Henry IV Part 1
Art and Culture Quotes
How we cite our quotes:
Give me a cup of sack to
make my eyes look red, that it may be thought I have
wept; for I must speak in passion, and I will do it
in King Cambyses' vein. (2.4.43)
Over-the-top and clownish Falstaff is quite a sight when he asks for a "cup" of sweet wine (to chug) to make his eyes appear "red" so he can play the part of a "weeping" King Henry.
Here's something we though you might want to know. In 1595 (a couple years before Big Willy wrote Henry IV Part 1), Sir Phillip Sidney (the awesome but slightly uptight English poet) complained about the "mingling [of] kings and clowns" on stage. Sidney didn't object to the theater, per se, he just didn't like the way some playwrights mixed comedic moments with lofty and serious subject matter. Check out this excerpt from his famous Defense of Poesy:
But besides these gross absurdities, how all their [English writers'] plays be neither right tragedies, nor right comedies, mingling kings and clowns, not because the matter carrieth it, but thrust in the clown by head and shoulders to play a part in majestical matters with neither decency nor discretion, so as neither the admiration and commiseration, nor the right sportfulness, is by their mongrel tragic-comedy obtained.
If then the tree may be
known by the fruit, as the fruit by the tree, then,
peremptorily I speak it, there is virtue in that
Falstaff: him keep with, the rest banish. And tell
me now, thou naughty varlet, tell me, where hast
thou been this month? (2.4.58)
When he plays the role of "King Henry" during the skit at the Boar's Head Tavern, Falstaff reveals his anxiety about his relationship with Hal. His advice that the prince "keep with" Falstaff suggests he knows he's not suitable company for the prince. King Henry, as everyone knows, would never actually advise his son to keep company with a disgraceful criminal. Play-acting is a way for Falstaff to probe Prince Hal about what will happen when he becomes king.
Swearest thou, ungracious boy? henceforth ne'er look
on me. Thou art violently carried away from grace:
there is a devil haunts thee in the likeness of an
old fat man; a tun of man is thy companion. Why
dost thou converse with that trunk of humours, that
bolting-hutch of beastliness, that swollen parcel
of dropsies, that huge bombard of sack, that stuffed
cloak-bag of guts, that roasted Manningtree ox with
the pudding in his belly, that reverend vice, that
grey iniquity, that father ruffian, that vanity in
Ouch. Hal's pretty cruel when he plays the role of "King Henry" and insults Falstaff, reducing his plump companion to a bag of "guts." We should note that Hal's treatment of his so-called friend during the play isn't really all that different from the way Hal behaves toward Falstaff when the two aren't play-acting. What's going on here? Why does Hal behave this way? And why does Falstaff put up with it?