Henry IV and As You Like It: The Relationship Between Older and Younger Males
Compare the relations between older and younger men in the following extracts; pay close attention to the use of dramatic language and the opportunities offered by the text for different emphases in production: 1 Henry IV, 2.4.109-62 (Bevington ed., pp. 182-6) and As You Like It, 2.3.27-77 (Brissenden ed., pp. 131-3)
The two extracts differ dramatically in their approach to the relations between older and younger men. In summary, the As You Like It scene is serious and moving, conducted in verse, concerned with issues of faithfulness, and uses Biblical references for metaphors. The scene from Henry IV is humorous, conducted in prose, concerned with betrayal and falsehood, (even if it is set in a farcical context,) and refers to common sayings in its metaphors and oaths. Both scenes examine the comparison of an old world to the new, to different levels of significance. The potential exists in both scenes to perform them in opposition to the audiences expectations – comic elements could be introduced into the As You Like It scene, and the Henry IV scene could be darkened in places.
The extract from Henry IV is conducted in prose throughout; its use can be allotted by social distinction, for superior characters to inferiors, or it can be used by one of high status to another, as a calculating insult. In this case though, it is appropriate for the surroundings of the Eastcheap tavern, and is used among persons of varying status to express their friendship. Hal effectively moves between the prose world of Eastcheap and the noble world of exalted blank verse. The use of prose in the tavern is simply a different register and does not necessarily make it an inferior form; Falstaff’s prose often seems to speak more truth than the elevated language of the courtiers. The use of prose here also has the effect of increasing the pace of the scene, and the brisk exchanges of short pieces of dialogue support this:
HAL: Why, you whoreson round man, what’s the matter?
FALSTAFF: Are you not a coward? Answer me to that. And Poins there?
POINS: Zounds, ye fat paunch, an ye call me coward, by the Lord, I’ll stab thee.
1 Henry IV 2.4.134-39
By contrast, the As You Like It extract is conducted in blank verse. It’s unrhymed, measured iambic pentameter was the most popular poetic form, or vehicle, of English Renaissance drama. It tends to be used by high-ranking characters, as a mark of respect to each other, or to talk down to inferiors. In this extract, however, Adam would be considered an inferior of Orlando, yet they converse in blank verse without the intention of insult. A lowly character such as Adam, like that of Caliban in The Tempest, gains reverence and status by his use of verse, and shows the mutual respect and friendship between the pair. Adam’s rhyming couplets in his final speech give formal heightening to his resolve, and an audible marker to the conclusion of this part of the play, which, apart from the small scene 3.1, takes place in the forest. The blocks of dialogue are much larger here, and the use of verse slows the scene down, allowing the audience to contemplate it fully. It is important that the audience should hear what is being said here, and understand the nature of Orlando’s and Adam’s relationship, whereas much of the humour in the Henry IV scene requires less attention, and has already been anticipated earlier in the play when we hear Poin’s scheme in 1.2.
An actor can vary the register and tone of their speech to build character from their role and to interact with other roles in the scene, since there are potentially multiple performances within each speech. Varying the second-person pronoun between ‘thou’, ‘thee’, or ‘you’, and their possessives, ‘thy’, ‘thine’, or ‘your’, was a crucial method of indicating status and register in the early modern period. The use of ‘thou’ expresses affection between family and friends, or condescending superiority to an inferior, or contempt towards strangers. In Henry IV, Hal refers to Falstaff as ‘thou’ in friendly terms, but switches angrily, possibly in jest, to ‘you’ when Falstaff continues to ignore him, ‘How now, woolsack, what mutter you?’ [2.4.129]. Falstaff switches between ‘thou’ and ‘you,’ and although it is textually unclear, the scene could be directed in such a way as to make him refer to Poins as ‘thou’ and Hal, ‘You, Prince of Wales!’ [2.4.133] as ‘you.’ In this period, one would use ‘you’ to either someone of status as an inferior, or someone one did not know well – Falstaff could be implying both these sentiments, as he is angry that Hal thought himself too good for the raid, and let down by a friend, someone he should have known well. In the As You Like It extract, Orlando refers to Adam as ?thou’ throughout, as is common from masters to servants, but here it seems to express their friendship. However, Adam still feels the need to refer to Orlando as ‘you’, up until his final speech where their loyalty to each other is confirmed and he announces, ‘Master, go on, and I will follow thee,’ [2.3.70] although retaining the title of ‘Master,’ to preserve some distinction of status.
It is interesting to note that many allusions in the As You Like It extract are drawn from the Bible, emphasising the formal, sombre nature of the scene. For example:
ADAM: Take that, and he that doth the ravens feed,
Yea providently caters for the sparrow,
Be comfort to my age.
As You Like It 2.3.44-46
Is a reference to God’s feeding the ravens in Psalm 147 : 9, Luke 12 : 24, and Job 38 : 41. God’s concern for the sparrows is mentioned in Matthew 10 : 29, and Luke 12 : 6. The phrase, ?yet I am strong and lusty,’ [2.3.48] reiterates, yet inverts the meaning of, Psalm 73 : 4, where the psalmist complains that the wicked, who are strong and lusty, or vigorous, always seem to be better off. Adam’s implication here, however, is that he has kept his strength because he has not given into worldly temptations. Additionally, the lines:
ORLANDO: …none will sweat but for promotion,
And having that do choke their service up
Even with the having.
As You Like It 2.3.61-63
Could be derived from the parable of the sower, Matthew 13 : 22, where the world is choked up by the deceitfulness of riches. In the Henry IV extract, however, it is noticeable that the allusions pertain to alterations of common sayings of the day, rather than the authority of the Bible. ‘There is nothing but roguery to be found in villainous man,’ [2.4.119-120] is a variation on the saying, ‘there is no faith in man,’ and ‘…thy lips are scarce wiped since thou drunk’st last’ [2.4.147-8] is a ironic variation on the saying ‘you licked not your lips since you lied last.’ ‘Then am I a shotten herring,’ [2.4.24] uses the saying, ‘as lean as a shotten herring,’ (one which has spawned and is especially thin and emaciated,) ironically due to Falstaff’s large size. Additionally, Falstaff makes some very unusual oaths, in keeping with the comic nature of the scene. Instead of the traditional ‘By God…’ or, ‘By Heaven…’ or, ‘…may God strike me down,’ etc., he uses oaths such as, ‘Ere I live this life long, I’ll sew nethersocks,’ [2.4.111-2] ‘…then am I a shotten herring,’ [2.4.24] and, ‘I’ll never wear hair on my face more,’ [2.4.132-3]. An interesting display of parallelism from Falstaff occurs at line 145-5, ‘I am a rogue if I drunk today’ and line 158-9, ‘I am a rogue if I were not at half-sword with a dozen of them two hours together.’ This adds humour to the scene as it is ironically significant that Falstaff is a rogue as he was not at half-sword with a dozen men – no-one could accuse him of lying. Other examples of parallelism include the mention of ‘a thousand pounds’ at line 139, and again at line 153, supposedly the amount stolen from the gang. Elsewhere in the play, the sum is 300 marks, or 200 pounds, but the exaggeration here is appropriate to Falstaff’s previous hyperbole, ‘I would give a thousand pounds I could run as fast as thou canst.’ In the As You Like It extract, Orlando’s closing speech ends with the word ‘content,’ which was used by Celia in her final couplet before leaving the court for the forest [1.3.137], giving a circularity of plot – both characters are wrongfully banished from their home, and seek refuge, peace, or ‘content’ in the forest.
It has already been pointed out that the Henry IV extract is intended to be the start of a very amusing scene. Falstaff’s reprimanding of Hal and Poins for being cowards is ironic as the audience know they robbed him and his gang, acting far from cowardly. Other humorous aspects include Falstaff’s disgruntled manner of ignoring them, his outrageous oaths and curses, and the fact that we see him falling into Poin’s trap, and hearing ‘the incomprehensible lies that this same fat rogue will tell,’ [1.2.174-5]. Falstaff makes a comic pose of pious virtue in his vows to make and darn stockings, replace soles, and sing psalms. Numerous references are made to Falstaff’s corpulence, a universal mirth-provoking topic, including, ‘Titan,’ [2.4115] the irony of ‘am I a shotten herring,’ [2.4.124] ‘one of them is fat and grows old,’ [2.4.125-6] ‘woolsack,’ [2.4.129] ‘whoreson round man,’ [2.4.134] and ‘ye fat paunch,’ [2.4.138]. Darker elements could be introduced into this scene, however, contrary to audience expectations. It has already been pointed out that the apparently random interchangeability of ‘thee’ and ‘you’ could be a calculated attempt to show Falstaff’s true anger and disappointment in Hal. Elsewhere in the play, there is little evidence to suggest that he knows of the plot, although it has been produced this way in Eighteenth-Century adaptations, but only by adding lines to the original script. How much sense of betrayal hides behind Falstaff’s comic grumpiness? Falstaff’s mention of, ‘a dagger of lath,’ [2.4.131] alludes to a stage property of the Vice figure in Morality plays, used as a comic weapon. In this allusion, parallels can be drawn between Falstaff and the Vice figure, who was not only hilariously comic but inherently evil. Therefore, the scene could also act as a precursor to Hal’s eventual rejection of Falstaff, adding a dark, ironic edge to the proceedings.
The As You Like It extract is taken from a serious scene between Orlando and his faithful servant Adam – this in itself is far removed from the bickering and deceitful scene between Hal and Falstaff. It is significant in context to the rest of the play, since it is the last scene in the court and concludes, in a sense, that section of the play. It also hinges on one of the play’s central themes – the comparison of an old and new world. It was pointed out that dark undertones could co-exist in the light-hearted Henry IV extract, and similarly, part of this scene could be played comically to break up the tension. When Adam offers Orlando the five hundred crowns of his life-savings, the container it is presented in has varied in performance from a tiny draw-string pouch to enormous buckets of pennies, almost impossible to lift. This depiction of two extremes presents Adam as a comical figure due to his stereotypical selfless, Christ-like role. The examination of the values of an old and new world comes when Orlando praises Adam for retaining traditional values, of working out of a sense of duty and not profit:
O good old man, how well in thee appears
The constant service of the antique world,
When service sweat for duty, not for meed!
Henry IV 2.3.57-59
This theme is also examined, albeit in a lighter way, in the Henry IV extract. Falstaff bemoans the modern world, claiming, ‘God help the while! A bad world I say!’ [2.4.126-7] it’s population, ‘a plague of all cowards.’ [2.4.110] This is a pointed jibe at Hal and Poins, yet approaches the same topic as the As You Like It extract.
In conclusion, Henry IV’s use of prose indicates its humorousness and the friendship between characters of different social status. As You Like It shows this too, yet it’s verse displays a more formal tone. It has been shown that both extracts can display sentiments contrary to audience expectations – the comic incorporates darkness, the sombre has the potential for humour. The Biblical allusions in this extract are replaced with comic oaths from Falstaff in Henry IV. Both extracts are linked by their examination of old and new world values.
Shakespeare, W. (1998). Henry IV Part I. (c. 1598) D. Bevington (Ed.) Oxford: Oxford University Press
Shakespeare, W. (1998). As You Like It. (c. 1600) A. Brissenden (Ed.) Oxford: Oxford University Press
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