David Bruce: William Shakespeare’s “HENRY IV, PART 2”: A Retelling in Prose — Act 5, Scene 3

— 5.3 —

In Justice Shallow’s orchard in Gloucestershire were Falstaff, Justice Shallow, Justice Silence, Davy, Bardolph, and the page. They had eaten the evening meal, and now Justice Shallow wanted his guests to talk together and eat snacks in his orchard.

Justice Shallow said to Falstaff, “No, you must and shall see my orchard, where, in an arbor, we will eat a last year’s pippin of my own grafting, with a dish of delicacies made with caraway seeds, and so forth.”

Last year’s pippins were apples that were eaten after they had been stored for a year.

He added, “Come, cousin Silence, and after we eat and drink, we will go to bed and sleep.”

“By God,” Falstaff said, “you have here a good and rich dwelling.”

“It is poor, poor, poor,” Justice Shallow replied. “We are beggars all, beggars all, Sir John. But at least we have good air. Spread the tablecloth, Davy; spread it out.”

Davy put the tablecloth on the table and started setting out utensils and glasses and dishes of food.

“Well done, Davy,” Justice Shallow said.

“This Davy serves you well,” Falstaff said. “He is your serving-man and your steward.”

“He is a good servant, a good servant, a very good servant, Sir John,” Justice Shallow said. “By the Mass, I have drunk too much wine at supper. Davy is a good servant. Now sit down; now sit down. Come, Justice Silence.”

Justice Silence sang, “Do nothing but eat and enjoy ourselves.

“And praise God for the merry year;

“When flesh is cheap and females dear,

“And lusty lads roam here and there

“So merrily,

“And all the while so merrily.”

“There’s a merry heart!” Falstaff said. “Good Master Silence, I’ll drink to you and wish you health soon.”

“Give Master Bardolph some wine, Davy,” Justice Shallow said.

“Sweet sir, sit,” Davy said. “I’ll be with you soon. Most sweet sir, sit.”

Davy said to Falstaff’s page, who was with Bardolph, “Master page, good master page, sit. Proface! What you want in meat, we’ll have in drink. What you lack in food, we will make up in drink. You must endure it; what is in the heart is everything. Good wishes count for much.”

Davy exited to get more refreshments.

Proface comes from the Italian Buon pro vi faccia, which means, “May it do you good.”

“Be merry, Master Bardolph; and, my little soldier page there, be merry,” Justice Shallow said.

Justice Silence sang, “Be merry, be merry, my wife has everything.

“For women are shrews, both short and tall.

“It is merry in hall when beards wag all,

“And welcome merry Shrove-tide.

“Be merry, be merry.”

Shrove-tide is a time of merry-making before the beginning of Lent, during which many Christians practice self-denial.

Falstaff said to Justice Shallow, “I did not think Master Silence had been a man of this mettle. I did not think that he was a merry-maker.”

Justice Silence heard him and said, “Who, I? I have been merry twice and once before now. This is the fourth time in my life that I have made merry.”

Davy put some apples on the table and said to Bardolph, “There’s a dish of leather-coats for you.”

The apples were russet apples, whose rough skins resembled leather.

Davy was treating Bardolph well — very well.

“Davy!” Justice Shallow said.

“Your worship!” Davy replied. “I’ll be with you right away.”

He asked Bardolph, “A cup of wine, sir?”

Justice Silence sang, “A cup of wine that’s brisk and fine.

“And drink unto thee, leman mine;

“And a merry heart lives long-a.”

A leman is a sweetheart.

“Well done, Master Silence,” Falstaff said.

Justice Silence sang, “And we shall be merry,

“Now comes in the sweetest part of the night.”

“Health and long life to you, Master Silence,” Falstaff said in a toast.

Justice Silence sang, “Fill the cup, and let it come;

“I’ll pledge you a mile to the bottom.”

In the song, Judge Silence pledged to drink a toast in its entirety even if the cup of wine was so deep that it was a mile to its bottom.

“Honest Bardolph, you are welcome,” Justice Shallow said. “If you want anything, and you will not call for it, then do without because all you have to do is ask for it.”

He added, “Welcome, page, my little tiny thief — and welcome indeed, too. I’ll drink to Master Bardolph, and to all the gallants — the Spanish caballeros — about London.”

“I hope to see London once before I die,” Davy said.

“If I might see you there, Davy —” Bardolph began.

Justice Shallow interrupted, “By the Mass, you’ll empty a goblet containing a quart of wine together, won’t you! Won’t you, Master Bardolph?”

“Yes, sir, we will share a pottle-pot,” Bardolph said.

Bardolph had doubled the quantity that he and Davy would drink. A pottle-pot held two quarts of wine.

“By God’s eyelids, I thank you,” Justice Shallow said. “The rascal Davy will stick by you, I can assure you that. He will not drop out when you drink; he is true bred and true blue.”

“And I’ll stick by him, sir,” Bardolph replied.

“Why, spoken like a King,” Justice Shallow said. “Lack for nothing; be merry.”

They heard knocking.

“See who is at the door!” Justice Shallow said. “Who is knocking?”

Davy exited.

Seeing Justice Silence drinking, Falstaff said to him, “Why, now you have done me right.”

Justice Silence sang, “Do me right,

“And dub me knight: Samingo.”

Samingo was Monsieur Mingo, a character in a French drinking song. Mingo is Latin for “I urinate.”

Justice Silence asked, “Isn’t that right?”

Falstaff replied, “That’s right.”

“Is that so?” Justice Silence said. “Well, then, say an old man can do something.”

Davy returned and said to Justice Shallow, “If it please your worship, a man named Pistol has come from the court with news.”

“From the court!” Falstaff said. “Let him come in.”

Pistol walked into the orchard.

“How are you, Pistol?” Falstaff said.

“Sir John, may God save you!” Pistol replied.

“What wind blew you here, Pistol?” Falstaff said.

“Not the ill wind that blows no man to good,” Pistol said. “Sweet knight, you are now one of the greatest men in this realm.”

Justice Silence, who understood “greatest” to mean “fattest,” said, “By Mother Mary, I think he is, except for the good Puff of Barson.”

“Puff!” Pistol shouted, “Puff in your teeth, you most forsworn and base coward!”

He added, “Sir John, I am your Pistol and your friend, and helter-skelter have I rode to you, and tidings do I bring and lucky joys and golden times and happy news of value.”

“Please, tell me your news as if you were an ordinary man of this world and not a hero in a play,” Falstaff said.

Pistol continued to use extravagant language: “A foutre for the world and worldlings base! I speak of Africa and golden joys.”

Foutre” was French for “f**k.”

Imitating Pistol’s extravagant language, Falstaff said, “Oh, base Ass-syrian knight, what is your news? Let King Cophetua know the truth thereof.”

Cophetua was a King who married a beggar; a popular song told this tale.

Justice Silence sang, “And let Robin Hood, Will Scarlet, and Friar John know the truth.”

Pistol shouted, “Shall dunghill curs confront the Helicons? And shall good news be baffled? Then, Pistol, lay your head in Furies’ lap.”

As usual, Pistol’s knowledge of mythology was somewhat muddled.

The Muses resided on Mount Helicon; Pistol thought that “Helicons” was an alternate name for the Muses. Most people would not think of laying their head on the lap of the Furies, who were terrifying goddesses of vengeance.

“Honest gentleman, I do not know your social status,” Justice Shallow said.

“Why then, lament therefore,” Pistol said.

“Pardon me, sir,” Justice Shallow said. “If, sir, you come with news from the court, I take it that there are only two things you can do. You can either tell your news, or you can not tell your news. I have, sir, under the King, a position of some authority.”

“Under which King, Besonian?” Pistol shouted. “Speak, or die.”

By “Besonian,” Pistol meant the Italian “bisogno” or “bisognoso,” a beggar with no redeeming features, either physical or mental.

“Under King Harry,” Justice Shallow replied.

“Harry the Fourth? Or the Fifth?”

“Harry the Fourth.”

“A foutre for your office!” Pistol shouted at Justice Shallow.

Now that King Henry IV was dead, Justice Shallow might lose his position of Justice of the Peace.

Pistol said, “Sir John, your tender lambkin — Prince Hal — now is King! Harry the Fifth’s the man! I speak the truth: When Pistol lies, do this” — he made an obscene gesture — “and fig me, like the bragging Spaniard.”

The fig of Spain was an obscene gesture in which the thumb was thrust between the index and the middle finger.

“What! Is the old King dead?” Falstaff asked.

“He is as dead as a nail in a door,” Pistol replied. “The things I speak are true.”

Falstaff’s dream had come true. King Henry IV was dead. His mind flooded with thoughts about what was to follow that death. His companion, Prince Hal, would become King Henry V. With such a powerful friend, Falstaff could run wild, breaking every law and looting the royal treasury.

He shouted, “Let’s go, Bardolph! Saddle my horse!”

He added, “Master Robert Shallow, choose whatever office you want in England — it will be yours. Pistol, I will double-charge you with dignities. I intend to reward all my friends by giving them power and prestige.”

“Oh, joyful day!” Bardolph said. “I would not take a knighthood for my future fortune!”

“See! I do bring good news!” Pistol said.

Meanwhile in London, Prince Hal was mourning the death of his father.

Having drunk too much wine, Justice Silence had fallen asleep.

“Carry Master Silence to bed,” Falstaff ordered. “Master Shallow, my Lord Shallow — be whatever you want to be; take whatever title you want; I am Fortune’s steward and will provide — put on your boots! We’ll ride all night! Oh, sweet Pistol! Saddle the horses, Bardolph!”

Bardolph left to get everything ready for them to ride all night back to London.

Falstaff said, “Come, Pistol, tell me more, and think about what you want me to give to you. Put on your boots, Master Shallow. I know that the young King wants to see me. Let us take any man’s horses; the laws of England are at my commandment.”

Falstaff wanted to take any man’s horses. He meant that he wanted to press them in the King’s service and avoid paying money for them. His belief that “the laws of England are at my commandment” was shocking because no one, not even the Prince of Wales or the King, ought to be above the law.

Falstaff shouted, “Blessed are they who have been my friends, and woe to the Lord Chief Justice!”

Pistol shouted, “Let vile vultures seize on his lungs also!”

Pistol was willing for the Lord Chief Justice to suffer torments such as Prometheus of antiquity had suffered. Prometheus had given human beings fire and the knowledge to control it. As punishment for Prometheus’ good deed to Humankind, Zeus, the Greek King of the gods, chained him and sent two vultures each day to eat his liver.

Pistol said, “‘Where is the life that late I led?’ say they. Why, here it is; welcome these pleasant days!”

Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

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