Comic nature - Sample Essay
Looking at the passage carefully discuss the ways in which Falstaff’s larger than life personality is revealed in these comic exchanges In the opening few lines of scene two Falstaff’s anarchic and witty personality manifests itself. He seems to undermine the nobility’s values of legality and honour and gives the impression of being completely irreverent to upper class conventions. The striking and emotive language in Falstaff’s long monologues convey a comic yet arrogant protagonist whose powerful rhetoric provides him with an unequivocal hold over the audience, as well as fellow characters.
This is also coupled with Falstaff’s physiognomy and facial expressions which further his prominent stage position and ultimately gives us one of the most ‘larger than life’ characters in all of Shakespeare. The opening few lines of scene two introduce Falstaff who immediately exemplifies his comic nature and makes a profound impression on the reader. This grand opening demonstrates the confidence in Falstaff who suggests that he’s ‘not only witty in (himself), but is also the cause of wit in other men’.
The haughty arrogance here is part of a long monologue and is a manifestation of the control that Falstaff commands in conversation with other characters. In answering the Page (who has mocked him for his supposedly ‘diseased’ body) broken syntax such as ‘man, is not able to invent anything that intends to laughter more than I invent, or is invented on me;’ shows how Falstaff is controlling both the audience, who are hanging on his every word and the Page who must stand bewildered at Falstaff’s rhetorical genius.
The slow pace exhibited here also gives us an incite into how prominent and powerful a figure Falstaff must be on stage. He is no rush to exchange petty mockery with the Page but rather commandeers an omnipotent position where he can exhibit his eccentric larger than life personality. As well as commanding such a prominent position on stage, Falstaff also seems anxious to portray his position in the social hierarchy as an honourable aristocratic one.
His extravagant spending habits have not boded well with the tailor who ‘will not take his bond’ because (supposedly due to previous events) ‘he likes not the security’. Falstaff’s witty reaction to what could be an incredibly embarrassing situation is to take the moral high ground by saying ‘Pray God his tongue be hotter’ implying that the tailor will burn hell for doubting the respectable ‘gentleman’ and ‘true knight’ that is Falstaff. This theocentricly based argument allows Falstaff to take the moral high ground and ensure that he retain the aristocratic impression that he is so eager to convey.
This is ironic considering Falstaff’s libertine, philandering lifestyle and this blatant attempt to convey a gentlemanly impression further exemplifies his larger than life personality. Conversely, we see a contrast to this ‘gentlemanly’ image at other points in the passage which demonstrate the deeply multifaceted dimensions contained within Falstaff’s character. He asks his page at the beginning of the passage ‘what says the doctor to my water’, which seems a slightly strange if not taboo opening question.
In the same way at the end of the passage Falstaff ponders over being ‘able to get a wife in the stews’. Ultimately therefore Shakespeare exemplifies the depth of Falstaff’s character by showing him convey two juxtaposing impressions: one of a respectable gentleman and the other of a decadent brothel goer who lives a life of debauchery and egoism. Falstaff’s dimensions as a character also manifest themselves in his physiognomy which perfectly matches his personality.
He draws attention to his great stature by belittling the Page by saying ‘Sirrah you giant’ and by calling him a ‘mandrake’ who ‘are fitter to be worn on my cap than on my heels’. This comedy shows Falstaff’s wittiness but also by drawing attention to his great physical presence he exemplifies his larger than life personality as this is essentially material proof of it. Overall, we see Falstaff is a multifaceted protagonist in this scene who is completely in control of the discussion and of the audience.