"Banish all the wor(l)d": Falstaff's iconoclastic threat to kingship in I Henry IV.
Rather than the carnivalesque reading of Falstaff ably popularized by Michael Bristol and Valerie Traub, (1) I propose to read the play as a site of reformationist commentary. Texts such as Luther's Treatise on the New Testament, that is, the Holy Mass (1520), William Tyndale's The Souper of the Lorde (c. 1534), and Lord Cobham's testimony under interrogation provided in Foxe's Actes and Monuments (first English edition 1563) provide the context for reading Falstaff's critique of the Prince's bravado, deceit, and false image-making as arguments shaped by popular Protestant castigations of idolatrous Catholic practices. What does it mean to "banish all the world" in banishing Jack Falstaff? It means to banish the accidental, the human, from the Lancastrian myth of kingship. Banishing the fallible in the iconography of monarchy creates a king distanced from authentic interactions with his subjects. Granted, there are hints of momentary insight in Henry V's late night soliloquy before the battle of Agincourt:
And what have kings that privates have not too, Save ceremony, save general ceremony? And what art thou, thou idol ceremony? What kind of god are thou, that suffer'st more Of mortal griefs than do thy worshippers? What are thy rents? What are thy comings-in? ceremony, show me but thy worth! What is thy soul of adoration? Art thou aught but place, degree, and form, Creating awe and fear in other men? (4.1.236-245) (2)
Louis Montrose notes the secular and sacred nature of this commentary in his assertion that Henry "evokes both the polemical religious discourse against images, vestments, and plays, and the politic Machiavellian discourse on the utility of state spectacles." (3) Henry has earlier proclaimed the king's humanity with the assertion, "I think the king is but a man, as I am [...] His ceremonies laid by, in his nakedness he appears but a man" (4.1.102-106). But his statements, delivered in disguise, argue that the king cannot honestly appear frail or fearful lest he "dishearten his army" (112). Essentially, Henry justifies the lie of ceremony and false appearance, disguised in Thomas of Erpingham's cloak, even as he purports to banish the distance between king and common soldier. The Chorus describes Henry's visiting of his troops, where he "Bids them good morrow with a modest smile/And calls them brothers, friends, and countrymen" (4.Chorus.33-4). But 4.1 shows Henry picking fights with Fluellen and defensively justifying the king's behavior to Bates and Williams. When Williams questions the generous characterization of the king, Henry challenges him. The attempts to abandon ceremony in this scene cap insistent comments about ceremony in the second tetralogy. (4) Henry never returns to this everyman disguise, preferring the authority of office, despite the crown's unease that his father has already discovered in II Henry IV (3.1.31).
While I Henry IV is certainly not simply a theological treatise, it does allude to two central Protestant theological tenets in its exposition of monarchy: the discrediting of transubstantiation, or the idea that the accidentals (appearances) of bread and wine remain even as the substances are miraculously transformed into the body and blood of Christ to be consumed in the Eucharist; and the rejection of iconography, defined as idolatry by the reformers. (5) I Henry IV, and Shakespeare's second tetralogy in general, I believe, argue that image-making and false pretenses have created a false religion of the state. Falstaff, the irrepressible outsider and critic of his betters, ironically emulates the Lollard Lord Cobham, who denounced the doctrine of transubstantiation, arguing that the common substances of bread and wine must coexist with the substance of Christ's body and blood. The common elements of food and drink are not banished, but coexist, with the divine presence. Secondly, Cobham chastises the Catholic Church for idolizing iconography and false images over the Divine presence of God. Both of these theological arguments form the bases for a critique of monarchy that falsely deifies the king by invoking the outmoded concept of divine right, and by privileging ceremony and the artifice of kingship over the humble assumption of royal responsibility. (6)
Not only Falstaff's iconoclastic irreverence for his betters, but his sheer corporeality presents an obstacle to the image that the royal players construct of themselves in I Henry IV. In linking the transgressive, feminized features of Falstaff's corporeality to Rabelaisian and Bakhtinian waywardness, Valerie Traub has outlined a shrewd reading of Falstaff's grotesque body as the "pre-oedipal maternal, whose rejection is the basis upon which patriarchal subjectivity is predicated" (55). This awkward corporeal bulk is replaced with the virginal French spouse Katharine in Henry V; a "symbolic substitution of Falstaff by Katharine effects a strategic displacement and containment," notes Traub, in which "the debased maternal is replaced with an idealized woman" (63). The corporeality of this ancient vice, moreover, recalls the Protestant rankling over the doctrine of transubstantiation or consubstantiation, whether, as in the former, the accidentals of bread and wine remain, but the substance is utterly transformed to the body and blood; or the latter, where the substances of bread and wine exist, simultaneously, with the essence of the sacred body and blood, as Lollards and later, Luther, averred. Foxe's Acres and Monuments notes that articles brought against Lord Cobham describe him as "far otherwise in belief of the sacrament of the altar [the Eucharist], of penance, of pilgrimage, of image-worshipping, and of the ecclesiastical power, than the holy church of Rome had taught many years ago" (A&M 3: 322). Two of these involve the central doctrinal controversies of transubstantiation and veneration of images. Each of these "heresies," when secularized, may be characterized as seditious, rebellious, and treasonous. To the embarrassment of both ecclesiastical and political authorities, Lord Cobham escaped from the Tower and lived in hiding, supported by friends, for four years, until he was eventually caught and charged with both heresy and treason. He was drawn, hanged, and burned on December 14, 1417. Like Cobham, Falstaff is a constant reminder of how difficult it is to banish the materialist, transgressive body, its feminized corpulence emphasizing the frailty of humanity, just at the moment when the monarchy wishes to deny the reality of its own flawed history. Even the insistent emphasis on eating in I Henry IV, of Falstaff's enormous appetite and of his venue, the tavern, recall in parodic form the issues of the Eucharistic banquet provoking such controversy in the sixteenth century. Diarmaid MacCulloch suggests that "alehouses had played a significant role in spreading Protestant ideas in the early days of the Reformation while the Protestant faith could still be seen as new and potentially subversive" (136-37). (7) Falstaff's appearance and his venue, thus, mark him as a "protestant."
In A Treatise on the New Testament, that is, the Holy Mass (1520), Martin Luther argues for the need of both the word (testament) and the sign, the bread and wine (sacrament) to reveal the mysteries of the "invisible" testament:
[Christ] has affixed to the words a powerful and most precious seal and sign: his own true flesh and blood under the bread and wine. For we poor men, living as we do in our five senses, must always have along with the word at least one outward sign to which we may cling around which we may gather--in such a way, however, that this sign may be a sacrament, that is, that it may be external and yet contain and signify something spiritual; in order that through the external we may be drawn into the spiritual, comprehending the external in the eyes of the body and the spiritual or inward with the eyes of the heart. (Works, 35: 86)
In his examination for heresy on 25 September 1413, Lord Cobham was asked whether the Eucharist "was onely Christes body after the consecration of a priest, and no bread or not?"
It is both Christs body and bread. I shall proue it as thus: for lyke as Chryst dwelling here vppon the earth, had in him both Godhede and manhead, and had the inuisible godhead couered under that manhead, which was only visible and seane in him: so in the Sacrament of the Aulter is Christes very body and very bread also, as I beleue the breade is the thing that we see with our eyes, the bodye of Christ (whiche is his flesh and his blood) is there vnder hydde, and not seane, but in fayth. (State Trials 233) (8)
For Cobham, the Lollard, and his successor, Luther, it was equally important that both the figural substance of the body and blood and the material reality of bread and wine are present in the sacrament. The mediation between bread and body is the Word, which transforms ordinary food into spiritual sustenance. To deny that bread is bread, even when it is the consecrated body of Christ, defies reason. Cobham refuses to banish material reality before spiritual belief. The message for kingship, it seems, is the same. The anointed king must recognize that his fallible human nature coexists with his power to execute regal authority. He may be in error, even illegitimate. This argument, intimated by Falstaff to Prince Hal, provokes Falstaff's banishment.
William Tyndale's The Souper of the Lorde (c. 1534), (9) in a vituperative response to Thomas More's defense of the doctrine of transubstantiation, suggests that the literal, the material, and the sensual are crucial in preparing for the figurative, the essential, and the spiritual:
At least consider unto what ende all thinges tended in that last souper, how the figure teched the verite, the shadew the bodye, and how the verite abolesshed the figure, and the shadewe gave place to the bodye. Loke also with what congruence, proporcion, and similitude bothe in the accion and the speche, all thinges were consonant and finesshed, and to lede us by siche sensible signes from the figure unto the verite, from the flesshe unto the spirit. ([Lv])
In the doctrine of consubstantiation the substances of bread and wine do not simply disappear when the body and blood are invoked by the words of the priest. Both substances--bread and wine, body and blood--simultaneously coexist, as Cobham noted in his reference to the incarnational nature of Christ. The mingling of humanity and divinity became a model for the complementarity of material and spiritual substances. That is, the material substance cannot be banished from the sacred space of the Eucharist.
Bread and wine may simultaneously be both food and the body and blood of Christ through the paradox of faith. However, in the political realm, I Henry IV examines not paradox, but hypocrisy: the contradiction that results from false fronts that disguise true inner meaning. Although he is himself a liar and cheat, Falstaff is ironically often the very man who spies hypocrisy within his betters and comments on it. He is frequently, in both game and earnest, accusing Hal of hypocrisy, often by noting the disparity between the appearance of the prince and his "substance." Later, this hypocrisy will shape the ruse under which King Henry IV will fight: by sending counterfeit kings into battle.
The roleplaying by both Hal and Falstaff in 2.4 reinforces the skill with which Hal is able to adapt his guise to fit the need. Falstaff, perhaps originally Hal's instructor in deception, fares less well than his pupil. Falstaff's role as the young prince in this play-within-play is suspended by the sheriff's posse at the door. "Play out the play. I have much to say in the behalf of that Falstaff" (479-80), claims the man himself, adding "Never call a true piece of gold a counterfeit. Thou art essentially made without seeming so" (486-87). (10) Next to the extraordinary counterfeiter Hal, Falstaff oddly enough seems to be the genuine, though perhaps debased, article. Hal, boldly equivocating with the sheriff, claims that he has sent Falstaff away on an errand. To fool the authorities the Prince is comfortable in putting on "a true face and good conscience" (496-97). But of these attributes Falstaff admits, "Both which I have had; but their date is out, and therefore I'll hide me" (498-99). The fallen Falstaff is what he is. Hal is what he is not. In 3.3 Falstaff reminds Hal of his dual nature: "Why, Hal, thou knowest, as thou art but man, I dare; but as thou art prince, I fear thee as I fear the roaring of the lion's whelp" (147-48). Hal's royal nature, Falstaff notes, differs from Hal's human nature, but they simultaneously exist. Just as the reality of bread and wine does not vanish at the moment of consecration, Hal's human failings and those of his father cannot be completely overshadowed by the kingly office. Falstaff's argument reflects the dual nature of the incarnated Christ and the Eucharistic doctrine of consubstantiation. (11)
In his discussion of several outspoken martyrs in Foxe's Actes & Monuments who challenge Roman Catholic doctrine, Huston Diehl offers the example of Edmund Allin, who questions the reasonableness of the doctrine of transubstantiation, because "such a little cake" could not also be "a material body" or have "a soul, life, sinews, bones, flesh, legs, head, arms, [nor] breast" (A&M 8:324 Qtd. in Diehl 29). (12) Another martyr, identified only as Prest's wife, chastises a Dutchman she sees attempting to repair disfigured statues in a church. When she proclaims him and his images to be cursed, he calls her a whore, to which she responds, "Nay, [...] thy images are whores, and thou art a whore-hunter; for doth not God say 'You go a whoring after strange gods, figures of your own making?' And thou art one of them" (A&M 8:500 Qtd. in Diehl, 31). For their troubles, both speakers are imprisoned and interrogated. Diehl concludes, "Foxe's protagonists look upon miraculous images with skepticism, demystify mysterious rites with empirical reasoning, resist the appeal of the imaginative with appeals to faith and the word of God, and desacralize images by calling attention to their artifice and identifying them as representations" (39).
Just as, in these two instances, the common, plainspoken believer is exalted in Foxe's accounts, a person of questionable social status might also ironically be the clearest truth speaker in Shakespeare's history play. So it appears to be the case with the whoreson rogue Falstaff. While Falstaff's actions are criticized, he nonetheless voices the iconoclastic argument against the honorable trappings surrounding the images of monarchy, honor, and war. Falstaff looks askance at the insincerity of King Henry and the posturing of the rebels; he is gentle with the foibles of Hal, but not hesitant to remind the Prince of his questionable right to the throne. If the theological controversies plaguing the Catholic Church can be mapped onto the monarchy of the Lancastrian line, then we might find a secular attempt at transubstantiation in the effort of King Henry and the Prince to "transform" or to reform: an erasure of the reality so that the transcendent mystery of divine right may stand in its place. Just as those who refused to deny the presence of bread and wine after the consecration, Falstaff refuses to forget the usurpation and murder by which the monarchy was gained. He sees the human, vulnerable, and culpable king as he also acknowledges the splendor of his office. The substance of corporeal presence, in other words, must co-exist with the king's sacred body--a consubstantiation that iconoclastically undercuts the royal pomp.
SHAKESPEARE'S I Henry IV is also laden with the language found in anti-Catholic tracts against the worship and misuse of iconography. The target, however, is only peripherally the Catholic Church in this play (and those of the second tetralogy). Instead, the religious imagery of the Reformation is brought to bear upon the iconography of the monarchy. As early as 1547, Stephen Gardiner had drawn a connection between the blasphemy of idol worship and the treasonous betrayal of kingship:
The destruction of images containeth an enterprise to subvert religion, and the state of the world with it, and especially the nobility, who, by images, set forth and spread abroad, to be read of all people, their lineage and parentage, with remembrance of their state and acts. (A&M 6:26-32. Qtd. in Diehl 18)
Gardiner's linking of the need for religious as well as monarchial iconography--and his suggestion that an abasement of the former leads to an abasement of the latter--creates the basis for my reading of the reformationist agenda in I Henry IV. Although the play is not without its religious comment, for the most part, it uses the language of reformationist theology to address the political false gods placed on the pedestal vacated by the usurped King Richard II. "For Gardiner and other traditionalists," claims Diehl, "Protestant iconoclasm is a dangerous enterprise that undermines religious, political, and social order by calling into question the central symbols of that order. His fears suggest how threatening iconoclasm was to a powerful elite who depended on sacred and political images to assert and maintain their privileged positions in the social hierarchy" (Diehl 18-19). (13) Those who stand to lose these privileged positions at court must fend off or make peace with the critiques from Eastcheap leveled at the new Lancastrian dynasty. King Henry, who as Bolingbroke had relished his camaraderie with London citizens, now sequesters himself behind the pomp of state. His son, Hal, plays the far more challenging game on the home turf of Falstaff, seeking to create his own royal image in the pragmatic and skeptical tavern world. Eventually, Hal, like his father, will retreat from the commoners, the criticism, and the threat of iconoclasm, the better to preserve his self-image.
As early as I Henry VI, Shakespeare begins the examination of false images in state iconography, setting the ambiguous but forthright Joan of Arc and her "voices" against the hollow authority of the English military leader Talbot, and, incidentally, the honor of the Lancastrian dynasty. Her iconoclastic irreverence and subsequent punishment anticipate the monarchial critique offered by Falstaff, as well as the banishment he must endure. Phyllis Rackin notes the similarity between the characters of Falstaff and Joan, who both stand against the empty words of their rivals: "The play [I Henry VI] defines [Talbot's and Joan's] conflict as a contest between English words and French things, between the historical record that Talbot wishes to preserve and the physical reality that Joan invokes to discredit it" (Rackin 151). What Rackin calls "Joan's reductive, nominalistic attack[s]" threaten the "formal edifice" of the Talbot English myth (153). Edward Berry also aligns Falstaff and Joan, claiming that "Joan foreshadows Falstaff, anticipating [him] in her sarcasm, her indifference to honor in the face of physical reality, [and] her witty perception of life's incongruities" (Berry 17).
Falstaff's real life counterpart, Lord Cobham, like the Maid, is "martyred"; Cobham even suffers hanging (for the charge of treason), before a fire is kindled beneath the gallows and he is burned, like Joan, for his heretical actions and statements. His death duplicates not only the contemporary punishment of heretics up through Shakespeare's time, but also the practice of iconoclasm in the burning of effigies. Reformation Europe of the sixteenth century saw a number of ritual burnings of images at the stake, of statues placed in the pillory, even of the town executioner carrying out the hanging of those religious effigies (Michalski 76, 91). As late as 1599, St. Bartholomew's Day was commemorated in London with the ritual burnings of statues of St. John and the Virgin Mary (Michalski 93). And as early as November 1389, Henry Knighton offers an account of two Lollards in Leicester who suffer public penance for burning a wooden statue of St. Catherine. Knighton indicates that "a feature of this Lollard sect [is] to hate and attack images, and they preached that they were idols, and scorned them as counterfeits (simulacra)" (Aston 133). Closer to home, Holinshed records evidence of Cobham's own iconoclastic defacement of images. Although Cobham, at large after his prison escape, avoids capture on this occasion, his men and some incriminating evidence are seized. In their hiding place
were found books written in English, and some of those books in times past had beene trimlie gilt, limned, and beautified with images, the heads whereof had beene scraped off, and in the Letanie they had boltted foorth the name of our ladie, and of other saints, till they came to the verse Parce nobis Dommine. Diuerse writings were found there also, in derogation of such honor as then was thought due our ladie. The abbat of saint Albons sent the booke so disfigured with scrapings & blottings out, with other such writings as there were found, vnto the king; who sent the booke againe to the archbishop, to shew the same in his sermons at Paules crosse in London, to the end that the citizens and other people of the realme might vnderstand the purposes of those that then were called Lollards, to bring them further in discredit with the people. (Holinshed, 3:92)
Cobham's disfiguring of the images is evidence of his heretical lollardry. The material evidence is brought first to his king, whereupon the sovereign passes it to the ecclesiastical authorities. Hall's Chronicles explicitly names Cobham as both a heretic and a traitor in the brief coverage of his arrest, interrogation, escape, capture, and execution. Neither Hall nor Holinshed mentions the treasonous northern uprising of 1414, which Cobham supposedly led. But both historians, as Annabel Patterson has noted, (14) use the occasion of the Cobham narrative to call into question the veracity of historiography. Both chroniclers seem to invite the readers to make their own determination of Cobham's complicity in treasonous actions. Following the Protestant agenda of venerating this Lollard saint, Foxe energetically disputes any charge of treason, but certainly Cobham's refusal of the king's request to "reconcile himselfe to God and to his lawes" (Holinshed 3:62) depicts him as a recalcitrant Catholic and subject. When Cobham refuses to recant, Henry sends him to the Tower, where he is tried and denounced as a heretic by the archbishop of Canterbury. In Hall's Chronicles brief references to Cobham are interspersed among detailed accounts of Henry's battles with France, as if Hall is noting the skill with which the monarch manages insurrection both at home and abroad:
Duryng this marciall feactes and greate conquestes in Normandy, sir Jhon Oldecastle lord Cobham whiche was as you haue heard before was conuicted of heresy, and proclaimed as a rebell, and vpon the same outlawed and brake out of the toure, was now as his fortune chaunced apprehended in the Marches of Wales by the Lord Powes, and so restored to his olde lodgyng in the toure, [...] After whiche takyng, he was drawen from the toure on a hal'dell to Sainct Gilesfelde, and there hanged in chaynes and after consumed with fire. Well now leauyng the matters of Englande let vs returne to the affaires in Normandy. (81)
Not only "conuicted of heresy" but "proclaimed as a rebel," Cobham defies ecclesiastical and political authority in the historical accounts. And Shakespeare follows suit, appropriating the theological arguments against idolatry for the political reminder of the unsteady throne a usurping king and his son will inherit.
The character of Sir John Oldcastle seems intimately connected with critiques of hypocritical institutions, both political and ecclesiastical. Even the play written after I Henry IV specifically to exonerate the Cobham family reputation offers a critique of the monarchy as well as Cobham's defiance of Rome. Performed in 1599 by the Admiral's Men, The Firstpart of the true and Honorable history of the life of Sir John Oldcastle, the good Lord Cobham offers a critique of kingship by the character Sir John, the Parson of Wrotham, who has inherited all the vices of Shakespeare's Sir John Falstaff. While the other Sir John, Lord Cobham, piously espouses the divine right of kings and invokes his right of conscience to disobey the pope in Rome (2.3), this "shadow" Sir John of Wrotham pricks a disguised Henry V about the king's chequered past. In an exchange reminiscent of the Gad's Hill robbery scene from I Henry IV, The First part of [...] Sir John Oldcastle comments on the Lancasters' theft of the crown:
Sir John: Well, if old king Harry had liv'd, this king that is now, had made thieving the best trade in England.
K. Henry [Prince Hal]: Why so?
Sir John: Because he was the chief warden of our company. It's pity that e'er he should have been a king, he was so brave a thief. (3.4) (15)
The same linking of religious with political satire occurs in the 1601 publication of The Mirror of Martyrs or the life and death of that thrice valiant Capitaine and most godly Martyred Sir John Oldcastle knight Lord Cobham. The Mirror of Martyrs, attributed to J. Weever, offers several stanzas justifying Cobham's defiance of the church while maintaining the validity of a king, even a tyrannical one who is misled by his prelates. When King Henry asks Cobham to obey the dictates of the Catholic Church, Cobham in the poem recounts:
I answerd in humilitie, (Because I knew kings were the Lords annointed) To him I yielded all supremacie, As Gods sword-bearing minister appointed: My body, goods, my life, my loue, my land Were his to vse, distribute, or command. [...] If tyrants will, vsurpt authoritie Must be obey'd, what reuerence me behoued To giue this king, this tyrants enemie, Feared for loue, and for his virtues loued, Whose honours ensigne o're the world had spred him, In warres, and peace, if church men had not led him. ([D4.sup.r-v]) (16)
While the first stanza quoted here espouses the traditional notion of divine right, the subsequent stanza qualifies the king's authority with the critique of the king's tyranny prompted by his ecclesiastical counselors. Even this tribute to Sir John Oldcastle yokes the tyranny of church and state. Links between the historical iconoclast Cobham and the literary character Falstaff may thus be forged through evidence in historical accounts and in literary texts contemporaneous with Shakespeare's play. Furthermore, it appears that critiques of ecclesiastical authority are also linked to commentary on the Lancastrian counterfeiting of monarchy. It now remains to be seen what "counterfeits" Falstaff seeks to deface in Shakespeare's play and what forces gather to erase him.
Some of these false shows are anticipated in Richard II by Richard's suspicion that kingship is composed of the iconographic symbols of state, such as the scepter, crown, and throne: the images of authority to which since the age of ten he had become accustomed. Although Richard arguably fails to learn the lesson that accidentals (material possessions) do not make a king, he ironically comes closer to this understanding than the Lancastrian princes who replace him in the skepticism he voices about ceremony:
Throw away respect, Tradition, form, and ceremonious duty, For you have but mistook me all this while. I live with bread like you, feel want, Taste grief, need friends. Subjected thus, How can you say to me I am a king? (RII 3.2.172-77)
The potential for insight is dropped here when Richard hears news of the forces deserting him and determines to surrender to Bolingbroke's "fair day" (218). Again in 3.3, Richard's litany of the accoutrements of office demonstrate both the power of these totems (relics?), but also his skepticism that these iconographic symbols of kingship may preserve his rule:
Must he lose The name of king? I' God's name let it go! I'll give my jewels for a set of beads, My gorgeous palace for a hermitage, My gay apparel for an almsman's gown, My figured goblets for a dish of wood, My scepter for a palmer's walking-staff, My subjects for a pair of carved saints, And my large kingdom for a little grave. (3.3.145-54)
The first play of the second tetralogy is already making the case for a divorce of the accoutrements of office from the office itself. When Bolingbroke, in his blunt, Machiavellian way, asks Richard to renounce the throne and step aside for more competent leadership, one feels a chilling Puritan breeze blowing away the regalia of state. However, subsequent plays of the tetralogy suggest that, far from denouncing the trappings of state, Henry and his son ardently desire them. After unseating a king whose sense of divine right of kingship is dependent on the flatterers who protect the myth of state, Henry inaugurates his own myth, with as much fanfare, regalia, and iconography as sustained Richard. (17)
Concern about the false trappings of state is mirrored in John Calvin's detailed castigation of images in Institutes, an argument widely known in Shakespeare's time. Calvin specifically attacks worship that relies on material props or humanly devised ceremonies and, with little effort, the arguments against idolatry can be shifted to the false divination of a usurping king, or of his son. According to Calvin, human nature, fundamentally corrupted, creates its own fantasies about the divine, thereby engaging not in authentic worship, but in idolatry (Eire 209). Calvin's Inventory of Relics notes the differences between worship of the accoutrements of divinity as opposed to divinity itself:
But the first vice, and as it were, beginning of the evil, was, that when Christ ought to have been sought in his Word, sacrament, and spiritual graces, the world, after its custom, delighted in his garments, vests, and swaddling-clothes; and thus overlooking the principal matter, followed only its accessory. (Inventory 6.409 Qtd. in Eire 211) (18)
The culprits are material paraphernalia, the ritual and ceremony by which, according to Calvin, the heart is led into idolatry (Eire 219). In this context, we need to consider again Falstaff's pointed critique of Hal--as perhaps a future king "of shreds and patches," but not the unaccommodated man that Lear, much later, will proclaim as the "thing itself."
The critique begins in 1.2 with Falstaff's question, "shall there be gallows standing in England when thou art king? [...] Do not thou, when thou art king, hang a thief' (1.2.57-60). The reference to the usurpation that brought Bolingbroke to the throne and determines Hal's ascendancy is more than intimated here, as is the following invitation to Hal to become one of the thieves who rob the king's exchequer:
Hal: Who, I rob? I a thief? Not I, by my faith.
Fal: There's neither honesty, manhood, nor good fellowship in thee, nor thou cam'st not of the blood royal, if thou darest not stand for ten shillings.
Hal: Well, come what will, I'll tarry at home.
Fal: By the Lord, I'll be a traitor then, when thou art king. (1.2.135-43)
"I care not," claims Hal. Yet in some way, of course, he must care. Falstaff's questioning of his legitimacy is exactly what Hal addresses in the soliloquy ending the scene.
The language of Hal's "I know you all" soliloquy in 1.2 appropriates reformist imagery, markedly in the reference to Hal's shrewdly planned timing of his "revelation." Even the assertion that "nothing pleaseth but rare accidents" (201) may offer an obscure glance at the accidentals of the Eucharist, part of the Reformation's debate over transubstantiation. The mingling of religious and financial metaphors dominating the second half of the soliloquy highlights our suspicions about Hal's intentions. In fact, what Hal promises seems to contradict or travesty authentic reformation. The "loose behavior" is a ruse to be thrown off; Hal suggests that he feels no guilt; owing nothing, he is merely being generous in paying this "debt" to society. In the soliloquy there is no acceptance of the culpability that characterizes his subsequent speeches before his father (3.2) and the representatives of the Percies' army (5.1). (19)
So when this loose behavior I throw off And pay the debt I never promised; By how much better than my word I am, By so much shall I falsify men's hopes, And like bright metal on a sullen ground, My reformation, glittering o'er my fault, Shall show more goodly and attract more eyes Than that which hath no foil to set it off. I'll so offend to make offence a skill, Redeeming time when men think least I will. (1.2.202-211)
Hal's reformation will glitter o'er his fault, simply covering it with the pretense of yet another act. The redemption becomes an act of bravado, a work of theater, rather than of authentic reform. Graham Holderness hears in Hal's soliloquy "a reconstruction of royalty, a reuniting of sovereign authority with the heroic virtue it seems to be losing" (Holderness 163). Yet Stephen Greenblatt casts this reconstruction in a more negative light, arguing that "the founding of the modern State, like the founding of the modern prince, is shown to be based upon acts of calculation, intimidation, and deceit. And the demonstration of these acts is rendered an entertainment for which an audience, subject to just this State, will pay money and applaud" (39). Even Holderness admits that Hal's promise to his father to redeem his reputation is an "opportunistic" appropriation of Hotspur's well-deserved reputation (165).
Falstaff continues this chipping away at Hal's basis for royal identity in 2.4. Having caught Falstaff in the lie about the "men in buckram" who assailed the cowardly thieves and robbed them of the king's treasure, Hal needles, "What trick, what device [...] canst thou now find out to hide thee from this open and apparent shame?" (2.4.259-62) And Falstaff, parodying rhetoric that privileges divinely sanctioned monarchial authority, counters,
Was it for me to kill the heir apparent? Should I turn upon the true prince? [...] The lion will not touch the true prince. [...] I shall think the better of myself, and thee, during my life--I for a valiant lion, and thou for a true prince. (265-72)
Because Falstaff is no valiant lion, it follows that Hal cannot claim his title either. The issue of "true" royalty, rather than of Falstaff's cowardice, seems to be emphasized further with Hal's jest immediately following about the "noble man," Sir John Bracy, sent by King Henry to summon Hal to court. "Give him as much as will make a royal man, and send him back again to my mother" (287-88), says the cocky Prince. But do we not hear in that jest the economic rather than aristocratic valuing of honor? And were Hal's mother to receive a "true" royal, would he not displace the token or feigned royalty of Hal's own father? Within 60 lines, Hal's words again seem to push against the authority of royalty and lineage that he so clearly hopes to redeem, with the blunt statement of the accoutrements of office fashioned for Falstaff's kingly role: "Thy state is taken for a joint stool, thy golden scepter for a leaden dagger, and thy precious rich crown for a pitiful bald crown" (376-78). These are the instruments of office, of course, that Hal inherits later in the scene:
Hal: Dost thou speak like a king? Do thou stand for me, and I'll play my father.
Fal: Depose me? If thou dost it half so gravely, so majestically, both in word and matter, hang me up by the heels for a rabbitsucker or a poulter's hare. (428-32)
We might even hear in the word "grave" the suggestion of graven image that constitutes the construction of royalty in this play. There is little word and matter conjoined in this prince of accidentals. (20)
THE same scene is dominated, by impersonation, or counterfeit: Falstaff playing a king, Hal playing himself, then shifting to play his father, a role that he must literally assume, and Falstaff also playing Hal. Both actors mimic the high court diction of Henry; both invoke high moral principles, but not in "practice," only in rehearsal. And the play confirms that Hal's inheritance from Bolingbroke is not the blood royal, but a penchant for playacting. Henry's revelations to his son in 3.2 are laden with the language of impersonation, of counterfeiting, even of "stealing courtesy" from the legitimate king. In 5.3, the rebel forces will directly encounter this phenomenon with Hotspur's observation that "The king hath many marching in his coats" (25) and Douglas' cry, "Another king? They grow like Hydra's heads" (5.4.25). When the "true" king finally meets his assailant, the exchange is telling:
Douglas: What art thou, That counterfeit'st the person of a king?
King: The King himself, who, Douglas, grieves at heart So many of his shadows thou hast met And not the very King. (27-31)
And how many false images or "shadows" of kingship have we encountered in this play? Perhaps all of them. (21)
On the contrary, Falstaff takes pains to assert that he is not "counterfeit" late in the play. After he has feigned death to escape Douglas' sword and heard Hal's impromptu eulogy, Falstaff rises with the words,
'twas time to counterfeit, or that hot termagant Scot had paid me, scot and lot too. Counterfeit? I lie, I am no counterfeit. To die is to be a counterfeit, for he is but the counterfeit of a man who hath not the life of a man; but to counterfeit dying, when a man thereby liveth, is to be no counterfeit but the true and perfect image of life indeed. (5.4.113-119)
This definition of counterfeit has the attribute of self-preservation, but also of honesty. Counterfeiting is not done to preserve an ideal, but to protect real flesh and blood. It is a compromise, perhaps, but no counterfeit. Later, when Hal and his brother Prince John see Falstaff in the flesh, Hal remarks,
Hal: Art thou alive? Or is it fantasy that plays upon our eyesight? I prithee, speak. We will not trust our eyes Without our ears. Thou art not what thou seem'st.
Fal: No, that's certain, I am not a double man; but if I be not Jack Falstaff, then am I a Jack. (5.4.133-38)
Editions of the text usually gloss "double" as meaning either a ghost or else "two men." But the idea of "double" again comments on the counterfeit theme of the play. (22) Whereas the King and his son do counterfeit, Falstaff, for all his prevarications and equivocations, is still no "double." His form of counterfeiting is no counterfeit, as he notes, since it preserves his multiple, complex, and certainly flawed life. The dead Sir Walter Blunt is one of the many nobles impersonating the King, protecting Henry's life at the expense of his own. And Blunt's honor, used to protect a less than honorable king, seems the more egregious counterfeiting to Falstaff. Certainly, such a definition of counterfeit sacrifices honor, but that virtue has already been compromised by Bolingbroke's usurpation and will be further with the gilded lie that Hal promises to tell on Falstaff's behalf.
In refusing to give lip service to the empty virtues of honor and courtesy, Falstaff emulates his historical counterpart, Lord Cobham, who refused to pay homage to false idols, asserting,
that whoso it be, that doth the worship to dead images that is due to God, or putteth such hope or trust in help of them, as he should do to God, or hath affection in one more than in another, he doth in that, the greatest sin of Mammetry [puppet, or idol-worship] [...] I owe them [holy relics and images] no service by any commandment of God. [...] It were best [...] to bury them fair in the ground, as ye do other aged people, who are God's images. (A&M 5: 327, 334)
These denunciations by Lord Cobham pit word against false image, in the same way that the Lollard believer privileges the word against the form or ceremony of the false religion. And so, too, Falstaff, against the "religion" of honor. In 3.3, Hal's lofty sentiment expressed in a couplet fairly glows with royal honor: "The land is burning. Percy stands on high, / And either we or they must lower lie" (203-04). Falstaff swiftly undercuts the high diction with the prose rejoinder that concludes the scene: "Rare words! brave world! Hostess, my breakfast, come. O, I could wish this tavern were my drum" (205-06).
Although typically Falstaff is characterized as the vice figure, with his "dagger of lath" and his temptation of the young prince from his royal role, Falstaff consistently casts Hal in the role of tempter--and it is tempting in this reading to see Hal, not Falstaff, as the engineer of a theft greater than that of the king's exchequer--the crown itself. In 1.2, Falstaff laments to Hal,
thou [...] art indeed able to corrupt a saint. Thou hast done much harm upon me, Hal, God forgive thee for it. Before I knew thee, Hal, I knew nothing; and now am I, if a man should speak truly, little better than one of the wicked. I must give over this life, and I will give it over. By the Lord, an I do not I am a villain. (89-95)
In 2.2, Falstaff complains to Poins that Hal has bewitched him:
I have forsworn his [Hal's] company hourly any time this two-and-twenty years, and yet I am bewitched with the rogue's company. If the rascal have not given me medicines to make me love him, I'll be hanged; it could not be else--I have drunk medicines. (15-19)
Falstaff's comments may easily be seen as self-serving, but there are moments when the assertions reveal a disarming truth. When castigated by Hal for accusing the Hostess of picking his pockets, Falstaff admits, "Thou knowest in the state of innocency Adam fell; and what should poor Jack Falstaff do in the days of villainy? Thou see'st I have more flesh than another man, and therefore more frailty" (3.3.165-69). Then, Falstaff slyly includes his own accusation against Hal, who must have rifled Falstaff's pockets to know the contents so well: "You confess then you picked my pocket" (169). The frailty of flesh serves as a good protestant motif for Falstaff. He may cling desperately to the life of indulgence, but his words echo the lament of a man aware of his good and evil natures, a duality that Hal hopes to deny in the making of his royal image.
One of the blackest marks against Falstaff is his treatment of the soldiers entrusted to his care. 4.2 offers Falstaff's lengthy soliloquy about his abuse of the King's press. Yet even buried here might be a reference to the sins of his better: "you would think that I had a hundred and fifty tattered prodigals lately come from swine-keeping, from eating draft and husks" (4.2.33-35). (23) The rag-tag army of prodigals stands in for the former prodigal prince, who has since reconciled himself with his father and left Falstaff's constant company. Falstaff's abuse of the press is obvious, yet so is the abuse of power in the King's war, brought home even more pointedly when Falstaff encounters the body of the dead Sir Walter Blunt: "There's honor for you! Here's no vanity!" (5.3.32-33). Within the same brief soliloquy, Falstaff comments on the consequences of war that befall the nobility and the remnant of his platoon, who are now bound "for the town's end, to beg during life" (37-38). War becomes the great leveler, with no regard for honor, courage, or status.
Falstaff concludes 5.1 with a mocking prose disputation on honor, part of a chivalric code that makes no sense in a world of usurpation and counterfeit. The virtue of honor, set in the midst of compromised loyalties, in service to a king who has gained his position by usurpation, and who employs the loyalties of others for his tainted realm--that, too, surely is a graven honor. Falstaff's pragmatism castigates an honor that Hotspur defines not as life but as titles: "I better brook the loss of brittle life / Than those proud titles thou hast won of me; / They wound my thoughts worse than thy sword my flesh" (5.4.78-80). Honor has become empty air, or else empty words. It is Falstaff's task to measure these empty vessels of virtue for what they truly are. Ideas and honors have neither reality nor validity when disembodied, divorced from commerce with the peccadilloes of the world. (24)
Falstaff, that is, cannot banish the world, nor his presence within and of it. But Hal desires that purity, perhaps even some honorable deeds and actions: the gilded lies of the history he wishes to create for himself. The rejection forecast in Hal's chilling response to Falstaff's self-defense in 2.4, "Banish old Jack, and banish all the world," to which Hal responds, "I do, I will," is also the final step in the engraving of Hal's pristine image of the Christian prince that will govern his character in the next two history plays. (25)
What does it mean to "banish all the world" in banishing Jack Falstaff? What world does Falstaff represent? In part, it is the carnivalesque world of the marketplace from which no ruler should ever fully withdraw. But what else does Hal hope to banish if not the insistent mocking voice reminding him of the vanity of his princely disguise, his borrowed words and hypocritical deeds? In the presence of Falstaff's skepticism, it is impossible for Hal to maintain his iconography of kingship. He must banish that spectator, that specter, that conscience, in order to perform his princely role. And to bring this "protestant" reading more emphatically to light, let me put the case this way: Hal needs to banish the word of Falstaff that will raze the carefully constructed image of authority with the very same arguments that another critic of images, Joan, exposed to the blinding authority of her inner voice. What does it mean to banish Falstaff's world? It means to banish the word--and Hal is about as successful in repressing this text as the prelates were in stopping Cobham's voice of Lollardy in 1417, or French priests were in silencing Joan with excommunication and fire in 1431. (26)
Yet Joan and Falstaff cannot completely undermine the worship of monarchial idols. Their reformationist arguments fall before kingship's language, gestures, and symbols. This triumph of fabricated authority, of course, also safeguards the spectacle and rhetorical flourishes of the theater. Shakespeare, unlike Falstaff, Joan, and Luther, cannot completely privilege the word and banish the iconic (and dramatic) spectacle of power. Yet the reformationist critique in these history plays remains, opening a gap in the otherwise seamless manufacture of the Tudor myth's monstrous creation of the state.
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(1) The carnivalesque reading of Falstaff derives from Mikhail Bahktin's discussion in Rabelais and his World (1965), trans. Helene Iswolsky (Bloomington: Indiana UE 1984). See Valerie Traub, "Prince Hal's Falstaff: Positioning Psychoanalysis and the Female Reproductive Body" in Desire and Anxiety: Circulation of Sexuality in Shakespearean Drama (NY: Routledge, 1992) 50-70 and Michael Bristol, Carnival and Theater: Plebeian Culture and the Structure of Authority in Renaissance England (NY: Methuen, 1985). More recently, Francois Laroque characterizes the opposition of court and tavern with the battle of Carnival and Lent (222). See "The Falstaff Scene Reconsidered (1 and 2 Henry IV)," Sir John Falstaff, ed. Harold Bloom (Philadelphia: Chelsea House, 2004) 211-23. Rep. from Shakespeare and Carnival: After Bakhtin, ed. Ronald A. Knowles (London: Macmillan, 1998). While Traub's and Bristol's readings offer important insights, I would like to focus attention on the carnival's "protestant" antagonism to authority that takes itself and its fictions too seriously. Falstaff's role in revealing the hypocrisy of monarchy is discussed by Stephen Greenblatt, "Invisible Bullets" in Political Shakespeare, ed. Jonathan Dollimore and Alan Sinfield (Manchester: Manchester UP, 1985) 18-48; Alexander Leggatt, "Henry IV," Shakespeare's Political Drama (NY: Routledge, 1988) 77-113; and Sandra Billington, Mock Kings in Medieval Society and Renaissance Drama (Oxford: Clarendon P, 1991) 148-58. All three texts note the questionable nature of Hal's "transformation."
At its core, the doctrine of transubstantiation is a doctrine of transformation, professing to "erase" the substance of bread and wine, much as, I would argue, Henry IV and his successors hoped to erase from political memory the method by which the throne was procured. By contrast, the argument of consubstantiation retains a sense of the material in the presence of the transcendent. It may be likened to an argument that acknowledges the limitations of human beings as well as their sacred potential, much as the mingling of flawed humanity and royalty occurs in the image of kingship.
Tom McAlindon argues that Prince Hal acquires both social and spiritual grace in the course of I Henry IV, becoming "a redeemed and redeeming prince, one who possesses the major king-becoming graces" (82). While I read Prince Hal more skeptically, I admire McAlindon's linking of the play to the religious controversies of sixteenth-century Britain, particularly in the Pilgrimage of Grace (1536) and the Northern Rebellion (1569-70). A major catalyst for both uprisings, claims McAlindon, was Henry VIII's attack on Catholicism (70). Hal's characterization, including his judicious "excommunication" (82) of Falstaff, espouses the Protestant theme of reformation. See "Pilgrims of Grace: Henry IV Historicized" Shakespeare Survey 48 (1995): 69-84.
(2) I use David Bevington's The Complete Works of Shakespeare, updated 4th edn. (New York: Addison-Wesley, 1997). Citations appear parenthetically in the text.
(3) Louis Montrose, The Purpose of Playing: Shakespeare and the Cultural Politics of the Elizabethan Theatre (Chicago: U Chicago P, 1996) 84. An equally fine discussion of Falstaff's multiple natures and satirical purposes is offered by Hugh Grady, Shakespeare, Machiavelli, and Montaigne: Power and Subjectivity from Richard II to Hamlet (Oxford: OUP, 2002). See especially chapter 4.
(4) References abound. Some of the more familiar are Richard II's albeit theatrically staged comment about ceremony mentioned later in this essay (RII 3.2.172-177) as well as glimmerings of insight in his final soliloquy "But whate'er I be, / Nor I, nor any man that but man is,/With nothing shall be pleased till he be eased / With being nothing" (RII 5.5.38-41) and Henry IV's soliloquy concluding "Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown" (HHIV3.1.1-31).
(5) On the connection between the worship of images and the sacraments, see Margaret Aston, "Introduction," England's Iconoclasts: Law against Images vol. I (Oxford: Clarendon, 1988) 2-9. Aston offers an excellent overview of the Lollards' attitude toward images in chapter 4, "Lollards and Images," 96-159. For a definition of "Transubstantiation," see The New Schaff-Herzog Religious Encyclopedia, ed. Samuel Macauley Jackson, vol. 11 (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1953) 494-501. The discussion concurs with the definitions of transubstantiation and consubstantiation offered in The Catholic Encyclopedia, ed. K. Knight. vol. 5 1909 and vol. 4 1908. Robert Appleton Co. Online Edition, 2003.
(6) The descendants of the Lollard martyr Sir John Oldcastle, Lord Cobham, demanded that the name Oldcastle in the Henry IV plays be changed. See The Oldcastle Controversy, ed. Peter Corbin and Douglas Sedge (NY: St. Martin's, 1991).Gary Taylor argues that the name Oldcastle should be restored in editions of the play to better reflect Shakespeare's satiric intentions. See "The Fortunes of Oldcastle," Shakespeare Survey 38 (1985): 85-100. A persuasive argument by David Scott Kastan suggests that Shakespeare's intention in his characterization of Falstaff is not a Catholic-influenced critique of Oldcastle's Protestantism, but a critique of radical Protestantism, which had been denounced by the Queen (218). See "Killed with Hard Opinions: Oldcastle, Falstaff, and the Reformed Text of I Henry IV," Textual Formation and Reformations, ed. Laurie E. Maguire and Thomas L. Berger (Newark: U Delaware P, 1998) 211-27. Tom McAlindon represents the majority opinion of critics, who argue that Falstaff "constitutes a deliberate and audacious caricature of a Protestant hero" (100). See "Perfect Answers: Religious Inquisition, Falstaffian Wit" Shakespeare Survey 54 (2001): 100-107. McAlindon notes the specific ways in which the play directly parodies features of Lord Cobham in the character of Falstaff or makes references to details of Cobham's exploits. McAlindon suggests that John Bale's 1544 account of Cobham's valiant courage under interrogation and his cleverness in answering the prelates might have influenced Falstaff's characterization. In her examination of historical accounts of Lord Cobham, Annabel Patterson calls John Bale's Briefe Chronycle "a revisionary account" that helps to rewrite history to redeem Lord Cobham. See "Sir John Oldcastle as Symbol of Reformation Historiography," Religion, Literature, and Politics in Post-Reformation England, 1540-1688, ed. Donna Hamilton and Richard Strier (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1996) 6-26. Kristen Poole draws important comparisons between Oldcastle and the Marprelate controversy, concluding, "this breakdown of hierarchical division is precisely what Oldcastle threatened by leading a mob against the king, and in part what Marprelate advocated by seeking to pull down pontifical robes [...]. Falstaff thus seems almost to literalize this removal of social, hierarchical boundaries: Falstaff becomes the community which can, through jest, ingest its leaders" (73). See "Falstaff, Marprelate, and the Staging of Puritanism," Shakespeare Quarterly 46 (Spring 1995): 47-75. Falstaff's character is clearly an important site for some ambiguous political and religious commentary.
(7) See The Later Reformation in England, 1547-1603, 2nd ed. (NY: St. Martin's, 2001), where Diarmaid MacCulloch contrasts the tavern with the "re-pewing of the churches," ranked according to social order, as opposed to the relatively classless disorder of the tavern (136-37). The tavern becomes, then, a site of "consubstantive" mingling. A helpful discussion of the doctrine of consubstantiation is offered by Sarah Beckwith through the example of the Corpus Christi plays, which "are neither static images, nor rituals which function without a text, though they may partake of either form. They can only be understood as incorporating both. Material and spiritual, external and internal are not then understood as contrasts with each other" (278). See "Sacrum Signum: Sacramentality and Dissent in York's Theatre of Corpus Christi" Criticism and Dissent in the Middle Ages, ed. Rita Copeland (NY: Cambridge UP, 1996) 264-88. Huston Diehl draws a similar parallel between the Protestant ritual of the Eucharist and the Renaissance play, but suggests that both "destabilize their spectators, denying them any unmediated experience of visible things and fostering a distrust of externals" (98). See Staging Reform, Reforming the Stage (Ithaca: Cornell UP, 1997).
Two important essays in Shakespeare and the Culture of Christianity in Early Modern Europe, ed. Dennis Taylor and David N. Beauregard (NY: Fordham UP, 2003) address the Catholicism and Protestantism of the Henry plays. In "Mocking Oldcastle: Notes Toward Exploring a Possible Catholic Presence in Shakespeare's Henriad," Gary D. Hamilton sees the basis for a Catholic message in Hal's redeeming his reputation by banishing his devilish (Lollard) counselor and subduing the rebellion (155). Although I see fewer hints of Catholic bias in the play than Hamilton does, he draws useful comparisons between Falstaff and the unruly caricatures of Protestants in Catholic polemics. (The essay appears on pp. 141-158). In the same volume, Timothy Rosendale argues in "Sacral and Sacramental Kingship in the Lancastrian Tetralogy" that "Richard II portrays the collapse of [...] a sacral model of kingship, the authority of which derives from the asserted presence and immanence of the divine in person of the King; Henry V replaces this failed system with a sacramental model of kingship--one in which authority is constituted and sustained through the interpretive cooperation of its subjects." Rosendale also connects this critique of political order with the Eucharist theological controversy: "This political movement from divine immanence to participatory representation [...] mirrors the earlier theological shift from Roman Catholic transubstantiation to Reformed Eucharistic remembrance" (124). I find this reading compelling, although I do not see evidence for a successful "reformation of kingship" in Henry V. Rosendale speaks little of Prince Hal and his relationship with Falstaff. (This essay appears on pp.121-140).
(8) I quote from The Complete Collection of State Trials and Proceedings 1163-1600, vol. I, ed. T.B. Howell (London: Longman, 1816). Cobham is responding to the Roman Catholic characterization of the Eucharist: "That after the sacramentall wordes be ones spoken by a priest in his masse, the materiall bread, that was before bread, is turned into Christes very body; and the materyall wyne, is turned into Christes very bloud; and so there remayneth in the sacrament of the aulter, from thens forth, no materyall breade, nor materiall wyne, which were there before the sacramental wordes were spoken" (State Trials 235).
In Reformation of Church and Dogma (1300-1700) vol. 4 in The Christian Tradition: A History of the Development of Doctrine series (Chicago: Chicago UP, 1984), Jaroslav Pelikan discusses the efforts of the reformers to develop an alternative theology to the Catholic doctrine of the Eucharist. Pelikan suggests that the reformers feared "'artolatory,' the idolatrous worship of the bread in the Lord's supper" (200). Much of the reformers' concern is centered around figurative language and the iconoclastic dangers the reformers saw in idolatrous images, including metaphors. The use of such figurative language as metaphor, trope, and metonymy is discussed by Pelikan on pages 193-201.
A valuable discussion of the link between iconoclasm and the Eucharistic controversy is offered in chapter 5 (pp. 169-94) of Sergiusz Michalski's The Reformation and the Visual Arts (NY: Routledge, 1993). Michalski traces the link to Wyclif's rejection of all images--including the idolatrous worship of the Real Presence in the Eucharist (174).
(9) In The Mass and the English Reformers (NY: St. Martin's, 1958) 102-103, Clifford W. Dugmore claims Tyndale is the probable author of the anonymous The Soaper of the Lorde. See his detailed discussion of Eucharistic theology in England, pp. 39-56.
(10) Bevington's note on this passage asserts "Falstaff seems to suggest that he is true gold, not counterfeit, and so should not be betrayed to the watch by the Prince who, he hopes, is not merely playing at the tavern, but is truly one of its madcap members" (Note to 2.4.486-8). Not only does Falstaff claim his own authenticity (gold, not counterfeit), but he seems to comment on Hal's two natures: one that is "essentially made," but whose appearance seems to deny. The differences between appearance and reality may quickly be translated to the accidentals and substance of a theological debate.
(11) For a popular discussion of the king's dual identity see Ernest H. Kantorowicz, The King's Two Bodies: A Study in Medieval Political Theory (Princeton: Princeton UP, 1957). Andrew Hadfield discusses the concept in relation to Henry V in Shakespeare and Renaissance Politics (London: Thomson Learning, 2004). His discussion of Henry V's soliloquy before the battle "can be read as a meditation on the notion of the king's two bodies, whereby a monarch was deemed to have a private and a public persona, his office and his person (Henry V 4.1.227-265)." See pp. 59-65. A powerful interpretation of the counterfeit nature of Henry's kingship is offered in Hugh Grady's discussion of the second tetralogy. In Shakespeare, Machiavelli, Montaigne: Power and Subjectivity from Richard II to Hamlet, Grady discusses the subversive nature of the play, including Falstaff's comments on Henry's counterfeit nature and Hal's illegitimacy. See pp.128-33. Grady argues that Falstaff "illustrates the shortcomings and untruths of an era's perceived ideology," adding "Sir John's comic championing of the bodily self and its pleasures functions as a communal, class-conscious discourse of a plebeian social element oppressed by the idealisms of Church and State" (156). I would suggest that these false "idealisms" of church and state represent the vanity of pretension in both secular and sacred institutions that the play questions. It seems that Grady would at least minimally concur, given that he sees Falstaff as a protesting 'anti-saint': "while Falstaff is designed to be the very opposite of a Puritan saint [...] , there are clear moments in I and II Henry IV when his very theatricality [...] is highlighted as a means of resistance to early modern power" (145). Earlier, Grady has argued that it is Falstaff's "role in I Henry IV to invert and resist the ideologies of power" (144). The resistance that I see offered by Falstaff" is to the fabrication of the ideology, the Machiavellian statecraft promoted by Henry and his son.
(12) Huston Diehl uses the modern edition of John Foxe's Actes and Monuments, ed. Stephen Reed Cattley (London, 1837-41). Volume and page numbers are parenthetically cited.
(13) In War Against the Idols (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1986), Carlos M.N. Eire makes a similar claim: "Iconoclasm [...] tested and strained the political systems of many localities, since it challenged civic as well as ecclesiastical authorities" (313).
(14) Annabel Patterson's discussion of the various accounts of Oldcastle's activities locates the "redemption" of Oldcastle in Hall, who fails to mention any charges of sedition or treason (13). But his 1544 edition admits that some accounts charge Oldcastle with treason and heresy. Hall leaves the judgment on this matter "to men indifferent. For surely all conjectures be not true [...]" (p.49. Qtd in Patterson 15). Similarly, Holinshed hedges on Oldcastle's participation in armed rebellion, with a concluding comment about Oldcastle's capture in the Marches of Wales, "But howsoever the matter went with these men, apprehended they were, and diverse of them executed [...] whether for rebellion or heresie, or for both (as the forme of the indictment importeth) I need not spend manie words, sith others have so largely treated thereof' (III, 64; qtd in Patterson 18). The historical accounts that Shakespeare consulted, then, leave ample room for the mingling of religious and political critiques in the actions of Oldcastle. The language of religious controversy is used to critique the iconoclastic Lancastrian monarchy.
(15) The First Part of Sir John Oldcastle in Disputed Plays of William Shakespeare, ed. William Kozlenko (New York: Hawthorne Books, 1974). Line numbers are not provided in this text. Act and scene are cited parenthetically. This play (Part II has been lost) is now attributed to Michael Drayton, Richard Hathaway, Anthony Munday, and Robert Wilson. See Corbin and Sedge, ed. The Oldcastle Controversy and Taylor, "The Fortunes of Oldcastle."
(16) John Weever, The Mirror of Martyrs: The Life and death of that thrice valiant Captaine, and the most godly Martyre Sir John Old-castle knight Lord Cobham (1601).
(17) Richard F. Hardin astutely discusses the idol-worship given Richard II and suggests the similarities in Richard II and Bolingbroke. Ceremony is "the veil that conceals Richard from himself and the cloak that Henry IV will use to hide his guilt" (134). Less compelling is Hardin's claim that in Henry V Hal "abjures ceremony" (144). See Civil Idolatry: Desacralizing and Monarchy in Spenser, Shakespeare, and Milton (Cranbury, NJ: Associated UP, 1992). The popular reading of Falstaff's fall and Hal's rise to glory is ably offered in Jean Howard's chapter "Kings and Pretenders: Monarchical Theatricality in the Shakespearean History Play," The Stage and Social Struggles in Early Modern England (NY: Routledge, 1994) 129-153. Maurice Hunt offers a more complex reading of the "protestant" elements in the tetralogy by suggesting that "a noteworthy blend of Catholic and Protestant traits enables King Henry V in the aftermath of Agincourt to achieve a relatively successful transformation of character" (176). Hunt's reading offers many insights, although I am less convinced by the happy marriage of two competing theologies in the person of Henry V. Hunt argues that "Shakespeare implicitly criticizes the idol worship latent in Hal's conception of his reformation" that is articulated in his soliloquy (182). See "The Hybrid Reformations of Shakespeare's Second Henriad," Comparative Drama 32 (Spring 1998): 176-206.
(18) Eire translates from Corpus Reformatorum: Joannis Calvini Opera quae supersunt omnia ed. W. Baum, E. Cunitz, and E. Reuss (Brunswick, 1863-80). Volume and page numbers of this edition appear parenthetically.
(19) But see a different reading in "Shakespeare's Dionysian Prince: Drama, Politics, and the 'Athenian' History Play," Renaissance Quarterly 52 (1999): 366-83, where Grace Tiffany argues that Hal's characterization as the sun is part of the "eternally restorative Dionysian ritual" (368).
(20) In Shakespeare's Histories (NY: St. Martin's, 1985) Graham Holderness clarifies the object of 2.4's satire: "The mockery is not simply directed against Falstaff as a pretender to undeserved status and royal celebrity: it is directed against the pomp and ceremony of royalty itself [...] " (116).
(21) See Wolfgang Iser, Staging Politics: The Lasting Impact of Shakespeare's Histories (NY: Columbia UP, 1993) 122-166, especially pp. 150-53 on the King's counterfeiting: "At this moment of the conflict, the King is viewed as if he were a semblance of himself. But who is the King? What we have seen of him throughout the play has always been shot through with ambivalence--as revealed by the reversal of positions, false judgments, ambiguous attitudes [...]. If the rebels now see him as a counterfeit, this is--from another perspective--simply the reverse side of his divided being, which renders ambivalent everything of which he is constituted" (150). It is crucial to recognize not only that Henry is ambivalent and changeable, but that he refuses to admit such vacillation, preferring to present himself as stable and constant.
(22) See Gerald Cox, "'Like a Prince Indeed': Hal's Triumph of Honor in I Henry IV," Pageantry in the Elizabethan Theatre, ed. David Bergeron (Athens: U Georgia P, 1985) 130-52. Cox notes the theatricality of Hal's "reformation," suggesting that the "change" is superficial. Cox quotes Vernon's characterization of Hal's "double spirit" (4.2.63) that he has "mastered" in his apology for his truant behavior and gallant challenge to single combat (133).
(23) See Charles Whitney's discussion of the prodigal son image in "Festivity and Topicality in the Coventry Scene of I Henry IV," ELR 24.3 (Spring 1994): 410-48: "the irony of 'food for powder' [...] suggests that Hal, as a leading member of the elite, has some responsibility for beggars being sent into battle; Sir John here contrives to become the wry spokesman for the very lower orders he is fond of exploiting" (425). Whitney also notes that Falstaff identifies his recruits with Hal, as "prodigals" (424), and plans to exploit both. Yet I think the more significant message is Whitney's assertion of the carnivalistic leveling accomplished in this identification. Falstaff is not impressed with rank or status, but with common humanity. Hugh Grady also notes that in 4.2 Falstaff's soliloquy "is one of a simultaneous condemnation of exploitation and a dark, worldly-wise acknowledgement " of the world's ways. Falstaff, moreover, is both the corrupt recruiter and the critic of such practices" (618). See "Falstaff: Subjectivity between the Carnival and the Aesthetic" Modern Language Review 96.3 (July 2001): 609-623. The idea is repeated in Machiavelli, 155. John Blanpied emphasizes Falstaff's role as social critic in his discussion of 4.2, "Falstaff counterpunches against the powerful autonomy of the heroic plot" (172). See chapter 9 (pp. 145-78), "Rebellion and Design in Henry IV, Part One," Time and the Artist in Shakespeare's Histories (Newark, NJ: U Delaware P, 1983).
(24) I agree with the reading of Hal in Tim Spiekerman's essay "The Education of Hal: Henry IV, Parts I and II," Shakespeare's Political Pageant, ed. Joseph Alulis and Vickie Sullivan (London: Rowman and Littlefield, 1996) 103-125 that questions "the sincerity of Hal's 'conversion'" and regards his "incessant professions of faith with skepticism [...] since Henry V is just as guilty of political intrigue and treachery as his father" (122). But I differ from Spiekerman's reading of Falstaff, whom he calls "a careless and unconvincing liar [...] a man unconcerned with appearances" (122). I would characterize Falstaff as an authentic iconoclast and Hal as an effigy of the truth, the target of Falstaff's iconoclasm. Spiekerman also asserts, "Falstaff may or may not be an atheist, but he is the only character in the play--besides Hal, who is probably imitating him--whose conversation is peppered with Biblical allusions, and his references are never respectful" (117). Citing the "honor speech," Spiekerman claims the speech "is obviously subversive of all morality" (117). Falstaff's irony, however, is directed at the hypocrisy of a monarch who sits on a usurped throne. Falstaff's keen denunciation highlights the loss of morality in the Lancastrian realm.
(25) Yet the play reminds us insistently that such clearcut distinctions cannot exist in the fallen world of the Lancastrian monarchy. In her examination of conscience in Henry VIII and other Jacobean history plays, Martha S. Robinson distinguishes between the account of the English reformation in Foxe's Actes and Monuments and Shakespeare's approach, noting "For Foxe, [...] the testimony of conscience rooted in the word of God is a mirror of God's truth. [...]. Shakespeare, in contrast, rejects the reformers' pretensions to accurately weigh the Word of God against the traditions of men and so pronounce heaven's verdict" (40). See chapter 2 (pp.29-54), "Trial and Redemption: Authority on the Tragicomic Stage of History," Writing the Reformation: Actes and Monuments and the Jacobean History Play (Aldershot: Ashgate Publishing, 2002).
(26) By emphasizing the power of Falstaff's word, I am invoking the Protestant valuing of word (vs. image) that characterizes the reformers' theology. In his discussion of Calvin's theology, Thomas H. Luxon calls Protestantism "a radically word-centered religion. [...] Protestants explicitly privilege the revelation of the Word over the revelation in the things of the world because the Word made the things; hearing the Word, then, is more reliable than seeing things" (445). In the play I distinguish words from the false ceremonies or appearances of royalty--the "things" of kingly office. Falstaff's jests cut through the show of honor, order, and royal "image." See "Calvin and Bunyan on Word and Image: Is There a Text in Interpreter's House?" ELR 18.3 (Autumn 1988): 438-59.
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|Author:||Caldwell, Ellen M.|
|Publication:||Renascence: Essays on Values in Literature|
|Date:||Jun 22, 2007|
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