London. Another street.
(Prince Henry; Poins; Bardolph; Page)
Prince Hal mocks himself for his taste for the lower classes. Poins rebukes him for not being more serious when the King is as sick as he is, but Hal points out that if he wept, people would simply think him a hypocrite. Bardolph brings the Prince a letter from Falstaff, in which the knight insults Poins; in revenge, Poins and Hal decide to spy on Falstaff as he dines with Doll Tearsheet. (72 lines)
Enter the Prince Henry, Poins, with other.
Before God, I am exceeding weary.
Is’t come to that? I had thought weariness durst not have attach’d one of so high blood.
Faith, it does me, though it discolors the complexion of my greatness to acknowledge it. Doth it not show vildly in me to desire small beer?
Why, a prince should not be so loosely studied as to remember so weak a composition.
Belike then my appetite was not princely got, for, by my troth, I do now remember the poor creature, small beer. But indeed these humble considerations make me out of love with my greatness. What a disgrace is it to me to remember thy name, or to know thy face tomorrow, or to take note how many pair of silk stockings thou hast, viz., these, and those that were thy peach-color’d once, or to bear the inventory of thy shirts, as one for superfluity, and another for use! But that the tennis-court-keeper knows better than I, for it is a low ebb of linen with thee when thou keepest not racket there; as thou hast not done a great while, because the rest of the low countries have made a shift to eat up thy holland. And God knows whether those that bawl out the ruins of thy linen shall inherit his kingdom: but the midwives say the children are not in the fault, whereupon the world increases, and kindreds are mightily strengthen’d.
How ill it follows, after you have labor’d so hard, you should talk so idlely! Tell me how many good young princes would do so, their fathers being so sick as yours at this time is.
Shall I tell thee one thing, Poins?
Yes, faith, and let it be an excellent good thing.
It shall serve among wits of no higher breeding than thine.
Go to, I stand the push of your one thing that you will tell.
Marry, I tell thee it is not meet that I should be sad, now my father is sick, albeit I could tell to thee—as to one it pleases me, for fault of a better, to call my friend—I could be sad, and sad indeed too.
Very hardly, upon such a subject.
By this hand, thou thinkest me as far in the devil’s book as thou and Falstaff, for obduracy and persistency. Let the end try the man. But I tell thee, my heart bleeds inwardly that my father is so sick, and keeping such vile company as thou art hath in reason taken from me all ostentation of sorrow.
What wouldst thou think of me if I should weep?
I would think thee a most princely hypocrite.
It would be every man’s thought, and thou art a blessed fellow to think as every man thinks. Never a man’s thought in the world keeps the road-way better than thine: every man would think me an hypocrite indeed. And what accites your most worshipful thought to think so?
Why, because you have been so lewd and so much engraff’d to Falstaff.
And to thee.
By this light, I am well spoke on, I can hear it with mine own ears. The worst that they can say of me is that I am a second brother, and that I am a proper fellow of my hands, and those two things I confess I cannot help. By the mass, here comes Bardolph.
Enter Bardolph and Boy Page.
And the boy that I gave Falstaff. ’A had him from me Christian, and look if the fat villain have not transform’d him ape.
God save your Grace!
And yours, most noble Bardolph!
Come, you virtuous ass, you bashful fool, must you be blushing? Wherefore blush you now? What a maidenly man-at-arms are you become! Is’t such a matter to get a pottle-pot’s maidenhead?
’A calls me e’en now, my lord, through a red lattice, and I could discern no part of his face from the window. At last I spied his eyes, and methought he had made two holes in the ale-wive’s petticoat and so peep’d through.
Has not the boy profited?
Away, you whoreson upright rabbit, away!
Away, you rascally Althaea’s dream, away!
Instruct us, boy, what dream, boy?
Marry, my lord, Althaea dreamt she was deliver’d of a fire-brand, and therefore I call him her dream.
A crown’s worth of good interpretation. There ’tis, boy.
O that this blossom could be kept from cankers! Well, there is sixpence to preserve thee.
And you do not make him hang’d among you, the gallows shall have wrong.
And how doth thy master, Bardolph?
Well, my lord. He heard of your Grace’s coming to town. There’s a letter for you.
Deliver’d with good respect. And how doth the Martlemas, your master?
In bodily health, sir.
Marry, the immortal part needs a physician, but that moves not him; though that be sick, it dies not.
I do allow this wen to be as familiar with me as my dog, and he holds his place, for look you how he writes.
Showing the letter to Poins.
Reads the superscription.
“John Falstaff, knight”—Every man must know that, as oft as he has occasion to name himself; even like those that are kin to the King, for they never prick their finger but they say, “There’s some of the King’s blood spilt.” “How comes that?” says he, that takes upon him not to conceive. The answer is as ready as a borrower’s cap, “I am the King’s poor cousin, sir.”
Nay, they will be kin to us, or they will fetch it from Japhet. But the letter:
“Sir John Falstaff, knight, to the son of the King nearest his father, Harry Prince of Wales, greeting.”
Why, this is a certificate.
“I will imitate the honorable Romans in brevity.”
He sure means brevity in breath, short-winded.
“I commend me to thee, I commend thee, and I leave thee. Be not too familiar with Poins, for he misuses thy favors so much that he swears thou art to marry his sister Nell. Repent at idle times as thou mayst, and so farewell.
Thine, by yea and no, which is as much as to say, as thou usest him, Jack Falstaff with my familiars, John with my brothers and sisters, and Sir John with all Europe.”
My lord, I’ll steep this letter in sack and make him eat it.
That’s to make him eat twenty of his words. But do you use me thus, Ned? Must I marry your sister?
God send the wench no worse fortune! But I never said so.
Well, thus we play the fools with the time, and the spirits of the wise sit in the clouds and mock us. Is your master here in London?
Yea, my lord.
Where sups he? Doth the old boar feed in the old frank?
At the old place, my lord, in Eastcheap.
Ephesians, my lord, of the old church.
Sup any women with him?
None, my lord, but old Mistress Quickly and Mistress Doll Tearsheet.
What pagan may that be?
A proper gentlewoman, sir, and a kinswoman of my master’s.
Even such kin as the parish heckfers are to the town bull. Shall we steal upon them, Ned, at supper?
I am your shadow, my lord, I’ll follow you.
Sirrah, you boy, and Bardolph, no word to your master that I am yet come to town. There’s for your silence.
I have no tongue, sir.
And for mine, sir, I will govern it.
Fare you well; go.
Exeunt Bardolph and Page.
This Doll Tearsheet should be some road.
I warrant you, as common as the way between Saint Albans and London.
How might we see Falstaff bestow himself tonight in his true colors, and not ourselves be seen?
Put on two leathern jerkins and aprons, and wait upon him at his table as drawers.
From a God to a bull? A heavy descension! It was Jove’s case. From a prince to a prentice? A low transformation! That shall be mine, for in every thing the purpose must weigh with the folly. Follow me, Ned.