William Shakespeare's King Henry the Fourth is forever famous for the comic character Falstaff who infamously proclaims "discretion is the better part of valour".
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HOME > Plays > The First Part of King Henry the Fourth > Act III. Scene III.

The First Part of King Henry the Fourth

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Act III. Scene III.

Scene III.—Eastcheap. A Room in the
Boar's Head Tavern.

Enter FALSTAFF and BARDOLPH.

Fal. Bardolph, am I not fallen away vilely
since this last action? do I not bate? do I not
dwindle? Why, my skin hangs about me like an
old lady's loose gown; I am withered like an old
apple-John. Well, I'll repent, and that suddenly,
while I am in some liking; I shall be out of heart
shortly, and then I shall have no strength to re-
pent. An I have not forgotten what the inside
of a church is made of, I am a peppercorn, a
brewer's horse: the inside of a church! Com-
pany, villanous company, hath been the spoil
of me.
Bard. Sir John, you are so fretful, you cannot
live long.
Fal. Why, there is it: come, sing me a bawdy
song; make me merry. I was as virtuously given
as a gentleman need to be; virtuous enough:
swore little; diced not above seven times a week;
went to a bawdy-house not above once in a
quarter—of an hour; paid money that I bor-
rowed three or four times; lived well and in good
compass; and now I live out of all order, out of
all compass.
Bard. Why, you are so fat, Sir John, that you
must needs be out of all compass, out of all
reasonable compass Sir John.
Fal. Do thou amend thy face, and I'll amend
my life: thou art our admiral, thou bearest the
lanthorn in the poop, but 'tis in the nose of thee:
thou art the Knight of the Burning Lamp.
Bard. Why, Sir John, my face does you no
harm.
Fal. No, I'll be sworn; I make as good use
of it as many a man doth of a Death's head, or a
memento mori: I never see thy face but I think
upon hell-fire and Dives that lived in purple;
for there he is in his robes, burning, burning. If
thou wert any way given to virtue, I would swear
by thy face; my oath should be, 'By this fire,
that's God's angel:' but thou art altogether
given over, and wert indeed, but for the light in
thy face, the son of utter darkness. When thou
rannest up Gadshill in the night to catch my
horse, if I did not think thou hadst been an
ignis fatuus or a ball of wildfire, there's no
purchase in money. O! thou art a perpetual
triumph, an everlasting bonfire-light. Thou hast
saved me a thousand marks in links and torches,
walking with thee in the night betwixt tavern
and tavern: but the sack that thou hast drunk
me would have bought me lights as good cheap
at the dearest chandler's in Europe. I have
maintained that salamander of yours with fire
any time this two-and-thirty years; God reward
me for it!
Bard. 'Sblood, I would my face were in your
belly.
Fal. God-a-mercy! so should I be sure to be
heart-burned.

Enter MISTRESS QUICKLY.
How now. Dame Partlet the hen! have you
inquired yet who picked my pocket?
Quick. Why, Sir John, what do you think,
Sir John? Do you think I keep thieves in my
house? I have searched, I have inquired, so has
my husband, man by man, boy by boy, servant
by servant: the tithe of a hair was never lost in
my house before.
Fal. You lie, hostess: Bardolph was shaved
and lost many a hair; and I'll be sworn my
pocket was picked. Go to, you are a woman; go.
Quick. Who, I? No; I defy thee: God's light!
I was never called so in my own house before.
Fal. Go to, I know you well enough.
Quick. No, Sir John; you do not know me,
Sir John: I know you. Sir John: you owe me
money, Sir John, and now you pick a quarrel to
beguile me of it: I bought you a dozen of shirts
to your back.
Fal. Dowlas, filthy dowlas: I have given them
away to bakers' wives, and they have made bolt-
ers of them.
Quick. Now, as I am true woman, holland of
eight shillings an ell. You owe money here be-
sides, Sir John, for your diet and by-drinkings,
and money lent you, four-and-twenty pound.
Fal. He had his part of it; let him pay.
Quick. He! alas! he is poor; he hath nothing.
Fal. How! poor? look upon his face; what
call you rich? let them coin his nose, let them
coin his cheeks. I'll not pay a denier. What!
will you make a younker of me? shall I not take
mine ease in mine inn but I shall have my pocket
picked? I have lost a seal-ring of my grand-
father's worth forty mark.
Quick. O Jesu! I have heard the prince tell
him, I know not how oft, that that ring was
copper.
Fal. How! the prince is a Jack, a sneak-cup;
'sblood! an he were here, I would cudgel him
like a dog, if he would say so.

Enter the PRINCE and Poms marching. FAL-
STAFF meets them, playing on his truncheon
like a fife.
Fal. How now, lad! is the wind in that door,
i' faith? must we all march?
Bard. Yea, two and two, Newgate fashion.
Quick. My lord, I pray you, hear me.
Prince. What sayest thou. Mistress Quickly?
How does thy husband? I love him well, he is
an honest man.
Quick. Good my lord, hear me.
Fal. Prithee, let her alone, and list to me.
Prince. What sayest thou, Jack?
Fal. The other night I fell asleep here behind
the arras and had my pocket picked: this house
is turned bawdy-house; they pick pockets.
Prince. What didst thou lose, Jack?
Fal. Wilt thou believe me, Hal? three or four
bonds of forty pound a-piece, and a seal-ring of
my grandfather's.
Prince. A trifle; some eight-penny matter.
Quick. So I told him, my lord; and I said I
heard your Grace say so: and, my lord, he speaks
most vilely of you, like a foul-mouthed man as
he is, and said he would cudgel you.
Prince. What! he did not?
Quick. There's neither faith, truth, nor wo-
manhood in me else.
Fal. There's no more faith in thee than in a
stewed prune; nor no more truth in thee than
in a drawn fox; and for womanhood, Maid
Marian may be the deputy's wife of the ward to
thee. Go, you thing, go.
Quick. Say, what thing? what thing?
Fal. What thing! why, a thing to thank God
on.
Quick. I am no thing to thank God on, I
would thou shouldst know it; I am an honest
man's wife; and, setting thy knighthood aside,
thou art a knave to call me so.
Fal. Setting thy womanhood aside, thou art
a beast to say otherwise.
Quick. Say, what beast, thou knave thou?
Fal. What beast! why an otter.
Prince. An otter, Sir John! why, an otter?
Fal. Why? she's neither fish nor flesh; a
man knows not where to have her.
Quick. Thou art an unjust man in saying so:
thou or any man knows where to have me, thou
knave thou!
Prince. Thou sayest true, hostess; and he
slanders thee most grossly.
Quick. So he doth you, my lord; and said this
other day you ought him a thousand pound.
Prince. Sirrah! do I owe you a thousand
pound?
Fal. A thousand pound, Hal! a million: thy
love is worth a million; thou owest me thy love.
Quick. Nay, my lord, he called you Jack, and
said he would cudgel you.
Fal. Did I, Bardolph?
Bard. Indeed, Sir John, you said so.
Fal. Yea; if he said my ring was copper.
Prince. I say 'tis copper: darest thou be as
good as thy word now?
Fal. 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.
Prince. And why not as the lion?
Fal. The king himself is to be feared as the
lion: dost thou think I'll fear thee as I fear thy
father? nay, an I do, I pray God my girdle
break!
Prince. O! if it should, how would thy guts
fall about thy knees. But, sirrah, there's no
room for faith, truth, or honesty in this bosom
of thine; it is all filled up with guts and midriff.
Charge an honest woman with picking thy pocket!
Why, thou whoreson, impudent, embossed rascal,
if there were any thing in thy pocket but tavern
reckonings, memorandums of bawdy-houses, and
one poor pennyworth of sugar-candy to make
thee long-winded; if thy pocket were enriched
with any other injuries but these, I am a villain.
And yet you will stand to it, you will not pocket
up wrong. Art thou not ashamed?
Fal. Dost thou hear, Hal? thou knowest in
the state of innocency Adam fell; and what
should poor Jack Falstaff do in the days of
villany? Thou seest I have more flesh than
another man, and therefore more frailty. You
confess then, you picked my pocket?
Prince. It appears so by the story.
Fal. Hostess, I forgive thee. Go make ready
breakfast; love thy husband, look to thy servants,
cherish thy guests: thou shalt find me tractable
to any honest reason: thou seest I am pacified.
Still! Nay prithee, be gone. [Exit MISTRESS
QUICKLY.] Now, Hal, to the news at court: for
the robbery, lad, how is that answered?
Prince. O! my sweet beef, I must still be good
angel to thee: the money is paid back again.
Fal. O! I do not like that paying back; 'tis
a double labour.
Prince. I am good friends with my father
and may do anything.
Fal. Rob me the exchequer the first thing
thou dost, and do it with unwashed hands too.
Bard. Do, my lord.
Prince. I have procured thee, Jack, a charge
of foot.
Fal. I would it had been of horse. Where
shall I find one that can steal well? O! for a
fine thief, of the age of two-and-twenty, or there-
abouts; I am heinously unprovided. Well, God
be thanked for these rebels; they offend none
but the virtuous: I laud them, I praise them.
Prince. Bardolph!
Bard. My lord?
Prince. Go bear this letter to Lord John of
Lancaster,
To my brother John; this to my Lord of West-
moreland.
Go, Poins, to horse, to horse! for thou and I
Have thirty miles to ride ere dinner-time.
Jack, meet me to-morrow in the Temple-hall
At two o'clock in the afternoon:
There shalt thou know thy charge, and there
receive
Money and order for their furniture.
The land is burning; Percy stands on high;
And either we or they must lower lie.
[Exeunt the PRINCE, POINS, and BARDOLPH.
Fal. Rare words! brave world! Hostess, my
breakfast; come!
O! I could wish this tavern were my drum.
[Exit.
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