Jun 24, 2009


(photo by: Eric Mull)

All the Shakespeare fans in the house, say "Heyyyy!"

Where would we be without Bill? Not only would legions of students be deprived of learning just what the heck iambic pentameter is. Our cultural lexicon would be devoid of "to be or not to be..." and "out damn spot!" And the millions of other artistic works that appropriated and purloined plots, characters and inspiration from Shakespearean writing would not be.*

Alas, Leo DiCaprio would have never debased the character Romeo and Kenneth Branagh's filmography would be decidedly shorter.

And there would be no Falstaff!

Falstaff was not based on just one Shakespearean work. The character Falstaff appears in different forms in three works: Henry IV (part 1), Henry IV (part 2), and The Merry Wives of Windsor. While the opera's plot stems mostly from The Merry Wives, elements from Henry IV are also incorporated. (Interestingly, Henry IV is set in medieval England, while The Merry Wives is set in the Elizabethan era when Shakespeare wrote--his only contemporary play.)

I think you'll agree--if you've seen the opera--that there's much more to Falstaff than his belly and his ribaldry. In this chicken's humble opinion (okay, so none of my opinions are really humble, per se), he is one of Shakespeare's most interesting and deep characters.

I'm actually a little surprised and disappointed that Falstaff hasn't been appropriated more often in the arts. But he DID get a [now-defunct] beer named after him. Oh, the glory.

*Of course, there is speculation that Shakespeare was a purloiner himself...

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