Falstaff, Sir John

▪ fictional character
      one of the most famous comic characters in all English literature, who appears in four of Shakespeare's plays. Entirely the creation of Shakespeare, Falstaff is said to have been partly modeled on Sir John Oldcastle (Oldcastle, Sir John), a soldier and the martyred leader of the Lollard sect. Indeed, Shakespeare had originally called this character Sir John Oldcastle in the first version of Henry IV, Part 1, but had changed the name before the play was registered, doubtless because descendants of the historical Oldcastle—who were then prominent at court—protested. He chose the name Falstaff partly because it contained echoes of the name Sir John Fastolf, which he had earlier given to a cowardly knight in Henry VI, Part 1. (The historical Sir John Fastolf was a career soldier who in the second phase of the Hundred Years' War had something of a reputation as a coward; however, Shakespeare's presentation of his character was libelous.)

      In Henry IV, Part 1, Falstaff is a boon companion to the young Prince Hal, a type of nonjudgmental father-substitute he calls that “reverend vice . . . that father ruffian, that vanity of years” (and, in Falstaff's own imagination, that “kind Jack Falstaff, true Jack Falstaff, valiant Jack Falstaff”), and throughout the play Falstaff comments on the political machinations with inglorious, reckless, egotistical good sense.

      In Henry IV, Part 2, Falstaff and his disreputable crew are rejected by Hal, now Henry V, as he assumes the dignities of the crown. Falstaff's death is movingly reported in Henry V, but he makes another appearance in The Merry Wives of Windsor (Merry Wives of Windsor, The), a play that, according to (largely unsupported) tradition, was written at the express command of Queen Elizabeth I, who had wished to see Falstaff in love. This play's Falstaff, now reduced to an opportunistic and comically unsuccessful seducer, was the subject of Giuseppe Verdi's opera Falstaff (produced 1893) and Otto Nicolai's Die lustigen Weiber von Windsor (produced 1849).

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Universalium. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Falstaff, Sir John — Falstaff, Sir John. Wer bewunderte nicht schon diesen unverbesserlichen Taugenichts, den Shakespeare s Meisterhand mit so derben, treffenden Zügen in seinem Heinrich IV., in den lustigen Weibern von Windsor zeichnete? Seine wohlbeleibte Gestalt… …   Damen Conversations Lexikon

  • FALSTAFF, SIR JOHN —    a character in Shakespeare s Henry IV. and the Merry Wives of Windsor ; a boon companion of Henry, Prince of Wales; a cowardly braggart, of sensual habits and great corpulency.    See FASTOLF, SIR JOHN …   The Nuttall Encyclopaedia

  • Sir John Falstaff — noun a dissolute character in Shakespeare s plays • Syn: ↑Falstaff • Derivationally related forms: ↑Falstaffian (for: ↑Falstaff) • Instance Hypernyms: ↑fictional character, ↑ …   Useful english dictionary

  • Sir John Oldcastle — is an Elizabethan play about John Oldcastle, a controversial 14th 15th century rebel and Lollard who was seen by some of Shakespeare s contemporaries as a proto Protestant martyr. The play was originally published anonymously in 1600 (Q1),… …   Wikipedia

  • Sir John Oldcastle — Falstaff Falstaff prop. n. Sir John Falstaff, a celebrated character in Shakespeare s historical play Henry IV. (1st and 2d parts), and also in The Merry Wives of Windsor. He is a very fat, sensual, and witty old knight; a swindler, drunkard, and …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Sir John Oldcastle — John Oldcastle Sir John Oldcastle (v. 1378 – 14 décembre 1417), fut un leader Lollard anglais. Il fut jugé pour hérésie contre l Église, mais parvint à s échapper de la Tour de Londres. Capturé à nouveau, il fut exécuté, et devint un martyr. Il… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Sir John Falstaff — ➡ Falstaff * * * …   Universalium

  • Sir John Falstaff — n. Falstaff, friendly fat knight which is a character in Shakespeare s playsf …   English contemporary dictionary

  • Oldcastle, Sir John — ▪ English soldier born c. 1378, , Herefordshire, Eng. died Dec. 14, 1417, London       distinguished soldier and martyred leader of the Lollards (Lollard), a late medieval English sect derived from the teachings of John Wycliffe. He was an… …   Universalium

  • Fastolf, Sir John — ▪ English military officer born c. 1378, , Caister, Norfolk, Eng. died Nov. 5, 1459, Caister       English career soldier who fought and made his fortune in the second phase of the Hundred Years War between England and France (1337–1453). His… …   Universalium

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