Henry is not actually all that old, but at the time the play opens, he has been worn down prematurely by worries.
Sir John Falstaff He [Falstaff] is a man at once young and old, enterprising and fat, a dupe and a wit, harmless and wicked, weak in principle and resolute by constitution, cowardly in appearance and brave in reality, a knave without malice, a liar without deceit, and a knight, a gentleman, and a soldier without either dignity, decency, or honour.
This is a character which, though it may be decompounded, could not, I believe, have been formed, nor the ingredients of it duly mingled, upon any receipt whatever. It required the hand of Shakespeare himself to give to every particular part a relish of the whole, and of the whole to every particular part.
His body is like a good estate to his mind, from which he receives rents and revenues of profit and pleasure in kind, according to its extent and the richness of the soil. He is represented as a liar, a braggart, a coward, a glutton, etc.
He openly assumes all these characters to show the humorous part of them.
The unrestrained indulgence of his own ease, appetites, and convenience has neither malice nor hypocrisy in it. In a word, he is an actor in himself almost as much as upon the stage, and we no more object to the character of Falstaff in a moral point of view than we should think of bringing an excellent comedian, who should represent him to the life, before one of the police offices.
We only consider the number of pleasant fights in which he puts certain foibles the more pleasant as they are opposed to the received rules and necessary restraints of societyand do not trouble ourselves about the consequences resulting from, them, for no mischievous consequences do result.
Sir John is old as well as fat, which gives a melancholy retrospective tinge to his character; and by the disparity between his inclinations and his capacity for enjoyment, makes it still more ludicrous and fantastical.
But we can hardly be wrong in regarding as the decisive trait which justifies the extraordinary role he plays in this drama, his wonderful gift of non-moral humour.
It is his chief occupation to cover with immortal ridicule the ideals of heroic manhood - the inward honour which the Prince maintains, a little damaged, in his company, as well as the outward honour which Hotspur would fain pluck from the pale-faced moon.
His reputation is a bubble which he delights to blow for the pleasure of seeing it burst. He comes of a good stock, has been page to the Duke of Norfolk, and exchanged jests with John of Gaunt. But like the Prince, and like Hotspur, he is a rebel to the traditions of his order; and he is the greatest rebel of the three.
Since the famous essay of Maurice Morgann criticism has inclined even excessively to the opposite extreme, conceiving him as from first to last a genial artist in humour, who plays the coward for the sake of the monstrous caricature of valour that he will make in rebutting the charge.
The admirable battle-scene at Shrewsbury is thus the very kernel of the play. Here the Prince reveals his noble quality as at once a great warrior, a loyal son, and a generous foe - in the duel with Hotspur, the rescue of his father, and the ransomless release of Douglas; - all incidents unknown to the Chronicles.
Here Hotspur falls a victim to his infatuated disdain of the rival whose valour had grown "like the summer grass, fastest by night. Falstaff is saved by his humour and his genius; he lies, steals, boasts, and takes to his legs in time of peril, with such superb consistency and in such unfailing good spirits that we are captivated by his vitality.
It would be as absurd to apply ethical standards to him as to Silenus or Bacchus; he is a creature of the elemental forces; a personification of the vitality which is in bread and wine; a satyr become human, but moving buoyantly and joyfully in an unmoral world.
And yet the touch of the ethical law is on him; he is not a corrupter by intention, and he is without malice; but as old age brings its searching revelation of essential characteristics, his humour broadens into coarseness, his buoyant animalism degenerates into lust; and he is saved from contempt at the end by one of those exquisite touches with which the great-hearted Poet loves to soften and humanize degeneration.
Poet, Dramatist, and Man. How to cite this article: Henry IV, First Part.Indeed, Shakespeare had originally called this character Sir John Oldcastle in the first version of Henry IV, Part 1, but had changed the name before the play was registered, doubtless because descendants of the historical Oldcastle—who were then prominent at court—protested.
Falstaff also makes encore appearances in Shakespeare's The Merry Wives of Windsor and Henry IV Part 2.) What is it, exactly, that makes Falstaff so appealing? And why is Falstaff so central to the play?
Let the Good Times Roll.
Much of what attracts audiences to Falstaff is the same thing that attracts the prince, who's hell-bent on rebelling against his father.
In , the Oxford Shakespeare edition of Shakespeare's works rendered the character's name as Oldcastle, rather than Falstaff, in Henry IV, Part 1 (although not, confusingly, in Part 2), as a consequence of the editors' aim to present the plays as they would have appeared during their original performances.
No other published editions have followed suit.
Falstaff: Henry IV, Parts I and II, The Merry Wives of Windsor Sir John Falstaff is one of the great Shakespearean father figures, the incorrigible old rogue who accompanies the prodigal Prince.
Shakespeare and the Falstaff Controversy. August 6, The character first appeared in Henry IV, Part 1. When the play was first performed in , the character bore the name of Sir John Oldcastle.
Yet when the first printed quarto of the play appeared in February , the character’s name had changed to Falstaff. Lord Cobham – the. The Character Falstaff in Shakespeare's Henry IV Sir John Falstaff has a number of functions in 1 Henry IV, the most obvious as a clownish figure providing comic relief.
His many lies and exaggerations entertain because of the wit and cleverness he employs to .