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THE PLAYS OF
SECOND PART OF
KING HENRY IV
WITH AN INTRODUCTION BY
and a Plate representing ELLISTON as 'Falstaff.'
The publisher desires to acknowledge the courtesy of Messrs. Macmillan and Co. in granting permission to use the text of
the Cambridge Shakespeare.
SECOND PART OF KING HENRY IV.
The Second Part of Henry IV., which must have been written in 1598, since Justice Silence is mentioned in Ben Jonson's Every Man out of his Humour, acted in 1599, abounds, no less than the First Part, in poetic power, but is only a dramatised chronicle, not a drama. In its serious scenes, the play is more faithful to history than the First Part, and it is not Shakespeare's fault that the historical characters are here of less interest. In the comic scenes, which are very amply developed, Shakespeare has achieved the feat of bringing Falstaff a second time upon the stage without giving us the least sense of anticlimax. He is incomparable as ever in his scenes with the Lord ChiefJustice and with the women of the tavern; and when he goes down into Gloucestershire in his character of recruiting-officer, he is still at the height of his genius. As new comrades and foils to him, Shakespeare has here created the two contemptible country Justices, Shallow and Silence. Shallow is a masterpiece, a compact of mere stupidity, foolishness, boastfulness, rascality, and senility; yet he appears a genius in comparison with the ineffable Silence. Here, as in the First Part, the poet evidently drew his comic types from the life of his own day. Another very amusing new personage, who, like Falstaff, was much imitated by the minor dramatists of the time, is Falstaff's Ancient, the braggart Pistol, whose talk is an anthology of playhouse bombast. This inept affectation not only makes him a highly comic personage, but gives Shakespeare an opportunity of girding at the robustious style of the earlier tragic poets, which had become repulsive to him. He parodies Marlowe's Tamburlaine in Pistol's outburst (ii. 4):
And Trojan Greeks?' The passage in Tamburlaine (Second Part, ii. 4) runs thus:
‘Holla, ye pamper'd jades of Asia,
What? can ye draw but twenty miles a day ?' He makes fun of Peele's Turkish Mahomet and Hyren the fair Greek, when Pistol, alluding to his sword, exclaims, 'Have we not Hiren here?' And again it is George Peele who is aimed at when Pistol says to the hostess :
Then feed, and be fat, my fair Calipolis ;
Come, give's some sack.' In The Battle of Alcazar, Muley Mahomet brings his wife some flesh on the point of his sword and says
‘Hold thee, Calipolis, feed and faint no more!' But Falstaff himself is, and must ever remain, the chief attraction of the comic scenes. Never was the Fat Knight wittier than when he answers the Lord ChiefJustice, who has told him that his figure bears' all the characters of age'(i. 2) :
'My lord, I was born about three of the clock in the afternoon, with a white head and something a round belly. For my voice, I have lost it with halloing and singing of anthems. To approve my youth further, I will not: the truth is, I am only