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lines, to introduce an alteration commanded by his sovereign,
1. “ Away, good Ned. Falstaff sweats to death; "
7. “Go, carry Sir John Falstaff to the Fleet ;” And may be supposed to have stood originally thus :
1. “Away, good Ned. Oldcastle sweats to death ; ".
“ Oldcastle, where have you been all this while ?"
“ Fare you well, Oldcastle, I, in my condition ; ”.
“ Carry sir John Oldcastle to the Fleet."
However the character of Sir John Oldcastle, in the original play, might be performed, he does not, from any passage now in it, appear to have been either a pamper'd glutton or a coward ; and therefore it is a fair inference that all those extracts from early writers, in which Oldcastle is thus described, refer to our author's character so called, and not to the old play. If it be true that Queen Elizabeth, on seeing both or either of these plays of Henry IV. commanded Shakspeare to produce his fat knight in a different situation, she might at the same time, out of respect to the memory of Lord Cobham, have signified a desire that he would change his name; which, being already acquainted with
me time tatio a lon on ti they writii does a cir not (
another cowardly knight of the same christian name, one Sir John Falstaffe, in the old play of Henry VI. (for both Hall and Holinshed call him rightly Fastolfe,) he was able to do without having the trouble to invent or hunt after a new one; not perceiving or regarding the confusion which the transfer would naturally make between the two characters. However this may have been, there is every reason to believe (that when these two plays came out of our author's hands, the name of Oldcastle supplied the place of Falstaff. He continued Ned and Gadshill, and why should he abandon Oldcastle ? a name and character to which the public was already familiarised, and whom an audience would indisputably be much more glad to see along with his old companions than a stranger; if indeed our author himself did not at the time he was writing these dramas, take the Sir John Oldcastle of the original play to be a real historical personage, as necessarily connected with his story as Hal or Hotspur.
Ritson I take this opportunity of expressing my concurrence with Mr. Ritson's sentiments on this suhject, and of declaring my opinion that the tradition of Falstaff having been originally Oldcastle is by no means disproved.. The weight of real evidence appears to me to be on the side of Fuller, who lived near enough to the time of Shakspeare to be accurately informed, and had no temptation to falsify the real fact. To avoid fatiguing the reader with a long train of facts and arguments, it may be sufficient to rely on two authorities which have been too slightly attended to, if they may be said to be noticed at all. The first is Weever, writing at the very period, who describes Oldcastle as Shakspeare does Falstaff, as the page of Thomas Mowbray, Duke of Norfolk, a circumstance which could hardly have happened if Falstaff had not originally been Oldcastle. The other is Nathaniel Field, a player in Shakspeare's company, who might have acted in the play himself, who could not be mistaken, and who expressly refers to Falstaff by the name of Oldcastle. (See p. 193.) Against these testimonies and others what has been opposed ? May I not say, conjecture and inference alone ? Conjecture, I adnit, very ingeniously suggested, and inference very subtilly extracted; but weighing nothing against what is equivalent to positive evidence.
“ Then was Jack Falstaff, now sir John, a boy; and page to Thomas Mowbray, duke of Norfolk.” Henry IV. Part II. Act III. Sc. II. The following circumstances, tending to prove that Shakspeare altered the name of Oldcastle to that of Falstaff, have hitherto been overlooked. In a poem by J. Weever, entitled The Mirror of Martyrs, or the Life and Death of that thrice valiant Capitaine and most godly Martyre, Sir John Oldcastle, VOL. XVI.
Knight, Lord Cobham, 18mo. 1601, Oldcastle, relating the events of his life, says:
“ Within the spring-tide of my flowring youth
“ That I was made Sir Thomas Mowbrais page." Again, in a pamphlet entitled “ The wandering Jew telling Fortunes to Englishmen,” 4to. (the date torn off, but apparently a republication about the middle of the last century) is the following passage in the Glutton's speech : “ I do not live by the sweat of my brows, but am almost dead with sweating. I eate much, but can talk little. Sir John Oldcastle was my great grandfather's father's uncle. I come of a huge kindred.” Reed.
Different conclusions are sometimes drawn from the same premises. Because Shakspeare borrowed a single circumstance from the life of the real Oldcastle, and imparted it to the fictitious Falstaff, does it follow that the name of the former was ever employed as a cover to the vices of the latter? Is it not more likely, because Falstaff was known to possess one feature in common with Oldcastle, that the vulgar were led to imagine that Falstaf was only Oldcastle in disguise ? Hence too might have arisen the story that our author was compelled to change the name of the one for that of the other; a story sufficiently specious to have imposed on the writer of the Wandering Jew, as well as on the credulity of Field, Fuller, and others, whose coincidence has been brought in support of an opinion contrary to my own.
STEEVENS. Having given my opinion very fully on this point already, I shall here only add, that I entirely concur with Mr. Steevens. There is no doubt that the Sir John Oldcastle of the anonymous King Henry V. suggested the character of Falstaff to Shakspeare; and hence he very naturally adopted this circumstance in the life of the real Oldcastle, and made his Falstaff page to Mowbray duke of Norfolk. The author of the Wandering Jew seems to have been misunderstood. He describes the Glutton as related to some Sir John Oldcastle, and therefore as a man of a huge kindred; but he means a fat man, not a man nobly allied. From a pamphlet already quoted, entitled, The Meeting of Gallants at an Ordinarie, it appears that the Oldcastle of the old K. Henry V. was represented as a very fat man; (see also the prologue to a play entitled Sir John Oldcastle, 1600, in which the Oldcastle of the old K. Henry V. is described as “a pampered glutton ; ") but we have no authority for supposing Lord Cobham was fatter than other men. Is it not evident then that the Oldcastle of the play of King Henry V. was the person in the contemplation of the author of The Wandering Jew ? and how does the proof