Henry IV Part 2
How we cite our quotes:
Sirrah, you giant, what says the doctor to my water?
He said, sir, the water itself was a good healthy
water; but, for the party that owed it, he might
have more diseases than he knew for. (1.2.1)
Now this is a way to open a scene. Here, Falstaff demands to know from his errand boy what the doctor had to say about his, Falstaff's, recent urine sample. Apparently, Falstaff has more "diseases" than the doctor has even heard of. We know that Falstaff is obese, drinks constantly, eats way too much, and also frequents the brothels so it's not so surprising that the guy's got health issues. But, we can't help but notice that there's a whole lot of talk about Falstaff's body in this play. He frequently complains that he's "old" and we're privy to all kinds of embarrassing information about the effects of his excessive lifestyle. Keep reading…
[…] A man
can no more separate age and covetousness than a'
can part young limbs and lechery: but the gout
galls the one, and the pox pinches the other; and
so both the degrees prevent my curses. Boy!
I can get no remedy against this consumption of the
purse: borrowing only lingers and lingers it out,
but the disease is incurable.
A pox of this gout! or, a gout of this pox! for
the one or the other plays the rogue with my great
toe. 'Tis no matter if I do halt; I have the wars
for my colour, and my pension shall seem the more
reasonable. A good wit will make use of any thing:
I will turn diseases to commodity. (1.2.30)
Falstaff not only suffers from "gout" (a disease that causes inflammation of the joints and is associated with consuming alcohol and rich foods), he's also got a venereal disease (or two or three), which could explain some of his bodily discomfort. ("Venereal disease" is another way or saying "sexually transmitted disease.") Interestingly enough, Falstaff is also in serious debt and he likens his financial troubles to an "incurable" disease. Both debt and gout are problems that occur as the result of an excessive lifestyle. Falstaff eats, drinks, and spends way too much. His solution, to his money problems anyway, is to use his "good wit" – he plans to blame his ailments on his participation in the war so he can collect a wounded soldier's pension. Compare this passage to 1.3.4 below.
I think we are a body strong enough,
Even as we are, to equal with the king.
What, is the king but five and twenty thousand?
To us no more; nay, not so much, Lord Bardolph.
For his divisions, as the times do brawl,
Are in three heads: one power against the French,
And one against Glendower; perforce a third
Must take up us: so is the unfirm king
In three divided; and his coffers sound
With hollow poverty and emptiness. (1.3.4)
Now this is interesting. Hastings makes a connection between bodily illness and monetary problems, which is similar to what we just heard Falstaff say (see 1.2.30 above). The comparison depends on the connection between the king's forces, a "body" that's divided or, has "three heads" (one army fights France, another fights against Glendower's men, and the third must deal with the rebels.) The king, therefore is "unfirm" (a word that denotes instability and illness and also recalls the king's physical sickness) in large part because his "coffers" are empty. We're left with a rather striking image of a sickly king that's plagued by "hollow poverty."