A public road near Coventry.
(Falstaff; Bardolph; Prince Henry; Earl of Westmorland)English
Falstaff, who is recruiting soldiers, admits that he is not doing the King the best possible service, as he is doing all he can to keep the money he has been given to pay soldiers for himself. Easily bribed, he has allowed anyone who can pay to escape service, so that his company is made up of pitiful, useless men, whom he realistically describes to Prince Hal as being “food for powder”. (23 lines)
Enter Falstaff, Bardolph. FAL. BARD.
Bardolph, get thee before to Coventry; fill me a bottle of sack. Our soldiers shall march through; we’ll to Sutton Co’fil’ tonight.
Will you give me money, captain?
Lay out, lay out.
This bottle makes an angel.
And if it do, take it for thy labor, and if it make twenty, take them all, I’ll answer the coinage. Bid my lieutenant Peto meet me at town’s end.
I will, captain, farewell.
If I be not asham’d of my soldiers, I am a sous’d gurnet. I have misus’d the King’s press damnably. I have got, in exchange of a hundred and fifty soldiers, three hundred and odd pounds. I press me none but good householders, yeomen’s sons, inquire me out contracted bachelors, such as had been ask’d twice on the banes, such a commodity of warm slaves, as had as lief hear the devil as a drum, such as fear the report of a caliver worse than a struck fowl or a hurt wild duck. I press’d me none but such toasts-and-butter, with hearts in their bellies no bigger than pins’ heads, and they have bought out their services; and now my whole charge consists of ancients, corporals, lieutenants, gentlemen of companies—slaves as ragged as Lazarus in the painted cloth, where the glutton’s dogs lick’d his sores, and such as indeed were never soldiers, but discarded unjust servingmen, younger sons to younger brothers, revolted tapsters, and ostlers trade-fall’n, the cankers of a calm world and a long peace, ten times more dishonorable ragged than an old feaz’d ancient: and such have I, to fill up the rooms of them as have bought out their services, that you would think that I had a hundred and fifty totter’d prodigals lately come from swine-keeping, from eating draff and husks. A mad fellow met me on the way and told me I had unloaded all the gibbets and press’d the dead bodies. No eye hath seen such scarecrows. I’ll not march through Coventry with them, that’s flat. Nay, and the villains march wide betwixt the legs, as if they had gyves on, for indeed I had the most of them out of prison. There’s not a shirt and a half in all my company, and the half shirt is two napkins tack’d together and thrown over the shoulders like a herald’s coat without sleeves; and the shirt, to say the truth, stol’n from my host at Saint Albans, or the red-nose innkeeper of Daventry. But that’s all one, they’ll find linen-enough on every hedge.
Enter the Prince, Lord of Westmorland. PRINCE. WEST.
How now, blown Jack? How now, quilt?
What, Hal? How now, mad wag? What a devil dost thou in Warwickshire? My good Lord of Westmorland, I cry you mercy! I thought your honor had already been at Shrewsbury.
Faith, Sir John, ’tis more than time that I were there, and you too, but my powers are there already. The King, I can tell you, looks for us all, we must away all night.
Tut, never fear me, I am as vigilant as a cat to steal cream.
I think, to steal cream indeed, for thy theft hath already made thee butter. But tell me, Jack, whose fellows are these that come after?
Mine, Hal, mine.
I did never see such pitiful rascals.
Tut, tut, good enough to toss, food for powder, food for powder; they’ll fill a pit as well as better. Tush, man, mortal men, mortal men.
Ay, but, Sir John, methinks they are exceeding poor and bare, too beggarly.
Faith, for their poverty, I know not where they had that, and for their bareness, I am sure they never learn’d that of me.
No, I’ll be sworn, unless you call three fingers in the ribs bare. But, sirrah, make haste, Percy is already in the field.
What, is the King encamp’d?
He is, Sir John. I fear we shall stay too long.
To the latter end of a fray and the beginning of a feast
Fits a dull fighter and a keen guest.
Exeunt. FAL. WEST.