Gloucestershire. Court before Shallow’s house.
(Justice Shallow; Justice Silence; Mouldy; Shadow; Wart; Feeble; Bullcalf; Servants; Bardolph; Falstaff)
Shallow gossips endlessly with Silence, impressing the other man with tales of his youth as a law student in London. Shallow is shocked as he realizes how many of his friends are now dead. He acts as though he were Falstaff’s bosom friend, having known him at law school, but soon proves to know little or nothing of Falstaff’s current life. The fat knight arrives to recruit soldiers with Justice Shallow’s help. He chooses the four most ragged soldier, as the two best choices bribe Bardolph to get them out of serving. Falstaff recalls that despite the Justice’s tales of his wild youth, the Shallow he remembers was a pathetic non-entity. He plans to take advantage of Shallow and Silence on his return. (129 lines)
Enter Justice Shallow and Justice Silence, meeting; Mouldy, Shadow, Wart, Feeble, Bullcalf, and Servants behind.
Come on, come on, come on, give me your hand, sir, give me your hand, sir. An early stirrer, by the rood! And how doth my good cousin Silence?
Good morrow, good cousin Shallow.
And how doth my cousin, your bedfellow? And your fairest daughter and mine, my goddaughter Ellen?
Alas, a black woosel, cousin Shallow!
By yea and no, sir. I dare say my cousin William is become a good scholar. He is at Oxford still, is he not?
Indeed, sir, to my cost.
’A must then to the Inns a’ Court shortly. I was once of Clement’s Inn, where I think they will talk of mad Shallow yet.
You were call’d lusty Shallow then, cousin.
By the mass, I was call’d any thing, and I would have done any thing indeed too, and roundly too. There was I, and little John Doit of Staffords hire, and black George Barnes, and Francis Pickbone, and Will Squele, a Cotsole man. You had not four such swingebucklers in all the Inns a’ Court again; and I may say to you, we knew where the bona robas were and had the best of them all at commandment. Then was Jack Falstaff, now Sir John, a boy, and page to Thomas Mowbray, Duke of Norfolk.
This Sir John, cousin, that comes hither anon about soldiers?
The same Sir John, the very same. I see him break Scoggin’s head at the court-gate, when ’a was a crack not thus high; and the very same day did I fight with one Samson Stockfish, a fruiterer, behind Gray’s Inn. Jesu, Jesu, the mad days that I have spent! And to see how many of my old acquaintance are dead!
We shall all follow, cousin.
Certain, ’tis certain, very sure, very sure. Death, as the Psalmist saith, is certain to all, all shall die. How a good yoke of bullocks at Stamford fair?
By my troth, I was not there.
Death is certain. Is old Double of your town living yet?
Jesu, Jesu, dead! ’A drew a good bow, and dead! ’A shot a fine shoot. John a’ Gaunt lov’d him well, and betted much money on his head. Dead! ’A would have clapp’d i’ th’ clout at twelvescore, and carried you a forehand shaft a fourteen and fourteen and a half, that it would have done a man’s heart good to see. How a score of ewes now?
Thereafter as they be, a score of good ewes may be worth ten pounds.
And is old Double dead?
Here come two of Sir John Falstaff’s men, as I think.
Enter Bardolph and one with him.
Good morrow, honest gentlemen.
I beseech you, which is Justice Shallow?
I am Robert Shallow, sir, a poor esquire of this county, and one of the King’s justices of the peace. What is your good pleasure with me?
My captain, sir, commends him to you, my captain, Sir John Falstaff, a tall gentleman, by heaven, and a most gallant leader.
He greets me well, sir. I knew him a good backsword man. How doth the good knight? May I ask how my lady his wife doth?
Sir, pardon, a soldier is better accommodated than with a wife.
It is well said, in faith, sir, and it is well said indeed too. Better accommodated! It is good, yea indeed is it. Good phrases are surely, and ever were, very commendable. Accommodated! It comes of accommodo, very good, a good phrase.
Pardon, sir, I have heard the word. Phrase call you it? By this day, I know not the phrase, but I will maintain the word with my sword to be a soldier-like word, and a word of exceeding good command, by heaven. Accommodated: that is, when a man is, as they say, accommodated, or when a man is being whereby ’a may be thought to be accommodated—which is an excellent thing.
It is very just. Look, here comes good Sir John. Give me your good hand, give me your worship’s good hand. By my troth, you like well and bear your years very well. Welcome, good Sir John.
I am glad to see you well, good Master Robert Shallow. Master Surecard, as I think?
No, Sir John, it is my cousin Silence, in commission with me.
Good Master Silence, it well befits you should be of the peace.
Your good worship is welcome.
Fie, this is hot weather, gentlemen. Have you provided me here half a dozen sufficient men?
Marry, have we, sir. Will you sit?
Let me see them, I beseech you.
Where’s the roll? Where’s the roll? Where’s the roll? Let me see, let me see, let me see. So, so, so, so, so, so, so; yea, marry, sir. Rafe Mouldy! Let them appear as I call; let them do so, let them do so. Let me see, where is Mouldy?
Here, and’t please you.
What think you, Sir John? A good-limb’d fellow, young, strong, and of good friends.
Is thy name Mouldy?
Yea, and’t please you.
’Tis the more time thou wert us’d.
Ha, ha, ha! Most excellent, i’ faith! Things that are moldy lack use. Very singular good, in faith, well said, Sir John, very well said.
I was prick’d well enough before, and you could have let me alone. My old dame will be undone now for one to do her husbandry and her drudgery. You need not to have prick’d me, there are other men fitter to go out than I.
Go to, peace, Mouldy, you shall go. Mouldy, it is time you were spent.
Peace, fellow, peace, stand aside, know you where you are? For th’ other, Sir John, let me see: Simon Shadow!
Yea, marry, let me have him to sit under, he’s like to be a cold soldier.
Shadow, whose son art thou?
My mother’s son, sir.
Thy mother’s son! Like enough, and thy father’s shadow. So the son of the female is the shadow of the male. It is often so indeed, but much of the father’s substance!
Do you like him, Sir John?
Shadow will serve for summer, prick him, aside for we have a number of shadows fill up the muster-book.
Is thy name Wart?
Thou art a very ragged wart.
Shall I prick him, Sir John?
It were superfluous, for ’s apparel is built upon his back, and the whole frame stands upon pins. Prick him no more.
Ha, ha, ha! You can do it, sir, you can do it, I commend you well. Francis Feeble!
What trade art thou, Feeble?
A woman’s tailor, sir.
Shall I prick him, sir?
You may, but if he had been a man’s tailor, he’d ’a’ prick’d you. Wilt thou make as many holes in an enemy’s battle as thou hast done in a woman’s petticoat?
I will do my good will, sir, you can have no more.
Well said, good woman’s tailor! Well said, courageous Feeble! Thou wilt be as valiant as the wrathful dove or most magnanimous mouse. Prick the woman’s tailor. Well, Master Shallow, deep, Master Shallow.
I would Wart might have gone, sir.
I would thou wert a man’s tailor, that thou mightst mend him and make him fit to go. I cannot put him to a private soldier that is the leader of so many thousands. Let that suffice, most forcible Feeble.
It shall suffice, sir.
I am bound to thee, reverend Feeble. Who is next?
Peter Bullcalf o’ th’ green!
Yea, marry, let’s see Bullcalf.
’Fore God, a likely fellow! Come prick Bullcalf till he roar again.
O Lord, good my lord captain—
What, dost thou roar before thou art prick’d?
O Lord, sir, I am a diseas’d man.
What disease hast thou?
A whoreson cold, sir, a cough, sir, which I caught with ringing in the King’s affairs upon his coronation-day, sir.
Come, thou shalt go to the wars in a gown. We will have away thy cold, and I will take such order that thy friends shall ring for thee. Is here all?
Here is two more call’d than your number, you must have but four here, sir. And so I pray you go in with me to dinner.
Come, I will go drink with you, but I cannot tarry dinner. I am glad to see you, by my troth, Master Shallow.
O Sir John, do you remember since we lay all night in the Windmill in Saint George’s Field?
No more of that, Master Shallow, no more of that.
Ha, ’twas a merry night. And is Jane Nightwork alive?
She lives, Master Shallow.
She never could away with me.
Never, never, she would always say she could not abide Master Shallow.
By the mass, I could anger her to th’ heart. She was then a bona roba. Doth she hold her own well?
Old, old, Master Shallow.
Nay, she must be old, she cannot choose but be old, certain she’s old, and had Robin Nightwork by old Nightwork before I came to Clement’s Inn.
That’s fifty-five year ago.
Ha, cousin Silence, that thou hadst seen that that this knight and I have seen! Ha, Sir John, said I well?
We have heard the chimes at midnight, Master Shallow.
That we have, that we have, that we have, in faith, Sir John, we have. Our watch-word was “Hem, boys!” Come let’s to dinner, come let’s to dinner. Jesus, the days that we have seen! Come, come.
Exeunt Falstaff and the Justices.
Good Master Corporate Bardolph, stand my friend, and here’s four Harry ten shillings in French crowns for you. In very truth, sir, I had as live be hang’d, sir, as go, and yet for mine own part, sir, I do not care, but rather, because I am unwilling, and for mine own part, have a desire to stay with my friends, else, sir, I did not care for mine own part so much.
Go to, stand aside.
And, good Master Corporal Captain, for my old dame’s sake stand my friend. She has nobody to do any thing about her when I am gone, and she is old, and cannot help herself. You shall have forty, sir.
Go to, stand aside.
By my troth I care not; a man can die but once, we owe God a death. I’ll ne’er bear a base mind. And’t be my dest’ny, so; and’t be not, so. No man’s too good to serve ’s prince, and let it go which way it will, he that dies this year is quit for the next.
Well said, th’ art a good fellow.
Faith, I’ll bear no base mind.
Enter Falstaff and the Justices.
Come, sir, which men shall I have?
Four of which you please.
Sir, a word with you.
I have three pound to free Mouldy and Bullcalf.
Go to, well.
Come, Sir John, which four will you have?
Do you choose for me.
Marry, then, Mouldy, Bullcalf, Feeble, and Shadow.
Mouldy and Bullcalf! For you, Mouldy, stay at home till you are past service; and for your part, Bullcalf, grow till you come unto it. I will none of you.
Sir John, Sir John, do not yourself wrong. They are your likeliest men, and I would have you serv’d with the best.
Will you tell me, Master Shallow, how to choose a man? Care I for the limb, the thews, the stature, bulk, and big assemblance of a man? Give me the spirit, Master Shallow. Here’s Wart, you see what a ragged appearance it is. ’A shall charge you and discharge you with the motion of a pewterer’s hammer, come off and on swifter than he that gibbets on the brewer’s bucket. And this same half-fac’d fellow, Shadow, give me this man. He presents no mark to the enemy, the foeman may with as great aim level at the edge of a penknife. And for a retreat, how swiftly will this Feeble the woman’s tailor run off! O, give me the spare men, and spare me the great ones. Put me a caliver into Wart’s hand, Bardolph.
Hold, Wart, traverse! Thas, thas, thas.
Come manage me your caliver. So—very well, go to, very good, exceeding good. O, give me always a little, lean, old, chopp’d, bald shot. Well said, i’ faith, Wart, th’ art a good scab. Hold, there’s a tester for thee.
He is not his craft’s master, he doth not do it right. I remember at Mile-end Green, when I lay at Clement’s Inn—I was then Sir Dagonet in Arthur’s show—there was a little quiver fellow, and ’a would manage you his piece thus, and ’a would about and about, and come you in and come you in. “Rah, tah, tah,” would ’a say, “bounce,” would ’a say, and away again would ’a go, and again would ’a come. I shall ne’er see such a fellow.
These fellows woll do well, Master Shallow. God keep you, Master Silence, I will not use many words with you. Fare you well, gentlemen both, I thank you. I must a dozen mile tonight. Bardolph, give the soldiers coats.
Sir John, the Lord bless you! God prosper your affairs! God send us peace! At your return visit our house, let our old acquaintance be renew’d. Peradventure I will with ye to the court.
’Fore God, would you would.
Go to, I have spoke at a word. God keep you!
Fare you well, gentle gentlemen.
On, Bardolph, lead the men away.
Exeunt Bardolph, recruits, etc.
As I return, I will fetch off these justices. I do see the bottom of Justice Shallow. Lord, Lord, how subject we old men are to this vice of lying! This same starv’d justice hath done nothing but prate to me of the wildness of his youth, and the feats he hath done about Turnbull Street, and every third word a lie, duer paid to the hearer than the Turk’s tribute. I do remember him at Clement’s Inn, like a man made after supper of a cheese-paring. When ’a was naked, he was for all the world like a fork’d redish, with a head fantastically carv’d upon it with a knife. ’A was so forlorn, that his dimensions to any thick sight were invisible. ’A was the very genius of famine, yet lecherous as a monkey, and the whores call’d him mandrake. ’A came ever in the rearward of the fashion, and sung those tunes to the overscutch’d huswives that he heard the carmen whistle, and sware they were his fancies or his good-nights. And now is this Vice’s dagger become a squire, and talks as familiarly of John a’ Gaunt as if he had been sworn brother to him, and I’ll be sworn ’a ne’er saw him but once in the Tilt-yard, and then he burst his head for crowding among the marshal’s men. I saw it, and told John a’ Gaunt he beat his own name, for you might have thrust him and all his apparel into an eel-skin. The case of a treble hoboy was a mansion for him, a court, and now has he land and beefs! Well, I’ll be acquainted with him if I return, and’t shall go hard but I’ll make him a philosopher’s two stones to me. If the young dace be a bait for the old pike, I see no reason in the law of nature but I may snap at him: let time shape, and there an end.