“You are giving me flattering kisses,” Falstaff said.

“Truly, I kiss you with a most constant and faithful heart,” Doll Tearsheet replied.

“I am old. I am old,” Falstaff mourned.

“I love you better than I love any scurvy young boy.”

“Of which material do you want a kirtle made?” Falstaff asked. “I shall receive money on Thursday. I will give you a cap tomorrow.”

A woman wore a kirtle between her petticoats and her gown.

The musicians were still playing, and Falstaff said, “This is a merry song. Come, it is growing late; let’s go to bed.”

He paused and then said to Doll Tearsheet, “You’ll forget me when I am gone.”

He may have been talking about going to war; he may have been talking about dying.

“Truly, you’ll make me cry, if you say that,” Doll Tearsheet replied, “I will not dress in fine clothing until you return from the war. Well, wait and see. We will see what will happen.”

“Bring us some wine, Francis,” Falstaff said to Prince Hal, who was pretending to be a drawer. Francis was one of the drawers at the Boar’s Head Tavern.

Prince Hal responded the way that a drawer would: “Anon, anon, sir. Right away, right away, sir.”

He then came forward and faced Falstaff so that Falstaff could recognize him. Poins did the same thing.

Falstaff, who did recognize them, said, “Ha! Are you a bastard son of the King’s? And aren’t you Poins’ brother?”

“Why, you globe of sinful continents!” Prince Hal said. “You are a huge and round mass of sinful contents! What a life you lead!”

“I lead a better life than you,” Falstaff said. “I am a gentleman; you are a drawer.”

“Very true, sir,” Prince Hal said, “and I come to draw you out of this room by your ears.”

“Oh, may the Lord preserve your good grace!” Mistress Quickly said. “Truly, welcome to London. Now, may the Lord bless that sweet face of yours! Oh, have you come from Wales?”

Falstaff said to Prince Hal, “You whoreson mad compound of majesty,” and then he added, referring to Doll Tearsheet, “by this light flesh and corrupt blood, you are welcome.”

A light woman was a woman who engaged in fornication.

“You fat fool!” Doll Tearsheet shouted, getting off Falstaff’s lap. “I scorn you!”

Poins said to Prince Hal, “My lord, he will drive you out of your mood for getting revenge on him for what he said about you, and he will turn everything into a merry joke, unless you strike while the iron is hot.”

Prince Hal said to Falstaff, “You whoreson candle-mine, you mine of tallow fat, you! How vilely did you speak of me just now before this honest, virtuous, civil gentlewoman!”

“May God bless your good heart!” Mistress Quickly said. “She really is an honest, virtuous, civil gentlewoman!”

“Did you hear what I said about you?” Falstaff asked Prince Hal.

“Yes, I did, and I am sure that you will say that you recognized me although I was in disguise, as you did when you ran away following the robbery at Gad’s Hill. You will say this: You recognized me just now, and you said those bad things about me on purpose just to test my patience.”

“No, no, no,” Falstaff said. “That is not true; I did not think you were within hearing distance.”

“I shall drive you then to confess that you willfully showered words of abuse on me,” Prince Hal said, “and then I will know how to handle you and what punishment to give to you.”

“There was no abuse, Hal,” Falstaff said. “On my honor, there was no abuse.”

“You claim that you did not insult me and call me a pantryman and a bread-chipper and I know not what else?”

“There was no abuse, Hal.”

“No abuse?” Ned Poins asked.

“No abuse, Ned, in the world,” Falstaff said. “Honest Ned, there was none. I dispraised Prince Hal before the wicked, so that the wicked might not fall in love with him. By so doing, I have done the part of a careful friend and a true subject, and Hal’s father the King ought to give me thanks for it. So, you can see that there was no abuse, Hal. There was none, Ned, none. No, truly, boys, there was none.”

“Let us see now,” Prince Hal said, “whether your pure fear and entire cowardice has made you wrong this virtuous gentlewoman so you can make peace with us. Is she — this woman who was just now sitting on your lap — one of the wicked? Is your hostess here — Mistress Quickly — one of the wicked? Is the boy who is your page one of the wicked? Or honest Bardolph, whose zeal can be seen burning in his nose — Puritans praise burning zeal — one of the wicked?”

“Answer him, you dead elm-tree trunk, answer him,” Poins said.

“The fiend we know as Satan has written Bardolph’s name among those whose souls are irrecoverable,” Falstaff said. “His red face is Lucifer’s kitchen, aka Hell, where he does nothing but roast malt-worms — alcoholics. As for the boy, there is a good angel about him, but the Devil has blinded the boy so that he cannot see the good angel.”

“What about the women?” Prince Hal asked.

“As for one of them, she is in Hell already, and she burns poor souls.”

Falstaff was referring to Doll Tearsheet, who infected men with venereal disease and made them burn when they urinated.

“As for the other, I owe her money, and whether she has been damned for that, I don’t know.”

“I have not been damned for that, I assure you,” Mistress Quickly said.

“I think that you are right and you have not been damned for that,” Falstaff said. “I think you have avoided being damned for that.”

Puritans regarded the lending of money — usury — as a sin. But since Falstaff had no intention of paying back the money he had borrowed from Mistress Quickly, was she really engaging in usury?

Falstaff continued, “But by Mother Mary, there is another indictment against Mistress Quickly.”

He said to her, “You allow flesh to be sold and consumed in your house, contrary to the law; for which sin I think you will howl in Hell.”

Eating houses were not allowed by law to serve meat during Lent.

Mistress Quickly said, “All keepers of eating houses do that; what’s a joint of mutton or two in a whole Lent?”

Falstaff had in mind a different kind of selling and consuming flesh; he was referring to the flesh of prostitutes. “Mutton” was a slang word used to refer to prostitutes.

Prince Hal said to Doll Tearsheet, “You, gentlewoman —”

He hesitated.

Doll Tearsheet asked, “What do you want, your grace?”

Falstaff said, “His grace says that which his flesh rebels against.”

He was punning again. He knew that Prince Hal knew that Doll Tearsheet was not a gentlewoman. One meaning of Falstaff’s sentence was that Prince Hal was saying something that he knew was not true. Another meaning was that as Prince Hal called Doll Tearsheet a gentlewoman, a part of his body that knew what she really was, was rebelling in an uprising — that is, rising up (and becoming erect).

Knocking sounded on the door downstairs.

“Who is knocking so loudly?” Mistress Quickly said. “Go and see who is at the door, Francis.”

Peto, another of Prince Hal’s Eastcheap friends, walked upstairs.

Prince Hal saw him and said, “Peto, how are you! What news have you brought to me?”

Peto replied, “The King, your father, is at Westminster. Twenty weak and weary messengers have come from the North with important news, and as I was coming here, I met and overtook a dozen Captains, who were bare headed, sweating, knocking at the tavern doors, and asking everyone for the location of Sir John Falstaff.”

“By Heaven, Poins,” Prince Hal said, “I feel myself much to blame, so idly to profane and waste the precious time. Now a storm of war, like the South wind blowing black clouds, begins to melt and drop tears upon our bare unhelmeted heads. Bring me my sword and cloak.”

He then said, “Falstaff, good night.”

Prince Hal, Poins, Peto, and Bardolph left the room.

Falstaff said, “Now comes in the sweetest morsel of the night, and we must go from here and leave it unpicked.”

Knocking sounded on the door downstairs.

Bardolph came into the room and Falstaff said to him, “What’s the matter?”

Bardolph replied, “You must leave here and go to court, sir, immediately; a dozen Captains are waiting at the door for you.”

Falstaff said, “Pay the musicians.”

He then said, “Farewell, hostess; farewell, Doll. You see, my good wenches, how men of merit are sought after. The undeserver may sleep when the man of action is called on to go to work. Farewell, good wenches. If I am not sent away to war immediately, I will see you again before I go.”

“I cannot speak,” Doll Tearsheet said. “My heart is ready to burst. Well, sweet Jack, take care of yourself.”

“Farewell, farewell,” he said.

Falstaff and Bardolph went downstairs.

Mistress Quickly said as Falstaff left, “Well, fare you well. I have known you these past twenty-nine years, come peascod-time — come the time when the pods form peas. But an honester and truer-hearted man — well, fare you well.”

Bardolph called from downstairs, “Mistress Tearsheet!”

“What’s the matter?” Mistress Quickly called back.

Bardolph called, “Good Mistress Tearsheet, come to Falstaff, my master.”

Mistress Quickly, who had gone to the door of the room, said, “Oh, run, Doll, run; run, good Doll. Come.”

Crying with sadness at Falstaff’s departure, Doll Tearsheet stood up.

Mistress Quickly repeated, “Come, Doll.”

Doll Tearsheet ran downstairs.

Say what you will about Falstaff, at least two women loved him.

Copyrighted by Bruce D. Bruce

Note: the above is an excerpt from my book WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE’S 2 HENRY IV, AKA KING HENRY IV, PART II: A RETELLING IN PROSE, which is available here:






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