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FAL. How now, how now, mad wag? what, in thy quips, and thy quiddities? what a plague have I to do with a buff jerkin?
this expression that alluded to it. The reason of the change was this; one Sir John Oldcastle having suffered in the time of Henry the Fifth for the opinions of Wickliffe, it gave offence, and therefore the poet altered it to Falstaff, and endeavours to remove the scandal in the epilogue to The Second Part of Henry IV. Fuller takes notice of this matter in his Church History :-“ Stage-poets have themselves been very bold with, and others very merry at, the memory of fir John Oldcaftle, whom they have fancied a boon companion, a jovial royster, and a coward to boot. The best is, sir John Falstaff hath relieved the memory of fir John Oldcastle, and of late is substituted buffoon in his place." Book IV. p. 168. But, to be candid, I believe there was no malice in the matter. Shakspeare wanted a droll name to his character, and never considered whom it belonged to. We have a like instance in The Merry Wives of Windsor, where he calls his French quack, Caius, a name at that time very respectable, as belonging to an eminent and learned physician, one of the founders of Caius College in Cambridge. WARBURTON.
The propriety of this note the reader will find contested at the beginning of K. Henry V. Sir John Oldcastle was not a character ever introduced by Shakspeare, nor did he ever occupy of Falstaff. The play in which Oldcastle's name occurs, was not the work of our poet.
Old lad is likewise a familiar compellation to be found in some of our most ancient dramatick pieces. So, in The Trial of Treasure, 1567: “ What, Inclination, old lad art thou there!". In the dedication to Gabriel Harvey's Hunt is up, &c. by T. Nah, 1598, old Dick of the caftle is mentioned.
Again, in Pierce's Supererogation, or a New Praise of the Old 4/fe, 1593: “ And here's a lufty ladd of the caftell, that will binde beares, and ride golden asses to death.” Steevens.
Old lad of the caftle, is the same with Old lad of Caftile, a Castilian. Meres reckons Oliver of the castle amongst his romances: and Gabriel Harvey tells us of or Old lads of the caftell with their rapping babble.”—roaring boys.—This is therefore no argument for Falstaff's appearing first under the name of Oldcastle. There is however a passage in a play called Amends for Ladies, by Field the player, 1618, which may seem to prove it, unless he confounded the different performances :
P. Hen. Why, what a pox have I to do with my hostess of the tavern?
Did you never see
FARMER. Fuller, besides the words cited in the note, has in his Worthies, p. 253, the following passage: “ Sir John Oldcastle was first made a thrasonical puff, an emblem of mock valour, a make-sport in all plays, for a coward.” Speed, likewise, in his Chronicle, edit. 2. p. 178, says:
“ The author of The Three Conversions (i. e. Parsons the Jesuit), hath made Oldcafile a ruffian, a robber, and a rebel, and his authority, taken from the stage players, is more befitting the pen
of his slanderous report, than the credit of the judicious, being only grounded from the papist and the poet, of like conscience for lies, the one ever feigning, and the other ever fal. sifying the truth.” Ritson.
From the following passage in The Meeting of Gallants at an Ordinaire, or the Walkes in Powles, quarto, 1604, it appears that Sir John Oldcastle was represented on the stage as a very fat man (certainly not in the play printed with that title in 1600) : _" Now, ligniors, how like you mine hoft? did I not tell you he was a madde round knave and a merrie one too? and if you chaunce to talke of fatte Sir John Oldcastle, he will tell
he was his great grand-father, and not much unlike him in paunch.”—The hoft, who is here described, returns to the gallants, and entertains them with telling them itories. After his first tale, he says: “ Nay gallants, I'll fit you, and now I will serve in another, as good as vinegar and pepper to your roast beefe."-Signor Kick bawe replies: “ Let's have it, let's taste on it, mine holt, my noble fat atior.”
The cause of all the confusion relative to these two characters, and of the tradition mentioned by Mr. Rowe, that our author changed the name from Oldcastle io Falstaff, (to which I do not give the smallest credit,) seems to have been this. Shakspeare appears evidently to have caught the idea of the character of Falstaff from a wretched play entitled The famous l'ictories of King Henry V. (which had been exhibited before 15894) in which Henry Prince of Wales is a principal character. He is accompanied in his revels and his robberies by Sir John Oldcastle, (“ a pamper'd glutton, and a debauchee,” as he is called in a piece of that age,) who appears to be the character alluded to in the passage above quoted from The Mecting of Gallants, &c. To this character undoubtedly it is that
Fal. Well, thou hast call'd her to a reckoning, many a time and oft.
Fuller alludes in his Church History, 1656, when he says, “ Stage poets have themselves been very bold with, and others very merry
the memory of Sir John Oldcastle, whom they have fancied a boon companion, a jovial royfter, and a coward to boot.” Speed in his Hiftory, which was first published in 1611, alludes both to this “ boon companion” of the anonymous K. Henry V, and to the Sir John Oldcaftie exhibited in a play of the same name, which was printed in 1600: “ The author of The Three Converfions hath made Oldcastle a ruffian, a robber, and a rebel, and his authority taken from the stage players." Oldcastle is represented as a rebel in the play last mentioned alone; in the former play as “ a ruffian and a robber."
Shakspeare probably never intended to ridicule the real Sir John Oldcastle, Lord Cobham, in any respect; but thought proper to make Falstaff, in imitation of his proto-type, the Oldcastle of the old K. Henry V. a mad round knave also.
From the first appearance of our author's King Henry IV. the old play in which Sir John Oldcastle had been exhibited, (which was printed in 1598,) was probably never performed. Hence, I conceive, it is, that Fuller says, “ Sir John Falstaff has relieved the memory of Sir John Oldcastle, and of late is substituted buffoon in his place;" which being misunderstood, probably gave rise to the story, that Shakspeare changed the name of his character.
A passage in his Worthies, folio, 1662, p. 253, shows his meaning ftill more clearly; and will serve at the same time to point out the source of the mistakes on this subject.—“Sir John Fastolfe, knight, was a native of this county [Norfolk]. To avouch him by many arguments valiant, is to maintain that the sun is bright; though, since, the stage has been over-bold with his memory, making him a Thrasonical puff, and emblem of mock-valour.-True it is, Sir John Oldcastle did first bear the brunt of the one, being made the makesport in all plays for a coward. It is easily known out of what purse this black penny came. The papists railing on him for a heretick; and therefore he must be also a coward : though indeed he was a man of arms, every inch of him, and as valiant as any of
“ Now as I am glad that Sir John Oldcastle is put out, so I am sorry that Sir John Faftolfe is put in, to relieve his memory in this basé service; to be the anvil for every dull wit to itrike upon. Nor is our comedian excusable by some alteration of his name, writing him Sir John Falstafe, (and making him the property and
P. Hen. Did I ever call for thee to pay thy part?
Fal. No; I'll give thee thy due, thou hast paid all there.
pleasure of King Henry V. to abuse,) seeing the vicinity of sounds intrench on the memory of that worthy knight."
Here we see the assertion is, not that Sir John Oldcaffle did forf bear the brunt in Shakspeare's play, but in all plays, that is, on the stage in general, before Shakspeare's character had appeared; owing to the malevolence of papists, of which religion it is plain Fuller supposed the writers of those plays in which Oldcastle was exhibited, to have been; nor does he complain of Shakspeare's altering the name of his character from Oldcaftle to Falstaff, but of the metathesis of Fasolfe to Falstaff. Yet I have no doubt that the words above cited, put out” and “ put in,” and “ by some alteration of his name,” that these words alone, misunderstood, gave rise to the misapprehension that has prevailed fince the time of Mr. Rowe, relative to this matter. For what is the plain meaning of Fuller's words? “ Sir John Fastolfe was in truth a very brave man, though he is now represented on the stage as a cowardly braggart. Before he was thus ridiculed, Sir John Oldcaftle, being hated by the papists, was exhibited by popish writers, in all plays, as a coward. Since the new character of Falstaff has appeared, Oldcastle has no longer borne the brunt, has no longer been the object of ridicule: but, as on the one hand I am glad that his memory has been relieved, that the plays in which he was represented have been expelled from the scene, so on the other, I am sorry that so respectable a character as Sir John Fastolfe has been brought on it, and substituted buffoon in his place;' for however our comick poet (Shakspeare] may have hoped to escape censure by altering the name from Fastolfe to Falstaff, he is certainly culpable, since some imputation must necessarily fall on the brave knight of Norfolk from the fimilitude of the sounds."
Falstaff having thus grown out of, and immediately succeeding, the other character, (the Oldcastle of the old K. Henry V.) having one or two features in common with him, and being probably represented in the same dress, and with the same fictitious belly, as his predecessor, the two names might have been indiscriminately used by Field and others, without any mistake, or intention to deceive. Perhaps, behind the scenes, in consequence of the circumstances already mentioned, Oldcastle might have been a cant appellation for Falstaff, for a long time. Hence the name might have been prefixed inadvertently, in some play-house copy, to one of the speeches in The Second part of K. Henry IV.
P. Hen. Yea, and elsewhere, so far as my coin would stretch; and, where it would not, I have used my credit.
FAL. Yea, and so used it, that, were it not here apparent that thou art heir apparent,—But, I proythee, sweet wag, shall there be gallows standing in England when thou art king and resolution thus fobb’d as it is, with the rusty curb of old father
If the verses be examined, in which the name of Falstaff occurs, it will be found, that Oldcastle could not have stood in those places. The only answer that can be given to this, is, that Shakspeare newwrote each verse in which Falstaff's name occurred; a labour which those only who are entirely unacquainted with our author's history and works, can suppose him to have undergone. A passage in the Epilogue to The Second Part of K. Henry IV, rightly understood, appears to me strongly to confirm what has been now suggested. See the note there, Malone.
5 And is not a buff jerkin a most sweet robe of durance?] To understand the propriety of the Prince's answer, it must be remarked that the sheriff's officers were formerly clad in buff. So that when Falstaff asks, whether his hostess is not a sweet wench, the Prince asks in return whether it will not be a sweet thing to go to prison by running in debt to this sweet wench. JOHNSON.
The following passage from the old play of Ram-Alley, may serve to confirm Dr. Johnson's observation:
“ Look, I have certain goblins in buf jerkins,
[Enter Serjeants, Again, in The Comedy of Errors, Act iv:
“ A devil in an everlasting garment hath him,
“ A fellow all in buff.” Durance, however, might also have signified some lafting kind of stuff, such as we call at present, everlasting. So, in Westward Hoe, by Decker and Webster, 1607: “ Where did's thou buy this buff? Let me not live but I will give thee a good fuit of durance, Wilt thou take my bond?”' &c, Again, in The Devil's Charter, 1607 :
« Varlet of velvet, my moccado villain, old heart of durance, my strip'd canvas shoulders, and my perpetuana pander.” Again, in The Three Ladies of London, 1584: “ As the taylor that out of seven yards, stole one and a half of durance." STEEVENS.