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Sir John Falstaff first appeared onstage as a character in Shakespeare’s ‘Henry IV, part 1’ in about 1597. If you haven’t had the pleasure of his acquaintance, let ICONS introduce you: he’s a mischievous liar, a coward, a drunkard and a glutton but has a huge capacity for life, fun and friendship. He is young Prince Hal’s drinking companion in the lively London tavern scenes in the Henry plays, full of rude jokes, practical jokes and fantastic insults. But Hal has to reject him when he becomes king. The speech in ‘Henry V’ where the Hostess tells his companions how he died is one of the most moving moments of the play: “the King has kill’d his heart.” Falstaff was such a popular character that he got his very own “spin-off” vehicle in ‘The Merry Wives of Windsor’. He also appears in at least nine operas and his own novel! Falstaff represents a jovial view of Olde England: enjoying his beer, his food, his women and his friends.

Image: Topfoto.co.uk


Your comments

Falstaff - from Shakespeare’s 'Henry IV'. The English are best at drama, great characters and drink!

Janet Suzman

I knew nothing about Falstaff, so I've just read a bit about him. I looked him up after my work colleagues called me Falstaff, I was intigued to know why. What a character he sounds, and I'm just like him!
Steve Rafferty

Arguably the most important thing about Falstaff is that he is by far the most perceptive character in the two plays, Henry IV Parts one and Two. While Hotspur and Prince Hal and Henry IV and the other nobles are busy plotting each other's downfall through war, rebellion, and violence - coated in the sugar of 'honour',,Falstaff recognises that life and laughter and good company are much more important. He regards 'honour' as a mere word , a 'scutcheon'and he who has it 'died on Wednesday'. Shakespeare comes alive most in these plays when he writes of Falstaff, who stands for all that is anti establishment in the best of English tradition!
Mick Wilson

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My favourite Icon of England has to be the Cornish Pasty.

Ian Baldry