Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Enter, Falstaff

Shakespeare’s Henriad Collection: Richard II, Henry IV, Part 1, Henry IV, Part 2, Henry V
Shakespeare’s  Henry IV, Part 1, Henry IV, Part 2

“I can call the spirits from the vasty deep.
Hotspur: Why, so can I, or so can any man;
But will they come, when you do call for them?”
― William Shakespeare, King Henry IV, Part 1

Shakespeare's greatest plays, according to none other than Orson Welles, were these ones. Furthermore, Welles believed that Chimes at Midnight, the film adaptation of these plays, was his best work—even better than Citizen Kane.

Shakespeare's best works are those two plays, which can be seen as telling a single story. The plays that Falstaff appeared in are the plays that most people are more familiar with, which is why most people do not recognize them as such. (Apart from "Merry Wives," which is not quite as wonderful.)

Most people will ask, "Is not that the big fat guy who Shakespeare wrote about?" when you mention the name "Falstaff."

These plays only touch on a portion of Henry IV's turbulent reign, during which he usurped Richard II's throne. The real focus is on the coming-of-age of his eldest son, Prince Hal, the Prince of Wales, who was destined to someday become Henry V. The twist of the play is that — much to his Dad’s disappointment — young Hal prefers to hang out with Sir John Falstaff, a fat, drunk wastrel and a liar, but Falstaff is just so damn entertaining. So, Prince Hal hangs out with Falstaff rather than come to Court and study how to rule. Hal, later Henry V, becomes a great king, against all odds.

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