Thursday, 30 April 2015
Falstaff the Brave

by Theodore Dalrymple (May 2015)

I love to read about Shakespeare, in part because to do so is so perfectly pointless. A man cannot always be engaged in useful activity, for something has to be pursued for its own sake and without ulterior motive; and reading about Shakespeare is both harmless and inexhaustible. It would take an entire lifetime to read the works of the Baconians alone, of those who believe that Shakespeare the poet and playwright was not Shakespeare the boy from Stratford-upon-Avon, but rather Francis Bacon, Lord Verulam.  more>>>

Posted on 04/30/2015 8:33 AM by NER
2 May 2015
Send an emailAnnelisa
Thoroughly enjoyed reading this, your article - so well written, and amusing in places too. Thanks for a great start to the day :-)

8 May 2015
Send an emailJim Lincoln
'Falstaff LAYS down'??!! Good heavens Dalrymple. You have expatiated yourself upon the effect of one concrete monstrosity in a terrace of elegant buildings. Here you give us the equivalent.

29 Jun 2018
Send an emailKirby Olson
I read this article and loved it, but then went back to Henry IV, and read again the scene in which Falstaff is in the inn, and is cross-examined by the Prince, wherein he boasts of his mettle. I took a course once with the Beatnik poet Gregory Corso, who drunkenly informed us that Jack Kerouac's favorite line in Shakespeare was, "As fat as butter," a seemingly strange little line to love as it isn't spoken by any of the major figures of the play, but by a "carrier," which is the Shakespearean equivalent of a postal messenger. Today we have an official postal system. The English under Elizabeth had one too but it was only used by the Queen, and her direct communicants, although she allowed the Spanish ambassador to use it as well, so that she could open his letters. The hoi polloi had to use the informal system of letter carriers, who were also something like UPS carriers, because they would bring bacon, and ham, and other goods, mostly into London, but also back out. Shakespeare apparently used it like anyone else. The carriers were responsible for the stuff they brought, and if they lost goods, had to replace them. This is all spelled out in a neat article in Shakespeare Quarterly by Alan Stewart entitled Shakespeare and the Carriers SQ, Winter 2007. This is the reason that the carrier appears and testifies to the sheriff about the Falstaffian robbery of his retinue, as he's wishing to hang the man who has waylaid his goods. I don't know what Kerouac knew, because I am one step removed, or two, because it was Corso who told us that that was Kerouac's favorite line. Why, is another question. It's the only thing the carrier says in that whole scene, and some directors take the line out to cut back on personnel, but it's a crucial line to understand the entire play, Alan Stewart writes. I myself didn't understand the line until I read Stewart's article. I had thought that perhaps Kerouac liked something about the concision of the line. But perhaps he liked something else about it - how the accusation illuminated the stealth of the rest of the play, or something. I wish I knew more, but with Corso dead, and Kerouac dead, I think the significance of the line will never be known, unless Kerouac spoke about it, or wrote about it. I haven't seen that, if so, but it's possible.

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