The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 23.0256  Monday, 18 June 2012


From:        John Briggs <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

Date:         June 15, 2012 11:15:12 PM EDT

Subject:     Re: SHAKSPER:  Himself


Scot Zarela wrote:


Is there an interesting reason why John Briggs thinks Sir Toby was played by Shakespeare himself?


Several reasons—but Scot Zarela may not find them interesting . . . 


Sir Toby is a Falstaff character, with the most lines in Twelfth Night (Burbage probably played Orsino.)


Falstaff was the leading character (and the one with the most lines) in Wives, which was probably the preceding play (and Burbage probably played Ford.)


The name Falstaff [“False Staff”] is a pun on Shakespeare [“Shake Spear”, cognate with Wagstaff] – Shakespeare is sending himself up, as well as drawing on aspects of his father, John Shakespeare. (The Falstaff of 1H6 was originally Fastolf.) This would make the most sense if Shakespeare himself played Falstaff (formerly Oldcastle.)


There are suggestions that Shakespeare played clown-ish roles (this may have been where he started.) Armin played Hugh Evans in Wives and Feste in TN. Falstaff was never an actual clown’s role: Kemp was probably the original (H4) Bardolph.


I would suggest that Wives was the play performed at Court on Twelfth Night, 1601 in the presence of Duke Virginio Orsini. Elizabeth may or may not have specifically requested seeing Sir John in love . . . 


The play immediately preceding Wives was Hamlet. Some of its themes (dead male relatives, duels etc.) are burlesqued in TN.


Shakespeare probably played Polonius in Hamlet (to Burbage’s Hamlet) - as well as the Gravedigger and/or the Player. The jury is still out on whether he played the Ghost.


The play immediately preceding Hamlet was Julius Caesar, where Burbage played Brutus and Shakespeare played Caesar (as well as his ghost . . . )


The play immediately preceding Julius Caesar was Henry V – where Falstaff notoriously failed to make an appearance. This play may or may not have been performed at Court, in the Cockpit at Whitehall (“Can this cockpit hold / The vasty fields of France?”) before it was performed there on the day after Twelfth Night, 1605.


John Briggs


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