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How ill white hairs become a fool and jester”-Do you consider this an adequate response to the character Falstaff as portrayed in Henry IV (ii)

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C.Keaveny UVD "How ill white hairs become a fool and jester"-Do you consider this an adequate response to the character Falstaff as portrayed in Henry IV (ii) Falstaff was and still is one of Shakespeare's most popular characters, for many reasons. Proof of this can be obtained from the fact that Shakespeare had to write Falstaff his own play, Merry Wives of Windsor, after killing him off in another play. After reading this book and being immediately asked if you agreed with the above statement, you would probably say yes, due to the developments in Falstaff's character towards the end of the play. However, when one re-reads the book with this in mind you would come to a different conclusion. The reasons for this belief are shown below and under this are the reasons why these are not justified. From reading the book it is obvious that Falstaff is a jester of sorts, he is always making serious situations light hearted. For example in Act 1, scene 2, Falstaff is speaking to the Chief Justice and the Chief Justice is trying to reprimand Falstaff but is met with witty comebacks and anything he says is reversed by Falstaff and use for his own good. This is one of Falstaff's qualities that I will discuss later. ...read more.


The Prince says about Falstaff's servant "And the boy I gave Falstaff: a had him from me Christian, and look if the fat villain have not transformed him ape." This shows how the Prince really feels about Falstaff, and it's a long way from what Falstaff thinks. Despite all of Falstaff's apparent shortcomings, he remained very popular with Elizabethan audiences and is still popular today. This is mainly due to Falstaff's good qualities, which are his intelligence wit and the humour he imparts into the play. His amorality, as opposed to immorality is a key to his popularity as well. This is because he is neither evil but neither does he obey a strict moral code. He doesn't conform to the position he is given, and this earns him the respect of the audience but also the contempt of other characters such as the Chief Justice. His amorality and his lack of care enable the audience to identify with how they would like to have lived their lives and he remains likeable even though he is corrupt. They may have like him also out of pity or feeling sorry for the way he feels he ahs been deceived. Although, as I pointed out above, Falstaff is deceived in his opinion of Hal, but there is plenty of evidence to suggest that he is quite intelligent and not a fool. ...read more.


The final scene achieves great poignancy as Falstaff's continued distastefulness is ended with Hal's cruel blow. This would have been a huge shock for the audience at the time, as they would almost all have been completely wrong footed by the plot, helping to make the play a success. During the final scene, Falstaff tries to redeem himself by coming back with a witty comment but Hal says, "Reply not to me with a fool born jest, Presume not that I am the thing I was". This shows that Hal is tired of Falstaff's wit and that he has 'matured' since when he was a friend with Falstaff and that he wants nothing more to do with him. In conclusion we can see that Falstaff is in some ways an old fool and jester, but this is not the whole picture. His character dictates that he will always be a figure of wit and source of humour therefore some of the jester is justified. He is a fool, only in his perception of his friendship with Hal, and this is in part due to his arrogance. His age is a more difficult point as he argues that he is ageless, yet he admits to Doll "I am old, I am old". Falstaff's character is a very complex and intriguing one, and he still remains popular with audiences today. ...read more.

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