The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 16.1006  Thursday, 26 May 2005

From:           Bill Lloyd <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Wednesday, 25 May 2005 09:28:43 EDT
Subject: 16.0993 Gambon as Falstaff
Comment:        Re: SHK 16.0993 Gambon as Falstaff

I don't understand what Michael Egan means when he says "Bill Lloyd begs
the question when he assumes a 'real-life' model for Falstaff". If he
means what 'real-life' personage did Shakespeare have in mind when
writing the part of Falstaff in 1Henry IV, I made no statement or
speculation on that subject.

I did suggest that by the 1660s when people pictured Falstaff in their
minds they thought of him as looking like John Lowin, who had [probably
exclusively] played him onstage for [probably] over 40 years. Lowin
joined the King's men in 1603 and last acted with a version of that
company in 1648 when he was 72 years old. We know that the King's
players revived 1 or 2 Henry IV or Merry Wives at least in 1612-13,
1619-20, 1625, 1635 and 1638. Since performance records are sparse--
most public performances were not 'recorded' at all and official records
of many court performances have perished-- it seems clear Falstaff and
his plays were enduringly popular. Probably Lowin was Falstaff in all of
these. After the Restoration, Falstaff was recalled as one of Lowin's
famous parts he played "before the wars".

Reading list update: I meant to mention in my reply to Holger Schott
Syme that Nungezer's Dictionary of Actors, excellent though it is, was
written in 1928 and much has been discovered or argued since then. The
entries on Lowin and Heminge in GE Bentley's Jacobean & Caroline Stage
are among the useful additions to Nungezer. Bentley, who is usually
skeptical of the claims of TW Baldwin seems to accept his
characterizations of Lowin as large and Heminge as elderly seeming. Also
I now find a good discussion of the [possible] actors of Falstaff in the
"Play in Performance" section of David Scott Kastan's Arden III edtion
of 1 Henry IV.

As to Kempe playing Falstaff but not Gadshill or Shallow because "he saw
himself as a first player, not a supporting man" [quoth Sandra Sparks],
perhaps he did see himself that way, but did not always get his wish. In
Romeo and Juliet his role of Peter is very small, and Shallow is about
as prominent [and juicy] a role as Kempe's famous role of Dogberry in
Much Ado. Anyways my guesses were just guesses, even if extrapolated
from valid hints. [Someone suggested Kempe for Shallow before, though I
forget who.]

Bill Lloyd

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