
Shakespeare played clown-ish roles.

 >Documentary evidence, then, does weigh against
 >Shakespeare taking on such a major part himself.

Jack Heller also wrote:

 >Another problem particularly for this idea about Falstaff is
 >that he appears in three plays, once as the lead character.
 >Do we ever hear of Shakespeare taking a lead role?

Steve Sohmer has argued (persuasively, it seems to me) that Shakespeare 
played Julius Caesar (as well as Polonius). "The" lead role was usually 
played by Richard Burbage (Hamlet, Brutus, Prince Hal, Henry V). He 
presumably played Ford in "Merry Wives" - what did he play in Twelfth 
Night: Orsino? The idea of Burbage and Shakespeare playing against one 
another is attractive.

John Briggs

[2]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:		Mike Shapiro <
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Date:		Thursday, 8 Nov 2007 13:16:48 -0500
Subject: 18.0746 Shakespeare as Falstaff
Comment:	RE: SHK 18.0746 Shakespeare as Falstaff

I found it interesting that Ackroyd speculates in his biography of WS 
that Falstaff was created in the image of WS's father, John. John's 
questionable business activities may have resulted in his being banished 
from court (Board of Aldermen) and his application for a coat of Arms 
refused. Down the final stretch, one could contemplate whether 
Shakespeare would play a character fashioned after his father.

Mike Shapiro

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