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To what extent does Falstaffs role transcend that of a buffon in henry IV part 1

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Introduction

Falstaff's role undoubtedly transcends that of a buffoon however Falstaff is also portrayed as an anarchic spirit, ready to defy any rules in order to satisfy his own appetites. Falstaff's extrovert character therefore has an inevitable affect on Hals later decisions. Shakespeare portrays Falstaff as an enormous paradox. He is a huge man, who is so quick witted and so deft at manipulating language that he remains eternally elusive. He is quick to use others and has no sense of honesty, yet he gives and inspires great affection in those around him. He is a relatively old man, yet he refuses to admit the fact. He is a knight of the realm, yet acknowledges no sense that being a knight requires of him any decorum, loyalty, or respectable behaviour. He is an enormously selfish man, but he brings out of others some of their best qualities of wit, good fellowship, and conversation. It is Possible that Shakespeare wants us to interpret Falstaff as some sort of Lord of Misrule, a figure of irrepressible energy and joyousness in life who exists as a counter to the necessary order and stability in political society. ...read more.

Middle

Shakespeare therefore deliberately portrays Falstaff in this manor to challenge the audience's perceptions and offers a more corrosive ironic counterpoint throughout the play. This quality is most evident when we explore the theme of honour. Shakespeare deliberately contrasts Hotspurs traditional concept of honour with that of Henry IV. Henrys sense of military honour permits him to have several other knights dress up in his royal armour and impersonate him on the battlefield, so that his enemies will wear themselves out chasing and fighting the wrong person. From Henry's point of view, this is clever military strategy, an efficient policy at work; from Hotspur's point of view it is a denial of what true honour requires, which is not something politically efficient but something deeply personal, a manifestation of one's true character. From Falstaff's point of view, all honour which requires one to run the risk of losing one's life is absurd. In fact, any sense of honour which holds one back from seizing a good opportunity to enrich oneself is merely an empty word, to which he is not prepared to pay attention. ...read more.

Conclusion

If the king and the lords are lying, stealing, and deceiving, why shouldn't he? At least the scale of his operations is much smaller. Moreover, Shakespeare portrays him as quite candid about what he is doing and does not attempt to justify his actions as somehow morally defensible (except in mock justifications which parody the official language of the court). In fact, his impersonation of them, his appropriation of their high-toned language for satiric purposes, reminds us constantly of the hypocrisy of their special pleading. He has a capacity to bring joy to others, to make them laugh, to inspire their affections, in a manner quite impossible in the royal court. That's why the presence of Falstaff is much more subversive than a sentimental picture of him might suggest. He candidly acknowledges what he does and why he does it and our knowledge of what is happening on the larger scale doesn't give us the solid assurances we need to deal with Falstaff as we might wish. Shakespeare uses Falstaff as a manifestation of ones self. An appropriate counterweight used to encourage us to question the morality of others in the play and maybe even the morality of our own society. ...read more.

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