Falstaff's Boasting by Shakespeare
This scene will give a good chance to practise variety of
expression, both in words and action. Falstaff throws himself
into all the attitudes, and elevates and depresses his voice, as if
he was actually engaged in the combat he describes—preserving
the utmost gravity of face, until he finds that the Prince has
really detected him. Then the "fat rogue" bursts into a jolly,
unctuous laugh, and carries off the honors, after all:
P. Henry. What's the matter?
Fal. What's the matter? there be four of us here
have ta'en a thousand pound this morning.
P. Hen. Where is it, Jack? where is it?
Fal. Where is it? taken from us it is: a hundred
upon poor four of us.
P. Hen. What, a hundred, man?
Fal. I am a rogue, if I were not at half-sword
with a dozen of them two hours together. I have
'scaped by miracle. I am eight times thrust through
the doublet; four, through the hose; my buckler cut
through and through; my sword hacked like a hand-saw
ecce signum. I never dealt better since I was a
man: all would not do. A plague of all cowards!—Let
them speak: if they speak more or less than
truth, they are villains, and the sons of darkness.
P. Hen. Speak, sirs: how was it?
Gads. We four set upon some dozen,—
Fal. Sixteen at least, my lord.
Gads. And bound them.
Peto. No, no, they were not bound.
Fal. You rogue, they were bound, every man of
them; or I am a Jew else, an Ebrew Jew.
Gads. As we were sharing, some six or seven
fresh men set upon us.
Fal. And unbound the rest, and then come in the
P. Hen. What, fought ye with them all?
Fal. All! I know not what ye call, all; but if I
fought not with fifty of them, I am a bunch of radish;
if there were not two or three and fifty upon poor old
Jack, then I am no two-legged creature.
Poins. Pray God, you have not murdered some of
Fal. Nay, that's past praying for, for I have
peppered two of them: two, I am sure, I have paid;
two rogues in buckram suits. I tell thee what, Hal,—if
I tell thee a lie, spit in my face, call me horse.
Thou knowest my old ward;—here I lay, and thus
I bore my point. Four rogues in buckram let drive at
P. Hen. What, four? thou said'st but two, even
Fal. Four, Hal; I told thee four.
Poins. Ay, ay, he said four.
Fal. These four came all a-front, and mainly
thrust at me. I made no more ado, but took all their
seven points in my target, thus.
P. Hen. Seven? why, there were but four, even
Fal. In buckram.
Poins. Ay, four in buckram suits.
Fal. Seven, by these hilts, or I am a villain else.
P. Hen. Pr'ythee, let him alone; we shall have
Fal. Dost thou hear me, Hal?
P. Hen. Ay, and mark thee too, Jack.
Fal. Do, so, for it is worth the listening to. The
nine in buckram that I told thee of,——
P. Hen. So, two more already.
Fal. Their points being broken,——
Poins. Down fell their hose.
Fal. Began to give me ground: But I followed
me close, came in foot and hand: and, with a
thought, seven of the eleven I paid.
P. Hen. O monstrous! eleven buckram men
grown out of two!
Fal. But, as the devil would have it, three misbegotten
knaves, in Kendal green, came at my back,
and let drive at me; for it was so dark, Hal, that
thou couldst not see thy hand.
P. Hen. These lies are like the father that begets
them; gross as a mountain, open palpable. Why,
thou clay-brained guts; thou knotty-pated fool! thou
whoreson, obscene, greasy, tallow-keech,—
Fal. What, art thou mad? art thou mad? is not
the truth, the truth?
P. Hen. Why, how couldst thou know these men
in Kendal green, when it was so dark thou couldst
not see thy hand? come, tell us thy reason; what
sayest thou to this?
Poins. Come, your reason, Jack, your reason.
Fal. What, upon compulsion? No; were I at
the strappado, or all the racks in the world, I would
not tell you on compulsion. Give you a reason on
compulsion! if reasons were as plenty as blackberries
I would give no man a reason upon compulsion, I.
P. Hen. I'll be no longer guilty of this sin; this
sanguine coward, this bed-presser, this horse back-breaker,
this huge hill of flesh;—
Fal. Away, you starveling, you elf-skin, you
dried neat's-tongue, bull's-pizzle, you stock-fish,—O
for breath to utter what is like thee!—you tailor's
yard, you sheathe, you bow-case, you vile standing
P. Hen. Well, breathe a while and then to it
again; and when thou hast tired thyself in base
comparisons hear me speak but this.
Poins. Mark, Jack.
P. Hen. We two saw you four set on four: you
bound them, and were masters of their wealth.—Mark
now how plain a tale shall put you down.—Then
did we two set on you four: and, with a word,
out-faced you from your prize, and have it; yea, and
can show it you here in the house:—and, Falstaff,
you carried your guts away as nimbly, with as quick
dexterity, and roared for mercy, and still ran and
roared, as ever I heard bull-calf. What a slave art
thou, to hack thy sword, as thou hast done; and
then say, it was a fight! What trick, what device,
what starting-hole, canst now find out, to hide thee
from this open and apparent shame?
Poins. Come, let's hear, Jack: What trick hast
Fal. By the Lord, I knew ye, as well as he that
made ye. Why, hear ye, my masters: Was it for
me to kill the heir apparent? Should I turn upon the
true prince? Why, thou knowest, I am as valiant as
Hercules; but beware instinct; the lion will not
touch the true prince. Instinct is a great matter; I
was a coward on instinct. I shall think the better of
myself and thee, during my life; I, for a valiant
lion, and thou for a true prince. But, by the Lord,
lads, I am glad you have the money.—Hostess, clap
to the doors; watch to-night, pray to-morrow.—Gallant,
lads, boys, hearts of gold. All the titles of
good fellowship come to you! What, shall we be
merry? shall we have a play extempore?