Dialogue Extract (Falstaff)

by Robin Hawdon
  Enter MISTRESS QUICKLY and two Sheriff’s men, FANG and SNARE.
MISTRESS Q Master Fang, have you entered the action?
FANG It is entered.
MISTRESS Q Where’s your yeoman? Is it a lusty yeoman? Will a’ stand to it ?
FANG Snare, we must arrest Sir John Falstaff.
MISTRESS Q Yea, good Master Snare.
SNARE It may chance cost some of us our lives, for he will stab.
FANG If I can close with him, I care not for his thrust.
MISTRESS Q No, nor I neither. I’ll be at your elbow.
FANG An’ I but fist him once…. an’ a’ come but within my vice…..!
MISTRESS Q Yonder he comes! And that arrant malmsey-nose knave, Bardolph, with him.  Do your offices, do your offices, Master Fang and Master Snare!  Do me your offices!
FALSTAFF How now!  Whose mare’s dead?  What’s the matter?
FANG Sir John, I arrest you at the suit of Mistress Quickly.
FALSTAFF (drawing his sword)   Away varlets!  Draw, Bardolph!  Cut me off the villain’s head!
MISTRESS Q Murder, murder!  Ah thou honey-suckle villain!  Wilt thou kill God’s officers and the King’s?  Ah thou honey-seed rogue!
FALSTAFF Keep them off, Bardolph!
FANG A rescue!  A rescue!
MISTRESS Q (to the onlookers)    Good people, bring a rescue or two!  Ah, thou would, wo’t thou?  Thou wo’t, wo’t ta?
FALSTAFF Away, you scullion!  You rampallian!  You fustilarian!  I’ll tickle your catastrophe!
  (Enter the LORD CHIEF JUSTICE, attended)
CH JUST: What is the matter?  Keep the peace here, ho!
MISTRESS Q Good my lord, be good to me!  I beseech you, stand to me!
CH JUST How now, Sir John!  What, are you brawling here?  Doth this become your place, your time and business?
MISTRESS Q O, most worshipful lord, an’t please your Grace, I am a poor widow of Eastcheap, and he is arrested at my suit.
CH JUST For what sum?
MISTRESS Q It is more than for some, my lord – it is for all I have.  He hath eaten me out of house and home.  He hath put all my substance into that fat belly of his.
CH JUST How comes this, Sir John?  Fie!  Are you not ashamed to enforce a poor widow to so rough a course to come by her own?
FALSTAFF My Lord!  (to MISTRESS Q)  What is the gross sum that I owe thee?
MISTRESS Q Marry, if thou wert an honest man, thyself and the money too.  Thou didst swear to me upon Wednesday in Wheeson week, to marry me and make me my lady thy wife.  Canst thou deny it?  And didst thou not kiss me and bid me fetch thee thirty shillings?  Deny it if thou canst.
FALSTAFF My lord, this is a poor mad soul.  And she says up and down the town that her eldest son is like you.
FALSTAFF She hath been in good case, and the truth is poverty hath distracted her.
CH JUST Sir John, Sir John, I am well acquainted with your manner of wrenching the true cause the false way.  You have, as it appears to me, practised upon the easy yielding spirit of this woman, and made her serve your uses both in purse and in person.
MISTRESS Q Yea, in troth, my lord.
CH JUST The truth is, Sir John, you live in great infamy.  Your means are very slender and your waste is great.
FALSTAFF I would it were otherwise.  I would my means were greater and my waist slenderer.
CH JUSTICE You have misled the youthful prince….
FALSTAFF The young prince hath misled me!
CH JUSTICE You follow him up and down like his ill angel….
FALSTAFF Not so, my lord!  You that are old consider not the capacities of us that are young.  You measure the heat of our livers with the bitterness of your galls.  And we that are in the vaward of our youth, I must confess are wags too.
CH JUST Do you set down your name in the scroll of youth, that are written down with all the characters of age?
  Have you not a moist eye?
Have you not a white beard?
A decreasing leg?
An increasing belly?
Is not your voice broken?
Is not your wind short?
Is not your chin double?
Is not your wit single?
And every part about you blasted with anitiquity?
And will you yet call yourself young?
FALSTAFF My lord, I was born about three of the clock in the morning, with a white beard and something a round belly.  For my voice, I have lost it with singing of anthems.
FALSTAFF When youth is in the blood,
And heart’s with Spring infus’d,
A man may play the fool,
And yet may be excused.
When tender years are with us,
And innocence sublime,
A lad may jest his days away,
And be forgiv’n the crime.
ALL When young man’s fancy leads him
Through follies and unreason,
Old men must practise tolerance,
For you once had your season.
When boyhood’s blood is ris’n,
And wild his energy,
Then stand aside you dodderers
And hide your jealousy.
FALSTAFF When old age is upon you,
And your powers are on the wane,
When your ancient bones are crumbling,
And mildew’s in the brain,
When your appetites have faded,
And your songs have all been sung,
Be gentle and remember
You also once were young.