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enters with tidings of Northumberland's defeat at Bramham Moor (1408). This good news has been hardly delivered when the king has a seizure, which not long after is followed by his death (see IV. v. 235-240). The King's illness, to which reference has been already made in Act III. Scene i. of the play, is first mentioned in 1411 by Holinshed, who ascribes to the same year the portent cited by Clarence in connection with the King's sudden indisposition:

The river hath thrice flow'd, no ebb between.1

-IV. iv. 125.

King Henry survived this portent by two years, dying on March 20, 1413.

If there are discrepancies, in this as in other of the plays, between "dramatic time" and "historic time," Shakespeare has yet not altogether lost sight of the latter. The illusion of dramatic time is momentarily waved aside in order that events may be seen in their true historical perspective; as where, for instance, the King, in Act III. Scene i. refers to incidents in the last King's reign :

'Tis not ten years gone

Since Richard and Northumberland, great friends,

Did feast together, and in two years after
Were they at wars: it is but eight years since
This Percy was the man nearest my soul; . . .

-references that assign the scene to the year 1407, the true historic time in relation to the proceedings of Northumberland with which the scene is chiefly concerned.

In minor historical details Shakespeare occasionally diverges, by accident or design, from his authority, Holinshed. He substitutes, for instance, "young Lancaster" for "Sir Robert Waterton" in I. i. 134, and makes, in Act IV. Scene ii., Prince John the author of a perfidious proposal for which in Holinshed, Westmoreland is solely responsible.

Some of the commentators, including Malone and Steevens, have asserted that Shakespeare deviated from historical truth by bringing the Chief Justice and King Henry V. together (v. ii. and V. v.), Hawkins, in confirmation of the charge,

1 Boswell-Stone suggested that in the preceding lines (123, 124) there may be an allusion to the wet summer of 1594. Stow (Annals) writes that on September 7, 1408, there were "such flouds of rayne as the olde men of that age had neuer seene before."

quoted Fuller, who, in his Worthies of Yorkshire, says that Sir William Gascoigne died on November 1, 1412, and therefore in the life-time of Henry IV. But Fuller is here in error. Stow, who was one of Shakespeare's authorities, states that Gascoigne was Chief Justice of the King's Bench from the sixth of Henry IV. to the third Henry V. Gascoigne lived down to the year 1419, though, it is true, he ceased to be Chief Justice soon after the accession of Henry V.


Some remarkable parallelisms of thought and expression in 2 Henry IV. and the works of Jonson point to a close association of the two poets about the time that the present play was written. The interchange of thought resulted, no doubt, in mutual obligations, but it is at least certain that Shakespeare, in writing 2 Henry IV., was influenced by Jonson and that he adopted some important features of Jonson's dramatic method, as, for instance, the use of significant names for the minor characters, and of comedy as a medium of general social satire and of realistic description and portraiture. Literary satire had already appeared in 1 Henry IV. and is retained as a motive of comedy in 2 Henry IV.

Comparing the humorous scenes of 1 Henry IV. with those of 2 Henry IV. the new note of comedy in the latter is very perceptible and is clearly to be connected with the transition to a fresh stage in the development of the central and dominant theme that runs unsevered through the sequence of plays from Richard II. to Henry V. The comic spirit in 2 Henry IV. is less irresponsible and joyous than in the previous play. It is less gay and insouciant, for it is here exercised, not upon the creations of an exuberant fancy,-airy nothings,-in some pleasance of the imagination, where thought is free and no king's writ runs, but on the very objects of understanding and judgment, in a world of inexorable fact, in which the moral reason sits enthroned, though its authority may be flouted. How remote is the "atmosphere" of the tavern-life described in Part I. of Henry IV. from that of the same life as depicted in Part II. The former radiant with good humour and good nature, the latter tainted with the emanations of physical and moral corruption. A heavy descension! Yet the descent from the idealism of the one to the realism of the other was

artistically justified. Falstaff in Part II. was to be shown in his true colours, and his degradation-a stern dramatic necessity-was in part to be effected by stressing the vulgarity of the surroundings in which he habitually lived and moved and had his being. In painting such scenes the genial humanity of Shakespeare may well have been infected with something of the cynical and mordant humour of Jonson.


The influence of Shakespeare's great contemporary is perhaps also to be seen in the portraits of the two country justices, Shallow and Silence, the latter drawn with a few slight but unerring touches, the former creation a marvellous achievement in ironic portraiture. The justice of the peace was a common object for the satire of contemporary dramatists. He was represented on the stage as an embodiment of fatuity and ignorance of the law. His officiousness and exaggerated sense of the importance of his office were ridiculed; his venal or partial administration of the law was castigated unmercifully. The attributes that constituted the type, as accepted by the stage, are quintessentially present, though not over-emphasized, in Shakespeare's portraits of Shallow and Silence. These, while faithful to type, are at the same time extraordinarily individual and true to life. And the characters of the pair, built as they are upon a common foundation of incapacity and folly, are discriminated with amazing happiness of invention and skill.

Silence was probably an afterthought of the dramatist. The prolific imagination of Shakespeare having created in Shallow a perfect image of complacent inadequacy, set in place of authority, and well endowed with the world's goods, must needs, in the plenitude of inexhaustible invention, create, as a foil to Justice Shallow, a Justice Silence, a character a descent below even Shallow in his degree of mental and physical insufficiency. The characters, or, to speak by the book, the natures, of the pair of Justices are subtly contrasted. In likeness there is unlikeness. Shallow is as garrulous as Silence is taciturn, but alike the empty chatter and idle repetitions of the one and the faltering monosyllables of the other issue from the same source, sheer vacuity of mind. Both reveal in their speech and manners rusticity of breeding, but

with a difference. Silence's uncouthness is undiluted; Shallow's rusticity is overlaid with a veneer of metropolitan culture such as could be acquired by a raw country youth in a brief contact with the most trivial and vulgar sides of London life. Shallow delights to revive memories of those golden days fifty-five years past, and the unsophisticated Silence, who has listened for half a century to Shallow's highly-coloured reminiscences of his wild youth in London-" and every third word a lie"-treasures these memories, and is visibly impressed and overawed by his cousin's knowledge of the world and familiar acquaintance with the great. The portraits of Justices Shallow and Silence are inimitable. Where they engage in the dialogue, there is not a word that misses its effect or that does not contribute something to our knowledge of the character or of its "life-history."


To the observations on the character of Falstaff in the Introduction to Henry IV. there is little to add here, save to note that in the present play, in harmony with the progress of the poet's design, the character of Falstaff palpably deteriorates from a moral stand-point. The Falstaff of the preceding play is a humorist pure and simple, against whom little that is really reprehensible can be urged. He takes part, it is true, in a highway robbery, but such an offence, committed by high-spirited youths, was venial, in the eyes of Shakespeare's contemporaries at least. Otherwise there is little evidence upon which to impeach Falstaff, except such as he himself furnishes against himself; and that evidence may generally be allowed to pass as the product of a fertile imagination and humorous invention. the present play, on the contrary, the character of Falstaff is presented unsympathetically and in a uniformily unfavourable light. His way of life, in spite of advancing years, is loose and dissolute; his springs of action are mean and despicable; his course of conduct is unprincipled and vile. He is patently a swindler without scruple or ruth. It is significant that Falstaff's wit takes a new and keener edge in 2 Henry IV. while his humour becomes harsh and acrid. But wit, however keen, is a doubtful substitute for the careless lambent humour which is the glory of 1 Henry IV., and which in 2 Henry IV. has free play only in the fresh country air of Gloucestershire. Falstaff's ultimate disgrace and punishment have gained for him much undeserved commiseration; the punishment to

which he is condemned-temporary imprisonment in the Fleet and banishment from court-was not exceptionally severe. Queen Elizabeth inflicted similar sentences upon favourite courtiers and court ladies who incurred her displeasure. To Shakespeare's contemporaries the King's treatment of Falstaff would not appear harsh; imprisonment in the Fleet involved discomfort but not dishonour.

In Act IIL Scene ii., Shallow tells Silence that Falstaff, as a boy, was page to Thomas Mowbray, Duke of Norfolk. There is no evidence that either Sir John Oldcastle, the Lollard leader (d. 1417), or Sir John Fastolf (1378-1459) had been page to Mowbray (1366-99). Yet commentators refer to Shallow's remark as helping to establish Falstaff's identity with Sir John Oldcastle, who, it is said on the authority of a passage in J. Weever's Mirror of Martyrs, 1601, was actually page to Thomas Mowbray :

Within the springtide of my flowring youth

He [my father], stept into the winter of his age,
Made meanes (Mercurius thus begins the truth)
That I was made Sir Thomas Mowbrais page.

For this statement, however, Weever's only authority appears to have been the present play. See Introduction to 1 Henry IV., pp. xxiii. and xxvi.

There is, nevertheless, no lack of evidence to show that Sir John Oldcastle, Lord Cobham, was the original of the character familiar to us as Sir John Falstaff, and that the name Oldcastle was banished from the stage in deference to the protests of a section of the public. The name "Fastolf," which was substituted for that of "Oldcastle," appears to have been taken from the famous soldier, Sir John Fastolf, who distinguished himself in the French wars of Henry V. and Henry VI., and who was wrongly accused of cowardice for retreating at Patay (1429). In the First Part of Henry VI. Fastolf is represented as a coward who fled shamefully from the battle (III. ii. 104-109); after being disgraced by Talbot, who plucked off his garter of knighthood, he was banished by the King (IV. i. 12-47).

Whether Falstaff was a coward or not is a question the answer to which will depend upon the meaning we attach to the terms "valour" and "cowardice." If valour implies a sense of duty or honour, then Falstaff was no doubt a "coward,"

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