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Probably the most remarkable and interesting aesthetic study of a single Shakespearean character ever produced is Maurice Morgann’s Essay on the Dramatic Character of Sir John Falstaff, which was written in 1774, and first published in 1777. This excellent piece of criticism deserves a much wider cognizance than it has ever attained; only three editions have since been issued.

Morgann’s Essay was originally undertaken in jest, in order to disprove the assertion made by an acquaintance that Falstaff was a coward; but, inspired by his subject, it was continued and finished in splendid earnest. As his analysis of the character of Falstaff becomes more intimate his wonder grows at the concrete human personality he apprehends. Falstaff ceases to be a fictive creation, or the mere dramatic representation of a type, and takes on a distinctive individuality. He writes:

“The reader will not now be surprised if I affirm that those characters in Shakespeare, which are seen only in part, are yet capable of being unfolded and understood in the whole; every part being in fact relative, and inferring all the rest. It is true that the point of action or sentiment, which we are most concerned in, is always held out for our special notice. But who does not perceive that there is a peculiarity about it, which conveys a relish of the whole? And very frequently, when no particular point presses, he boldly makes a character act and speak from those parts of the composition, which are inferred only, and not distinctly shewn. This produces a wonderful effect; it seems to carry us beyond the poet to nature itself, and give an integrity and truth to facts and character, which they would not otherwise obtain. And this is in reality that art in Shakespeare, which being withdrawn from our notice, we more emphatically call nature. A felt propriety and truth from causes unseen, I take to be the highest point of Poetic composition. If the characters of Shakespeare are thus whole, and as it were original, while those of almost all other writers are mere imitation, it may be fit to consider them rather as Historic than Dramatic beings; and, when occasion requires, to account for their conduct from the whole of character, from general principles, from latent motives, and from policies not avowed.”

Morgann was closer to the secret of Shakespeare’s art than he realised; he had really penetrated to the truth without knowing it. The reason that his fine analytical sense had led him to feel that “it may be fit to consider them rather as Historic than Dramatic beings” is the fact that in practically every instance where a very distinctive Shakespearean character, such as Falconbridge, Falstaff, Armado, Malvolio, and Fluellen, acts and speaks “from those parts of the composition, which are inferred only, and not distinctly shewn,” the characters so apprehended may be shown by the light of contemporary social, literary, or political records to have been, in some measure, a reflection of a living model. Shakespeare had literally, in his own phrase, held “the mirror up to nature”; the reflection, however, being heightened and vivified by the infusion of his own rare sensibility, and the power of his dramatic genius.

With all his genius Shakespeare was yet mortal, and human creativeness cannot transcend nature. What we call creativeness, even in the greatest artists, is but a fineness of sensibility and cognition, or rather recognition, coupled with the power to express what they see and feel in nature.

As a large number of Shakespeare’s plays were written primarily for private or Court presentation, to edify or amuse his patron and his patron’s friends, or with their immediate political or factional interests in mind to influence the Court in their favour, the shadowed purposes of such plays, the acting or speaking of a character “from those parts of the composition, which are inferred only, and not distinctly shewn,” as well as a number of hitherto supposedly inexplicable asides and allusions, such as Bottom’s “reason and love keep little company together nowadays; the more the pity, that some honest neighbours will not make them friends,” would give to those acquaintances who were in Shakespeare’s confidence an added zest and interest in such plays quite lacking to the uninitiated, or to a modern audience.

I propose in this chapter to demonstrate the facts that John Florio the translator of Montaigne’s Essays and tutor of languages to Shakespeare’s patron, the Earl of Southampton was Shakespeare’s original for Sir John Falstaff and other of his characters; that the Earl of Southampton and Lady Southampton were cognizant of the shadowed identity, and that Florio himself recognised and angrily resented the characterisation when a knowledge of its personal application had spread among their mutual acquaintances.

In preceding chapters and in former books I have advanced evidence of a cumulative nature for Southampton’s identity as the patron addressed in the Sonnets; the identity of Chapman as the “rival poet,” and Shakespeare’s caricature of him as Holofernes; the identity of Matthew Roydon as the author of Willobie his Avisa, as well as Shakespeare’s caricature of him as the curate Nathaniel; and the identity of Mistress Davenant as the “dark lady” of the Sonnets. If, then, we find in the same plays in which these personal reflections are shown a certain distinctly marked type of character, bearing stronger prima facie evidence than the others of having been developed from a living original, may we not reasonably infer that the individual so represented might also have been linked in life in some manner approximating to his relations in the play, with the lives and interests of the other persons shadowed forth?

With this idea in mind I have searched all available records relating to Southampton, in the hope of finding among his intimates an individual whose personality may have suggested Shakespeare’s characterisation, or caricature, set forth in the successive persons of Armado, Parolles, and Sir John Falstaff. The traceable incidents of John Florio’s life, his long and intimate association with Shakespeare’s patron, and reasonable inferences for the periods where actual record of him is wanting, gave probability, in my judgment, to his identity as Shakespeare’s original for these and other characters. A further consideration of the man’s personality, temperament, and mental habitude, as I could dimly trace them in his few literary remains that afford scope for unconscious self-revelation, left no doubt in my mind as to his identity as Shakespeare’s model.

Supposing it to be impossible, with our present records, to visualise Shakespeare more definitely in his contemporary environment, it has been common with biographers, in their endeavours to link him with the men of his times, to draw imaginative pictures of his intimate and friendly personal relations with such men as Sir Walter Raleigh, Bacon, Chapman, Marston, and others, equally improbable, forgetting the social distinctions, the scholastic prejudices, and still more, the religious or political animosities that divided men in public life in those days, as they do, though in a lesser degree, to-day. The intimate relations of the Earl of Southampton with Lord Burghley, during the earliest period of his Court life, when he was affianced to Burghley’s granddaughter, and his later intimacy with the Earl of Essex and with the gentlemen of the Essex faction, coupled with Shakespeare’s sympathy with the cause of his patron and his patron’s friends, must be borne in mind in any endeavour that is made to trace in the plays either Shakespeare’s political leanings or his probable affiliations with, or antagonisms to, his early contemporaries. The natural jealousies that would arise between the followers, dependants, or proteges of a liberal patron must also be considered.

John Florio became connected, in the capacity of Italian tutor, with the Earl of Southampton late in the year 1590, or early in 1591, shortly after his coming to Court, and a little before Southampton first began to show favour to Shakespeare. We have Florio’s own statement for the fact that he continued in Southampton’s “pay and patronage” at least as late as 1598, in which year he published his Worlde of Wordes. Whether or not he continued in Southampton’s service after this date is uncertain, but we may safely impute to that nobleman’s good offices the favour shown to him by James I. and his Queen in 1604, and later.

From the first time that Shakespeare and Florio were thrown together, through their mutual connection with Southampton, in or about 1591, down to the year 1609, when the Sonnets were issued at the instigation of Shakespeare’s literary rivals, I find intermittent traces of antagonism between them, and also of Florio’s intimacy and sympathy with Chapman and his friends. In later years, Chapman, Jonson, and Marston, however, seem to have recognised in Florio an unstable ally, and tacitly to have regarded him as a selfish and shifty opportunist. Florio appears to have used his intimacy with Southampton, and his knowledge of that nobleman’s relations with Shakespeare and the “dark lady” in 1593 to 1594, to the poet’s disadvantage, by imparting intelligence of the affair to Chapman and Roydon, the latter of whom exploited this knowledge in the production of Willobie his Avisa.

In Chapman’s dedication to Roydon of The Shadow of Night in 1594, he shows knowledge of the fact that Shakespeare was practically reader to the Earl of Southampton, and that he passed his judgment upon literary matter submitted to that nobleman. Referring to Shakespeare, Chapman writes: “How then may a man stay his marvailing to see passion-driven men, reading but to curtail a tedious hour, and altogether hidebound with affection to great men’s fancies, take upon them as killing censures as if they were judgment’s butchers, or as if the life of truth lay tottering in their verdicts.” This reference to Shakespeare as “passion-driven” refers to the affair of the “dark lady,” upon which Chapman’s friend, Roydon, was then at work in Willobie his Avisa. Florio, in later years, as shall appear, also makes a very distinct point at Shakespeare as a “reader.” Unless there was an enemy in Shakespeare’s camp to report to Chapman and Roydon the fact of his “reading” to curtail tedious hours for his patron, and to convey intelligence to Roydon of Shakespeare’s and Southampton’s relations with the “dark lady,” either by reporting the affair or by bringing Shakespeare’s earlier MS. books of sonnets to his notice, it is improbable that these men would have had such intimate knowledge of the incidents and conditions of this stage of Shakespeare’s friendship with his patron. Florio probably fostered the hostility of these scholars to Shakespeare by imputing to his influence their ill-success in winning Southampton’s favour. It is not improbable that for his own protection he secretly used his influence with Southampton in defeating their advances while posing as their friend and champion. Shakespeare distrusted Florio from the beginning of his acquaintance, and deprecated his influence upon his patron.

In the earlier stages of Shakespeare’s observation of Florio he appears to have been more amused than angered, but as the years pass his dislike grows, as he sees more clearly into the cold selfishness of a character, obscured to his earlier and more casual view by the interesting personality and frank and humorous worldly wisdom of the man. However heightened and amplified by Shakespeare’s imagination the characterisation of Falstaff may now appear, a consideration of the actual character of Florio, as we find it revealed between the lines of his own literary productions, and in the few contemporary records of him that have survived, suggests on Shakespeare’s part portrayal rather than caricature.

Assuming for the present that Shakespeare has characterised, or caricatured, Florio as Parolles, Armado, and Falstaff, the first and second of these characters are represented in plays originally produced in, or about, 1592, but reflecting the spirit and incidents of the Cowdray and Tichfield progress of the autumn of 1591. While these plays were altered at a later period, or periods, of revision, it is apparent that both characters pertain in a large measure to the plays in their earlier forms. If Shakespeare used Florio as his model for these characters, we have added evidence that by the autumn of 1591 Florio had already entered the “pay and patronage” of Southampton, who about this period, under his tuition and in anticipation of continental travel, developed his knowledge of Italian and French. In his dedication of the Worlde of Wordes to Southampton in 1598, Florio writes:

“In truth I acknowledge an entire debt, not only of my best knowledge, but of all, yea of more than I know or can, to your bounteous Lordship, most noble, most virtuous, and most Honourable Earl of Southampton, in whose pay and patronage I have lived some years, to whom I owe and vow the years I have to live.”

Further on in this dedication he refers to Southampton’s study of Italian under his tuition as follows:

“I might make doubt least I or mine be not now of any further use to your self-sufficiencie, being at home so instructed in Italian as teaching or learning could supply that there seemed no need of travell, and now by travell so accomplished as what wants to perfection?”

All’s Well that Ends Well, in its earlier form of Loves Labour’s Won, reflects the spirit and incidents of the Queen’s progress to Tichfield House in September 1591; the widowed Countess of Rousillon personifies the widowed Countess of Southampton; the wise and courtly Lafeu the courtly Sir Thomas Heneage, who within three years married the Countess of Southampton. I have suggested that Bertram represented Southampton, and that his coolness towards Helena, and his proposed departure for the French Court, reflects Southampton’s disinclination to the marriage with Elizabeth Vere, and the fact of his departure shortly afterwards for France. In Florio, who was at that time attached to the Earl of Southampton’s establishment, and presumably was present upon the occasion of the progress to Tichfield, we have the prototype of Parolles, though much of the present characterisation of that person, while referring to the same original, undoubtedly pertains to a period of later time revision, which on good evidence I date in, or about, the autumn of 1598, at which period Shakespeare’s earlier antipathy had grown by knowledge and experience into positive aversion.

In 1591 Southampton was still a ward in Chancery, and the management of his personal affairs and expenditures under the supervision of Lord Burghley, to whose granddaughter he was affianced. It is evident then that when Florio was retained in the capacity of tutor, or bear-leader, and with the intention of having him accompany the young Earl upon his continental travels, his selection for the post would be made by Burghley Southampton’s guardian who in former years had patronised and befriended Florio’s father.

In Lafeu’s early distrust of Parolles’ pretensions, and his eventual recognition of his cowardice and instability, I believe we have a reflection of the attitude of Sir Thomas Heneage towards Florio, and a suggestion of his disapproval of Florio’s intimacy with Southampton. This leads me to infer that though Lady Southampton and Heneage apparently acquiesced in, and approved of, Burghley’s marital plans for Southampton, secretly they were not displeased at their miscarriage.

When Southampton first came to Court he was a fresh and unspoiled youth, with high ideals and utterly unacquainted with the ethical latitude and moral laxity of city and Court life. In bringing him to Court and the notice of the Queen, and at the same time endeavouring to unite his interests with his own by marriage with his granddaughter, Burghley hoped that as in the case of his son-in-law, the Earl of Oxford, some years before Southampton would become a Court favourite, and possibly supplant Essex in the Queen’s favour, as the Earl of Oxford had for a while threatened to displace Leicester. The ingenuous frankness and independence of the young Earl, however, appeared likely to defeat the plans of the veteran politician. Burghley now resolved that he must broaden his protege’s knowledge of the world and adjust his ideals to Court life. He accordingly engaged the sophisticated and world-bitten Florio as his intellectual and moral mentor. I do not find any record of Southampton’s departure for France immediately after the Cowdray progress, but it is apparent either that he accompanied the Earl of Essex upon that nobleman’s return to his command in France after a short visit to England in October 1591, or that he followed shortly afterwards. Essex was recalled from France in January 1592 (new style), and on 2nd March of the same year we have a letter dated at Dieppe from Southampton to Essex in England, which shows that Southampton was with the army in France within a few months of the Cowdray progress.

Conceiving both Parolles and Falstaff to be caricatures of Florio I apprehend in the military functions of these characters a reflection of a probable quasi-military experience of their original during his connection with Southampton in the year 1592.

An English force held Dieppe for Henry IV. in March 1592, awaiting reinforcements from England to move against the army of the League, which was encamped near the town. If Southampton took Florio with him at this time it is quite likely that he had him appointed to a captaincy, though probably not to a command. Captain Roger Williams, a brave and capable Welsh officer (whom I have reason to believe was Shakespeare’s original for the Welsh Captain Fluellen in Henry V.), joined the army at the end of this month, bringing with him six hundred men. In a letter to the Council, upon his departure from England, he writes sarcastically of the number and inefficiency of the captains being made. This letter is so characteristic of the man, and so reminiscent of blunt Fluellen, that I shall quote it in full.

Moste Honorables, yesterdaie it was your Lordship’s pleasure to shewe the roll of captaines by their names. More then half of them are knowen unto me sufficient to take charges; a greate number of others, besides the rest in that roll, although not knowen unto me, maie be as sufficient as the others, perhapps knowen unto menn of farr better judgment than myselfe. To saie truthe, no man ought to meddle further than his owne charge. Touching the three captaines that your Lordships appointed to go with me, I knowe Polate and Coverd, but not the thirde. There is one Captaine Polate, a Hampshire man, an honest gentleman, worthie of good charge. There is another not worthie to be a sergeant of a band, as Sir John Norris knows, with many others; and I do heare by my Lord of Sussex it is he. Captain Coverd is worthie, but not comparable unto a dozen others that have no charge; but whatsoever your Lordships direct unto me, I muste accept, and will do my best endeavour to discharge my dutie towards the service comitted unto me. But be assured that the more new captaines that are made, the more will begg, I meane will trouble her Majestie after the warrs, unless the olde be provided for. I must confess I wrote effectual for one Captaine Smithe unto Sir Philipp Butler; two of the name Sir John Norris will confess to be well worthie to commande, at the least, three hundred men a-piece. He that I named, my desire is that he may be one of myne. I protest, on my poore credytt, I never delt with her Majestic concerning any of those captaines, nor anything that your Lordships spake yesterday before me; but true it is, I spake before the Earle of Essex and Sir John Norris, it was pittie that young captaines should be accepted and the old refused. True it is that I toulde them also that the lieutenants of the shire knew not those captaines so well as ourselves. On my creditt, my meaning was the deputies lieutenants, the which, as it was toulde me, had made all these captaines. My speeches are no lawe, nor scarce good judgment, for the warrs were unknowen to me 22 yeres agon. Notwithstanding, it shall satisfie me, that the greatest generalls in that time took me to be a souldier, for the which I will bring better proofs than any other of my qualitie shall deny. Humbly desiring your Lordships’ accustomed good favor towards me, I reste to spend my life alwaies at her Majestie’s pleasure, and at your Lordships’ devotion. (27th March 1591.)”

Within a short period of the arrival of Sir Roger Williams he had dispersed the enemy and opened up the road to the suburbs of Paris; which city was then held by the combined forces of the League and the Spanish. I cannot learn whether Southampton accompanied the troops in the proposed attack on Paris or continued his travels into the Netherlands and Spain. Some verses in Willobie his Avisa suggest such a tour at this time. He was back in England, however, by September 1592, when he accompanied the Queen and Court to Oxford. It is probable that Florio accompanied the Earl of Southampton upon this occasion, and that the nobleman’s acquaintance with the mistress of the Crosse Inn, the beginning of which I date at this time, was due to his introduction. Florio lived for many years at Oxford and was undoubtedly familiar with its taverns and tavern keepers.

In depicting Parolles as playing Pander for Bertram, and at the same time secretly pressing his own suit, I am convinced that Shakespeare caricatured Florio’s relations with Southampton and the “dark lady.” It is not unlikely that Florio is included by Roydon in Willobie his Avisa among Avisa’s numerous suitors.

The literary history of All’s Well that Ends Well, aside from internal considerations, suggests that it was not composed originally for public performance, nor revised with the public in mind. It appeared in print for the first time in the Folio of 1623, and it is practically certain that no earlier edition was issued. If we except Meres’ mention of the play, Love’s Labour’s Won, in 1598, the earliest reference we have to All’s Well that Ends Well is that in the Stationers’ Registers dated 8th November 1623, where it is recorded as a play not previously entered to other men. There is no record of its presentation during Shakespeare’s lifetime.

Though the old play of Love’s Labour’s Won mentioned by Meres has been variously identified by critics, the consensus of judgment of the majority is in favour of its identification as All’s Well that Ends Well. In no other of Shakespeare’s plays even in instances where we have actual record of revision can we so plainly recognise by internal evidence both the work of his “pupil” and of his master pen. As I have assigned the original composition of this play to the year 1592, regarding it as a reflection of the Queen’s progress to Tichfield House and of the incidents of the Earl of Southampton’s life at, and following, that period, so I infer and believe I can demonstrate that its revision reflects the same personal influences under new phases in later years.

In February 1598 the Earl of Southampton left England for the French Court with Sir Robert Cecil. He returned secretly in August and was married privately at Essex House to Elizabeth Vernon, whose condition had recently caused her dismissal from the Court. Southampton returned to France as secretly as he had come, but knowledge of his return and of his unauthorised marriage reaching the Queen, she issued an order for his immediate recall, and upon his return in November committed him, and even threatened to commit his wife (who was now a mother), to the Fleet. It is not unlikely that Florio accompanied Southampton to France upon this visit, and that much of Shakespeare’s irritation at this time arose from Southampton’s neglect or coolness, which he supposed to be due to Florio’s increasing influence, to which Shakespeare also imputed much of the young Earl’s ill-regulated manner of life at this period.

In the happy ending of Helena’s troubles, and in Bertram’s recognition of his moral responsibility and marital obligations, and also in the significant change of the title of this play from Love’s Labour’s Won to All’s Well that Ends Well, we have Shakespeare’s combined reproof and approval of Southampton’s recent conduct towards Elizabeth Vernon, as well as a practical reflection of the actual facts in their case.

At about this time, in addition to the revision of All’s Well that Ends Well, I date the first production, though not the original composition, of Troilus and Cressida, and also the final revision of Love’s Labour’s Lost. In this latter play the part taken by Armado was, I believe, enlarged and revised, as in the case of Parolles in All’s Well that Ends Well, to suit the incidents and characterisation to Shakespeare’s developed knowledge of, and experience with, Florio. There are several small but significant links of description between the Parolles of 1598 and the enlarged Armado of the same date. Both of these characters are represented as braggart soldiers and also as linguists, which evidently reflect Florio’s quasi-military connection with Southampton and his known proficiency in languages.

In Act IV. Scene iii. Parolles is referred to as “the manifold linguist and armipotent soldier.” In Love’s Labour’s Lost, in Act I. Scene i., in lines that palpably belong to the play in its earliest form, Armado is described as “a man of fire-new words.” He is also represented as a traveller from Spain. In Act V. Scene ii., in lines that pertain to the revision of 1598, he is made to take the soldier’s part again, in giving him the character of Hector in The Nine Worthies. In this character Armado is made to use the peculiar word “armipotent” twice. It is significant that this word is never used by Shakespeare except in connection with Armado and Parolles. In giving Armado the character of Hector, I am convinced that Shakespeare again indicates Florio’s military experience. In the lines which Armado recites in the character of Hector, Shakespeare intentionally makes his personal point at Florio more strongly indicative by alluding to the name Florio by the word “flower,” in the interrupted line with which Hector ends his verses.

ARM. Peace!
“The armipotent Mars, of lances the almighty,
Gave Hector a gift, the heir of Ilion;
A man so breathed, that certain he would fight ye
From morn till night, out of his pavilion.
I am that flower,

He reinforces his indication by Dumain’s and Longaville’s interpolations “That mint,” “That columbine.” Florio undoubtedly indicated this meaning to his own name in entitling his earliest publication First Fruites and a later publication Second Fruites. In a sonnet addressed to him by some friend of his who signs himself “Ignoto,” his name is also referred to in this sense. In his Italian-English dictionary, published in 1598, he does not include the word Florio. In the edition of 1611, however, he includes it, but states that it means, “A kind of bird.” In using the word “columbine” Shakespeare gives the double meaning of a flower and also a bird. Florio used a flower for his emblem, and had inscribed under his portrait in the 1611 edition of his Worlde of Wordes:

“Floret adhuc et adhuc florebit
Florius haec specie floridus optat amans.”

The frequent references to the characters of the Iliad in this act and scene of Love’s Labour’s Lost link the period of its insertion with the date of the original composition of Troilus and Cressida in, or about, 1598, to which time I have also assigned the revision of Love’s Labour’s Won into All’s Well that Ends Well, and the development of Parolles into a misleader of youth.

Another phase of Act V. Scene ii. of Love’s Labour’s Lost appears to be a reflection of an affair in the life of the individual whom Shakespeare has in mind in the delineation of the characters of Armado and Sir John Falstaff. Costard accuses Armado regarding his relations with Jaquenetta.

COST. The party is gone, fellow Hector, she is gone; she is two
months on her way.

ARM. What meanest thou?

COST. Faith, unless you play the honest Trojan, the poor wench is
cast away: she’s quick; the child brags in her belly already: ’tis

ARM. Dost thou infamonize me among potentates?

Precisely similar conditions are shown to exist in the relations between Falstaff and Doll Tearsheet, in the Second Part of Henry IV., in which play there are also allusions to the characters of the Iliad, which link its composition with the same period as Troilus and Cressida; and an allusion to The Nine Worthies that apparently link it in time with the final revision of Love’s Labour’s Lost late in 1598.


Enter BEADLES dragging in Hostess QUICKLY and DOLL TEARSHEET.

HOST. No, thou arrant knave; I would to God that I might have thee
hanged: thou hast drawn my shoulder out of joint.

FIRST BEAD. The constables have delivered her over to me: and she
shall have whipping-cheer enough I warrant her: there hath been a man
or two lately killed about her.

DOL. Nut-hook, nut-hook, you lie. Come on; I’ll tell thee what, thou damned tripe-visaged rascal, and the child I now go with miscarry, thou wert better thou hadst struck thy mother, thou paper-faced villain.

HOST. O the Lord, that Sir John were come! he would make this a
bloody day to somebody. But I pray God the fruit of her womb

The natural sequel to the conditions so plainly indicated in the passages quoted from the lately revised Love’s Labour’s Lost, regarding Jaquenetta and Armado, and from the recently written Henry IV. in reference to Doll Tearsheet and Falstaff, is reported in due time in a postscript to a letter written by Elizabeth Vernon, now Lady Southampton, on 8th July 1599, to her husband, who was in Ireland with Essex. She writes from Chartley:

“All the nues I can send you that I thinke will make you mery is that I reade in a letter from London that Sir John Falstaff is by his Mistress Dame Pintpot made father of a godly millers thum a boye thats all heade and very litel body: but this is a secret.”

Here we have record that Shakespeare’s patron, and his patron’s wife, knew that Falstaff had a living prototype who was numbered among their acquaintances. That the birth of this child was not in wedlock is suggested by the concluding words of the Countess’s letter “but this is a secret.”

The identification of Florio as the original caricatured as Parolles and Falstaff has never been anticipated, though some critics have noticed the basic resemblances between these two characters of Shakespeare’s. Parolles has been called by Schlegel, “the little appendix to the great Falstaff.”

A few slight links in the names of characters have led some commentators to date a revision of All’s Well that Ends Well at about the same time as that of the composition of Measure for Measure and Hamlet. While the links of subjective evidence I have adduced for one revision in, or about, the autumn of 1598, and at the same period as that of the composition of the Second Part of Henry IV., of the final revision of Love’s Labour’s Lost, and shortly after the production of Troilus and Cressida, in 1598, are fairly conclusive, a consideration of the characterisation of Falstaff in the First Part of Henry IV. and of the evidence usually advanced for the date of the composition of this play will elucidate this idea.

The First Part of Henry IV. in its present form belongs to a period shortly preceding the date of its entry in the Stationers’ Registers, in February 1598. I am convinced that it was published at this time with Shakespeare’s cognizance, and that he revised it with this intention in mind. All inference and evidence assign the composition of the Second Part of Henry IV. to some part of the year 1598. It is unlikely, however, that it was included in Meres’ mention of Henry IV. in his Palladis Tamia, which was entered on the Stationers’ Registers in September of that year. If the link between Doll Tearsheet’s condition and the similar affair reported in Lady Southampton’s letter in July 1599 be connected in intention with the same conditions reflected in the case of Armado and Jaquenetta, its date of production is palpably indicated, as is also the final revision of Love’s Labour’s Lost in about December 1598. Both of these plays were probably presented the Second Part of Henry IV. for the first time, and Love’s Labour’s Lost for the first time in its final form for the Christmas festivities at Court, in 1598. While the Quarto of Love’s Labours Lost is dated as published in 1598, there is no record of its intended publication in the Stationers’ Registers. It must be remembered, however, that all publications issued previous to the 25th of March 1599 would be dated 1598.

A comparison of the two parts of Henry IV. under the metrical test, while clearly showing Part I. as an earlier composition, yet approximates their dates so closely in time as to suggest a comparatively recent and thorough revision of the earlier portion of the play in 1597 or 1598. It is plain, however, that Shakespeare’s Henry IV., Part I., held the boards in some form for several years before this date. The numerous contemporary references, under the name of Sir John Oldcastle, to the character now known as Falstaff, evidences on the part of the public such a settled familiarity with this same character, under the old name, as to suggest frequent presentations of Shakespeare’s play in the earlier form. The Oldcastle of The Famous Victories of Henry V. has no connection whatever with the characterisation of Falstaff.

Though the metrical evidences of so early a date are now obscured by the drastic revision of the autumn of 1597, or spring of 1598, I am of the opinion that Henry IV., Part I., as it was originally written, belongs to a period antedating the publication of Willobie his Avisa in 1594, and that it was composed late in 1593, or early in 1594. I am led to this conclusion by the underlying thread of subjective evidence linking the plays of this period with the affairs of Southampton and his connections. It is unlikely that Shakespeare would introduce that “sweet wench” my “Young Mistress of the Tavern” into a play after the publication of the scandal intended by Roydon in 1594, and probable that he altered the characterisation of the hostess to the old and widowed Mistress Quickly in the Second Part of Henry IV. for this reason.

Believing that Love’s Labour’s Won i.e. All’s Well that Ends Well in its earlier form reflects Southampton in the person of Bertram, and Florio as Parolles, I have suggested that the military capacity of the latter character infers a temporary military experience of Florio’s in the year 1592. It is evident that most of the matter in this play following Act IV. Scene iii. belongs to the period of revision in 1598. In Act IV. Scene iii. we have what was apparently Parolles’ final appearance in the old play of 1592; here he has been exposed, and his purpose in the play ended.

FIRST SOLDIER. You are undone, Captain, all but your scarf; that has
a knot on’t yet.

PAROLLES. Who cannot be crushed with a plot?

FIRST SOLDIER. If you could find out a country where women were that
had received so much shame, you might begin an impudent nation. Fare
ye well, Sir; I am for France too; we shall speak of you there.

[Exit Soldiers.

PAROLLES. Yet am I thankful: if my heart were great,
’Twould burst at this. Captain, I’ll be no more;
But I will eat and drink, and sleep as soft
As captain shall: simply the thing I am
Shall make me live. Who knows himself a braggart,
Let him fear this, for it will come to pass
That every braggart shall be found an ass.
Rust sword! cool blushes! and, Parolles, live
Safest in shame, being fool’d, by foolery thrive.
There’s place and means for every man alive.
I’ll after them.


The resolution he here forms augurs for the future a still greater moral deterioration. He resolves to seek safety in shame; to thrive by foolery; and, though fallen from his captaincy, to

“eat and drink, and sleep as soft as captain shall.”

When Shakespeare resumed his plan of reflecting Florio’s association with Southampton, in the First Part of Henry IV. he recalled the state of mind and morals in which he had left him as Parolles in Love’s Labour’s Won, and allowing for a short lapse of time, and the effects of the life he had resolved to live, introduces him in Henry IV., Part I. Act 1. Scene ii., as follows:

FAL. Now, Hal, what time of day is it, lad?

PRINCE. Thou art so fat-witted, with drinking of old sack and unbuttoning thee after supper and sleeping upon benches after noon, that thou hast forgotten to demand that truly which thou would’st truly know. What a devil hast thou to do with the time of the day? Unless hours were cups of sack, and minutes capóns, and clocks the tongues of bawds, and dials the signs of leaping-houses, and the blessed sun himself a fair hot wench in flame-coloured taffeta, I see no reason why thou should’st be so superfluous to demand the time of day.

In Parolles and Falstaff we have displayed the same lack of moral consciousness, the same grossly sensuous materialism, and withal, the same unquenchable optimism and colossal impudence.

When we remember that though Shakespeare based his play upon the old Famous Victories of Henry V. and took from it the name Oldcastle, that the actual characterisation of his Oldcastle Falstaff has no prototype in the original, the abrupt first entry upon the scene of this tavern-lounger and afternoon sleeper-upon-benches, as familiarly addressing the heir apparent as “Hal” and “lad,” supplies a good instance of Shakespeare’s method noticed by Maurice Morgann of making a character act and speak from those parts of the composition which are inferred only and not distinctly shown; but to the initiated, including Southampton and his friends, who knew the bumptious self-sufficiency of Shakespeare’s living model, and who followed the developing characterisation from play to play, the effect of such bold dramatic strokes must have been irresistibly diverting.

It is difficult now to realise the avidity with which such publications as Florio’s First and Second Fruites were welcomed from the press and read by the cultured, or culture-seeking, public of his day. Italy being then regarded as the centre of culture and fashion a colloquial knowledge of Italian was a fashionable necessity. A reference in a current play to an aphorism of Florio’s or to a characteristic passage from the proverbial philosophy of which he constructs his Italian-English conversations, which would pass unnoticed now, would be readily recognised by a fashionable Elizabethan audience.

When Shakespeare, through the utterances of the prince, characterises Falstaff by suggestion upon his first appearance in the play in the following lines:

“Thou art so fat-witted, with drinking of old sack and unbuttoning
thee after supper and sleeping upon benches after noon, that thou
hast forgotten to demand that truly which thou would’st truly know,”

for the benefit of his initiated friends he links up and continues Florio’s characterisation as Parolles and Falstaff, and in the remainder of the passage,

“What a devil hast thou to do with the time of the day? Unless hours are cups of sack, and minutes capóns, and clocks the tongues of bawds, and dials the signs of leaping-houses, and the blessed sun himself a fair hot wench in flame-coloured taffeta,”

suggests Florio’s character from his own utterances in the Second Fruites, where one of the characters holds forth as follows:

“As for me, I never will be able, nor am I able, to be willing but to love whatsoever pleaseth women, to whom I dedicate, yield, and consecrate what mortal thing soever I possess, and I say, that a salad, a woman and a capon, as yet was never out of season.”

A consideration of certain of the divergences between the dramatis personae of the First Part of Henry IV. and the Second Part of Henry IV., made in the light of the thread of subjective evidence in the plays of the Sonnet period, may give us some new clues in determining the relative periods of their original composition.

In the First Part of Henry IV. the hostess of the tavern is referred to as a young and beautiful woman in Act I. Scene ii., as follows:

FALSTAFF.... And is not my hostess of the tavern a most sweet wench?

PRINCE. As the honey of Hybla, my old lad of the castle. And is not a
buff jerkin a most sweet robe of durance?

FAL. How now, how now, mad wag! what, in thy quips and quiddities?
What a plague have I to do with a buff jerkin?

PRINCE. Why, what a pox have I to do with my hostess of the tavern?

FAL. Well, thou hast called her to a reckoning many a time and oft.

PRINCE. Did I ever call for thee to pay thy part?

FAL. No, I’ll give thee thy due, thou hast paid all there. /

PRINCE. Yes, and elsewhere, so far as my coin would stretch; and
where it would not, I have used my credit.

FAL. Yea, and so used it that, were it not here apparent that thou
art heir apparent but, I prithee, sweet wag, shall there be
gallows standing in England when thou art king? And resolution
thus fobbed as it is with the rusty curb of old father antic
the law? Do not thou, when thou art king, hang a thief.

Falstaff’s impertinent and suggestive reference to the prince’s intimacy with the hostess, not being taken well, he quickly gives the conversation a turn to cover up the mistake he finds he has made. It is palpable that the characterisation of the hostess in the First Part of Henry IV., in its original form, was not the same as that presented in the Second Part of this play in which she is represented as Mistress Quickly, an old, unattractive, and garrulous widow. In the First Part of Henry IV. she is mentioned only once as Mistress Quickly. In Act III. Scene iii. the prince addresses her under this name and inquires about her husband.

PRINCE. What sayest thou, Mistress Quickly? How doth thy husband? I
love him well; he is an honest man.

This single mention of the hostess as Mistress Quickly is evidently an interpolation made at the period of the revision of this play late in 1597, or early in 1598. It is also probable that the revision at this time was made with the intention of linking the action of the First Part to the Second Part of the play, the outline of which Shakespeare was probably planning at that time.

The dramatic time of the First Part of the play has been estimated as at the outside covering a period of three months, and of the Second Part, a period of two months. No long interval is supposed to have elapsed between the action of the two parts; yet, in the First Part of the play the hostess is young, attractive, and has a husband. In the Second Part, she is old, unattractive, and is a widow. This divergence is evidently to be accounted for by the fact that the First Part of Henry IV. in its earliest, and unrevised, form was written, not long after the composition of Love’s Labour’s Won (All’s Well that Ends Well in its early form), and during the estrangement between Southampton and Shakespeare in 1594, caused by the nobleman’s relations with the “dark lady,” that “most sweet wench,” “my hostess of the tavern.”

I have indicated a certain continuity and link of characterisation between Parolles, as we leave him in All’s Well that Ends Well, and Falstaff, as we first encounter him in the First Part of Henry IV. I shall now demonstrate parallels between the characterisation of Falstaff in the First Part of Henry IV., and the tone and spirit of the conversations between the imaginary characters of Florio’s Second Fruites. Fewer resemblances are to be found between the Second Fruites and the Second Part of Henry IV. From this I infer that when Shakespeare composed the First Part of Henry IV. in its original form, his personal acquaintance with Florio was recent and limited, and that he developed his characterisation of Falstaff in that portion of the play largely from Florio’s self-revelation in the Second Fruites, and that in continuing this characterisation later on, in the Second Part of the play, he reinforced it from a closer personal observation of the idiosyncrasies of his prototype.

The Earl of Southampton, who was shadowed forth as Bertram in Love’s Labour’s Won, with Parolles as his factotum, representing Florio in that capacity, becomes the prince in Henry IV., while Florio becomes Falstaff. The First Part of the play in its original form reflected their connection and the affair of the “dark lady” in 1593-94. The First Part of Henry IV., in its revised form, and the Second Part of Henry IV. reflect a resumed, or a continued, familiarity between Southampton and Florio in 1598. This leads me to infer that Florio may again have accompanied Southampton when he left England with Sir Robert Cecil for the French Court in February 1598, in much the same capacity as he had served him on his first visit to France in 1592, when they were first reflected as Bertram and Parolles.

In the original development of the characterisation of Parolles, Armado, and Falstaff, I am convinced that Shakespeare worked, not only from observation of his prototype in their daily intercourse, but that he also studied Florio’s mental and moral angles and literary mannerisms in his extant productions. If Armado’s letters to Jaquenetta and to the King be compared with Florio’s dedication of his Second Fruites which was published in 1591, several months preceding the original composition of Love’s Labour’s Lost and also with his “Address to the Reader,” a similitude will be found that certainly passes coincidence. A comparison of Parolles’ and Falstaff’s opportunist and materialistic philosophy with Florio’s outlook on life as we find it unconsciously exhibited in his Second Fruites, reveals a characteristic unity that plainly displays intentional parody on Shakespeare’s part.

Didactic literature seldom presents the real character and workaday opinions and beliefs of a writer. The teacher generally speaks from a height transcending his ordinary levels of thought and action. In Florio’s Second Fruites his intention is didactic only in relation to imparting a colloquial knowledge of Italian. In this endeavour he arranges a series of twelve conversations on matters of everyday life between imaginary characters, who are, presumably, of about the same social quality as his usual pupils the younger gentry of the time. In these talks his intention was to be entirely natural and to reproduce, what he conceived to be, ordinary conversation between gentlemen of fashion. In doing this he reveals ethics, manners, and morals of a decidedly Falstaffian flavour. The gross and satyr-like estimate of women he displays; his primping enjoyment of apparel; the gusto with which he converses of things to eat and drink of ale, and wine, and capóns; his distrust of the minions of the law; his knowledge and horror of arrest and imprisonment, and his frankly animal zest of life, all suggest Shakespeare’s knowledge of the book as well as the man.

As Florio’s Second Fruites is not easily accessible to the general reader, a few extracts may serve to exhibit the characteristic resemblances to Shakespeare’s delineation of Falstaff.

The twelve chapters of the work are headed as follows:

The first chapter, “Of rising in the morning and of things belonging
to the chamber and to apparel.”

The second, “For common speech in the morning between friends;
wherein is described a set of tennis.”

The third, “Of familiar morning communication; wherein many
courtesies are handled, and the manner of visiting and saluting the
sick, and of riding, with all that belongeth to a horse.”

The fourth chapter, “Wherein is set down a dinner for six persons,
between whom there fall many pleasant discourses concerning meat and

The fifth, “Wherein discourse is held of play and many things thereto
appertaining, a game of primero and of chess.”

The sixth chapter, “Concerning many familiar and ceremonious compliments among six gentlemen who talk of many pleasant matters, but especially of divers necessary, profitable, civil, and proverbial receipts for a traveller.”

The seventh, “Between two gentlemen who talk of arms, and of the art
of fencing, and of buying and selling.”

The eighth chapter, “Between James, and Lippa, his man, wherein they talk of many pleasant and delightsome jests, and in it is described an unpleasant lodging, an illformed old woman, also the beautiful parts that a woman ought to have to be accounted fair in all perfection, and pleasantly blazoned a counterfeit lazy and naught-worth servant.”

The ninth, “Between Caezar and Tiberio; wherein they discourse of news
of the Court, of courtiers of this day, and of many other matters of

The tenth chapter, “Between gentlemen and a servant; wherein they
talk of going to supper, and familiar speech late in the evening.”

The eleventh, “Wherein they talk of going to bed, and many things
thereto belonging.”

The twelfth, “Wherein proverbially and pleasantly discourse is held
of love and women.”

He makes one of his characters end this last chapter as follows:

“As for me, I never will be able, nor am I able, to be willing but to love whatsoever pleaseth women, to whom I dedicate, yield, and consecrate what mortal thing soever I possess, and I say, that a salad, a woman, and a capon as yet was never out of season.”

The remarkable resemblance between the sentiments here expressed and the characteristics attributed to Falstaff by Prince Henry in the passage quoted above from Henry IV., Act I. Scene ii., suggest Shakespeare’s knowledge of the Second Fruites.

He describes the wardrobe of a man of fashion with envious unction, giving a minute inventory of his shirts, handkerchiefs, ruffs, cuffs, towels, quoises, shoes, buskins, daggers, swords, gloves, doublets, jerkins, gowns, hats, caps, and boots. The very superabundance recalling, by contrast, the paucity in this regard in the cases of Armado and Falstaff.

The philosophy of his conversations is selfish and worldly-wise to a degree, with nowhere the slightest suggestion of ideality or altruism.

“T. From those that I do trust, good Lord deliver me, from such as I
mistrust, I’ll harmless come to be.

G. He gives me so many good words I cannot fail but trust him.

T. Wot you not that fair words and foul deeds are wont to make both
fools and wise men fain.

G. I know it, but if he beat me with a sword, I will beat him again
with a scabbard.

T. What, will you give him bread for cake then?

G. If any man wrong thee, wrong him again, or else be sure to
remember it.”

In the conversation concerning meats and repast he is Gargantuan in his descriptions.

“S. The meat is coming in, let us set down.

C. I would wash first if it were not to trouble Robert.

S. What, ho! Bring some water to wash our hands.

ROBERT. Here it is fresh and good to drinke for a neede.

H. God hath made water for other things than to drinke.

C. Hast thou not heard that water rots, not only men, but stakes?

R. Yet men say that water was made to drinke, to saile, and to wash.

M. It was good to drinke when men did eat acornes.

T. I pray you set down for I have a good stomach.

N. As for a good stomach, I do yield a jot unto you.

S. My masters, the meat cooles.

S. My masters, sit down; every man take his place.

N. Tush, I pray you, sit down.

C. With obliging you I shall show myself unmannerly.

H. Of courtesie, Master M., sit here between us two.

M. Virtue consists in the midst quothe the devil when he found
himself between two nuns.

S. Bring hither that salad, those steaks, that leg of mutton, that
piece of beef with all the boiled meats we have.

S. I pray you, every man serve himself, let everyone cut where he
please, and seek the best morsels.

N. Truly these meats are very well seasoned.

S. Call for drinke when you please, and what kind of wine you like

N. Give me some wine but put some water in it.

S. You may well enough drinke it pure, for our wines are all borne
under the sign of Aquarius.

M. Do you not know that wine watered is esteemed a vile thing?

C. Give me a cup of beere, or else a bowl of ale.

S. I pray you, do not put that sodden water into your bellie.

C. I like it as well as wine, chiefly this hot weather.

T. He that drinks wine drinks blood, he that drinks water drinks
fleame (phlegm).

H. I love to drink wine after the Dutch fashion.

T. How do they drinke it, I pray you?

H. In the morning, pure; at dinner, without water, and at night as it
comes from the vessel.

M. I like this rule; they are wise, and God’s blessing light upon

H. A slice of bacon would make us taste this wine well.

S. What, ho! set that gammon of bacon on the board.

M. God be thanked, I am at a truce with my stomach.

T. In faith, I would stay until the bells do ring.

S. You were not fasting then when you came here?

M. I had only drunk a little Malmslie.

T. And I a good draught of Muscatine, and eat a little bread.

S. Bring the meat away, in God’s name.

R. The meat is not enough yet.

S. Take away that empty pot, set some bread upon the table and put
some salt in the salt cellar, and make roome for the second messe.

R. Now, comes the roast.

S. Welcome may with his flowers.

T. And good speed may our barke have.

S. The Jews do not look for their Messias with more devotion than I
have looked for the roast meat.

S. Set that capon upon the table, and those chickens, those rabbits, and that hen, that goose; those woodcock, those snipes, those larks, those quails, those partridges, those pheasants and that pasty of venison.

R. Here is everything ready.

N. You have led us to a wedding.

S. I pray you, cut up that hen, I pray God it be tender.

C. Alas, I think she was dam to the cock that crowed to St. Peter.

S. I thought that so soon as I saw her.

N. I beseech you, sir, will you carve some of that pheasant?

M. They be offices that I love to do.

N. I will one day fill my bellie full of them.

S. Master Andrew, will it please you to eat an egg?

A. With all my heart, sir, so be it new laid.

S. As new as may be; laid this morning.

A. I love new-laid eggs well.

S. Sirra, go cause a couple of eggs to be made readie.

R. By and by, will you have them hard or soft?

A. It is no matter, I love them better raire.

T. An egg of an hour, bread of a day, kidd of a month, wine of six,
flesh of a year, fish of ten, a woman of fifteen, and a friend of a
hundred, he must have that will be merrie.

S. What aileth Master T. that he looks so sad?

T. I am not very well at ease.

S. What feel you, where grieves it you?

T. I feel my stomach a little over-cloyde.

N. Shall I teach you a good medicine?

H. My mother, of happy memorie, was wont to tell me that a pill of
wheat, of a hen the days work sweat, and some vine juice that were
neat was best physick I could eat.

M. Your mother was a woman worthy to govern a kingdom.

S. My masters, you see here the period of this poor dinner; the best
dish you have had hath been your welcome.

H. As that hath fed our minds so have the others fed our bodies well.

S. It grieves me that you have been put to such penance, but yet I
hope you will excuse me.

C. If doing such penance a man might win heaven, O sweet penance for
a man to do every day.”

Portions of the sixth chapter, with its talk of divers necessary prophetic and proverbial precepts for a traveller, evidently supplied Shakespeare with the hint for Scene iv. Act II. of the First Part of Henry IV., between Falstaff and Prince Hal, wherein Falstaff personates the prince’s father.

“S. Mister Peeler, whatsoever I shall tell you, according to my wonted manner, I will speak as plainly unto you as though you were my son, and therefore pardon me, if I shall seem eyther too familiar, or too homely with you.

P. Say on boldly, for I shall be very proud if it please you to
account me as your child, and that I may repute you as my father.

S. First, my loving Mister Peeler, if you purpose to come unto the
wished end of your travel, have always your mind and thought on God.”

This highly moral preamble is followed by much ungodly, worldly wisdom.

“S. And if you will be a traveller and wander safely through the world, wheresoever you come have always the eyes of a falcon that you may see far, the ears of an ass that you may hear well, the face of an ape that you may be ready to laugh, the mouth of a hog to eat all things, the shoulder of a camel that you may bear anything with patience, the legs of a stag that you may flee from dangers, and see that you never want two bags very full; that is, one of patience, for with it a man overcomes all things, and another of money, for,

They that have good store of crownes,
Are called lordes, though they be clownes;

and gold hath the very same virtue that charity hath, it covereth a multitude of faults, and golden hammers break all locks, and golden meedes do reach all heights, have always your hand on your hat, and in your purse, for,

A purse or cap used more or less a year
Gain many friends, and do not cost thee dear.

Travelling by the way in winter time, honour your companion, so shall you avoid falling into dangerous places. In summer go before, so shall not the dust come into your eyes. Setting at board, if there be but little bread, hold it fast in your hand, if small store of flesh, take hold on the bone, if no store of wine, drink often, and unless you be required, never offer any man either salt, etc.”

The ninth chapter, wherein they “plausibly discourse of news of the Court and of courtiers of this day, and of many other matters of delight,” is full of Falstaffian paradox, and reminiscent of Justice Shallow’s relations with Jane Nightwork.

“C. What is become of your neighbour, I mean the old doating man
grown twice a child?

T. As old as you see him he has of late wedded a young wench of
fifteen years old.

C. Then he and she will make up the whole bible together; I mean the
old and new testament.

T. To an old cat a young mouse.

C. Old flesh makes good broth.

T. What has become of his son that I see him not?

C. He was put in prison for having beaten an enemy of his.

T. Be wrong or right prison is a spite.

C. A man had need look to himself in this world.

T. What is become of his fair daughter whom he married to what you
call him that was sometime our neighbour?

C. She spins crooked spindles for her husband and sends him into
Cornwall without ship or boat.

T. What, does she make him wear the stag’s crest then?

C. You have guessed right and have hit the nail on the head.

T. His blood is of great force and virtue then.

C. What virtue can his blood have, tell me in good faith?

T. It is good to break diamonds withal.

C. Why, man’s blood cannot break diamonds.

T. Yes, but the blood of a he-goat will.

C. Moreover, he may challenge to have part in heaven by it.

T. What matter is it for him then to be a he-goat, or a stumpbuck, or
a kid, or a chamois, a stag, or a brill, a unicorn, or an elephant so
he may be safe, but how may that be, I pray thee, tell me?

C. I will tell thee, do not you know that whosoever is made a cuckold
by his wife, either he knows it, or he knows it not.

T. That I know, then what will you infer upon it?

C. If he knows it he must needs be patient, and therefore a martyr, if he knows it not, he is innocent, and you know that martyrs and innocents shall be saved, which if you grant, it followeth that all cuckolds shall obtain paradise.

T. Methinks then that women are not greatly to be blamed if they seek
their husbands’ eternal salvation, but are rather to be commended as
causes of a noble and worthy effect.”

He speaks with evident feeling of one who is imprisoned for debt.

“T. Take heed of debts; temper thy desires, and moderate thy tongue.

C. It is a devilish thing to owe money.

T. For all that he is so proud that though he have need of patience
he calleth for revenge.

C. Could not he save himself out of the hands of those catchpoles,
counter guardians, or sergeants?

T. Seeking to save himself by flight from that rascality he had
almost left the lining of his cap behind.

C. I am sorry for his mischance, for with his jests, toys, fooleries,
and pleasant conceits, he would have made Heraclitus himself to burst
his heart with laughing.

T. Did you ever go see him yet?

C. I would not go into prison to fetch one of my eyes if I had left
it there.

T. Yet there be some honest men there.

C. And where will you have them but in places of persecution?

T. You have reason.

C. I would not be painted there so much do I hate and loathe the

Speaking of the Court and courtiers he says:

“C. The favours of the Court are like fair weather in winter, or
clouds in summer, and Court, in former time, was counted death.

T. It is still Court for the vicious, but death for the virtuous,
learned and wise.

C. Seven days doth the Court regard a virtuous man, be he never so mannerly, well-brought up, and of gentle conditions. That is, the first day he makes a show of himself, he is counted gold; the second, silver; the third, copper; the fourth, tin; the fifth, lead; the sixth, dross; and the seventh, nothing at all, whereas the contrary happeneth of the vicious.

T. Yet the virtuous have sometimes got rich gifts there.

C. Yea, but they come as seldom as the year of jubilee.

T. Yet some of them are so courteous, so gentle, so kind, so liberal, so bountiful, that envy itself cannot choose but love them, and blame honour them, and, I think, there is no Court in the world that hath more nobility in it than ours.

T. But tell me truth, had you never the mind to become a courtier?

C. He that is well, let him not stir, for if in removing he break his
leg, at his own peril be it.

T. Where there is life there is means; where means, entertainment;
where entertainment, hope; where hope, there is comfort.”

How closely this last passage resembles the philosophy of Parolles, after his disgrace, in Act IV. Scene iii. of All’s Well that Ends Well.

PAR. Yet am I thankful: if my heart were great,

’Twould burst at this. Captain, I’ll be no more;
But I will eat and drink, and sleep as soft
As captain shall: simply the thing I am
Shall make me live.

There’s place and means for every man alive.

The familiarity of the public with the character of Falstaff, under the name of Sir John Oldcastle, is evidenced by the frequency with which both this play and character are referred to by the latter name even after the publication of the First Part of Henry IV. in 1598, with the name changed to Falstaff. If this play was originally composed, as is usually suggested, in 1596 or 1597, the short period which it could have been presented in its earlier form, and before its revision in the beginning of 1598, would scarcely allow for the confirmed acquaintance of the public with the name of Sir John Oldcastle in connection with the characterisation developed by Shakespeare. While Shakespeare took this name from the old play of The Famous Victories of Henry V., there is no similarity between the characterisation of the persons presented under that name in the two plays.

Nicholas Rowe, Shakespeare’s earliest biographer, is responsible for the report that the change of the name of this character from Oldcastle to Falstaff was made by Shakespeare at the command of the Queen, and owing to the protest of Lord Cobham. It is not unlikely that there was some basis of truth for this report, nor improbable that Lord Cobham’s alleged objection was caused by the misrepresentations of Shakespeare’s literary rivals, including Florio, whose own “ox had been gored.”

In 1597 the Wardenship of the Cinque Ports having become vacant, Sir Robert Sidney, who had been long absent from England as Governor of Flushing, and was desirous of returning, made application for the office, being aided in his suit by the Earl of Essex and others of his friends in Essex’s party. Sir Robert Cecil, while encouraging Sidney and professing friendship, secretly aided Lord Cobham for the post. Sidney’s military fitness for so responsible a charge was constantly urged against Cobham’s lack of martial experience, but the Queen, after a long delay, during which much heat developed between the contestants and their friends, finally decided in favour of her relative, Lord Cobham. The Earl of Southampton was one of Sir Robert Sidney’s most intimate friends and ardent admirers, and must have taken some interest in this long-drawn-out rivalry. It is possible that Shakespeare, instigated by Southampton, may have introduced some personal reflections suggestive of Cobham’s military inadequacy into the performance of the play at this crucial period, Cobham’s alleged descent from the historical Oldcastle lending the suggestion its personal significance.

The sixth book of Sonnets was written either late in 1596, or in 1597. A line in the first Sonnet of this book (Thorpe’s 66) implies, on Shakespeare’s part, a recent unpleasant experience with the authorities:

“And art made tongue-tied by authority.”

It is apparent that whatever was the cause, some difficulty arose in about 1597 regarding the name Oldcastle. Nicholas Rowe’s report is substantiated by Shakespeare’s own apologetic words in the Epilogue to Henry IV., Part II.:

“If you be not too much cloyed with fat meat, our humble author will continue the story, with Sir John in it, and make you merry with fair Katherine of France; where, for any thing I know, Falstaff shall die of a sweat, unless already a’ be killed with your hard opinions; for Oldcastle died a martyr, and this is not the man.”

If Shakespeare was compelled to alter this name for the reasons reported by Nicholas Rowe, it is not unlikely that Florio and his literary allies helped in some manner to arouse the resentment of Lord Cobham. In altering the play in 1598, and changing the name of Sir John Oldcastle to Sir John Falstaff, I am convinced that Shakespeare intentionally made his caricature of John Florio more transparent by choosing a name having the same initials as his, and furthermore, that in altering the historical name of Fastolfe to Falstaff, he intended to indicate Florio’s relations with Southampton as a false-staff, a misleader of youth. The Epilogue of the Second Part of Henry IV., while denying a representation of the historical Sir John Oldcastle in the words “this is not the man,” implies at the same time that some other personal application is intended in the characterisation of Falstaff.

The First Part of Henry IV., with its significant allusion to the “Humourous Conceits of Sir John Falstaff” on the title-page, was entered on the Stationers’ Registers under date of 25th February 1598, and was published within a short period. That John Florio recognised Shakespeare’s satire and personal intention in choosing a character with his own initials he shows within a month or two of this date in his “Address to the Reader,” prefixed to his Worlde of Wordes. He accuses a person, whom he indicates under the initials “H.S.” of having made a satirical use of his initials “J.F.” It is evident that in using the letters “H.S.” he is not giving the actual initials of his antagonist. Addressing “H.S.” he says: “And might not a man, that can do as much as you (that is reade) finde as much matter out of H.S. as you did out of J.F.?” He says the person at whom he aims is a “reader” and a “writer” too; he also indicates him as a maker of plays. He says:

“Let Aristopanes and his comedians make plaies, and scowre their mouthes on Socrates; those very mouthes they make to vilifie, shall be meanes to amplifie his vertue. And it was not easie for Cato to speake evill, so was it not usuall for him to heare evill. It may be Socrates would not kicke againe, if an äße did kicke at him, yet some that cannot be so wise, and will not be so patient as Socrates, will for such jadish tricks give the äße his due burthen of bastonadas. Let H.S. hisse, and his complices quarrell, and all breake their gals, I have a great faction of good writers to bandie with me.”

Florio here gives palpable evidence of the fact that his was not an isolated case, but that he was banded with a literary faction in hostility to Shakespeare, which included Roydon, who published Willobie his Avisa, in 1594, again in 1596, and again in 1599; Chapman, who, in 1593, attacked Shakespeare in the early Histriomastix, and again in 1599 in its revision, as well as in his poem to Harriot, appended to his Achilles Shield in the same year; and Marston, who joined Chapman in opposition to Shakespeare, and helped in the revision of Histriomastix. In the words “Let H.S. hisse, and his complices quarrell, etc.,” Florio also gives evidence that Shakespeare at this period had literary allies. In the story of the Sonnets I shall show that Dekker was Shakespeare’s principal ally in what has been called the “War of the Theatres,” which is supposed to have commenced at this time, and, bearing in mind Chettle’s recorded collaboration with Dekker at this same period, it is evident that he also sided with Shakespeare.

A careful search of Elizabethan literature fails to bring to light any other writer who makes a satirical use of the initials “J.F.,” or any record of a writer bearing initials in any way resembling “H.S.” who in any manner approximates to Florio’s description of a “reader” and a “writer too” as well as a maker of plays.

I have already shown Chapman’s references to Shakespeare in the dedication of The Shadow of Night. His allusion to Shakespeare as “passion-driven” at that date (1594) being a reference to his relations with the “dark lady.” That he suggests Shakespeare, in his capacity of “reader” to the Earl of Southampton, and that he takes flings at his social quality in the expression “Judgements butcher,” which I recognise as an allusion to his father’s trade, and in the words “Intonsi Catones,” as a reference to his provincial breeding as well as to the flowing manner in which he wore his hair. In elucidating the meaning of the initials “H.S.,” Florio still more coarsely indicates our country-bred poet, and accuses him of being a parasite, a bloodsucker, and a monster of lasciviousness. His abusive descriptions are given in Latin and Italian phrases commencing with the letters H and S. His reason for using the letter H no doubt being that there is no W in either Italian or Latin, H being its nearest phonetic equivalent. Let us consider the whole passage.

“There is another sort of leering curs, that rather snarle than bite, whereof I coulde instance in one, who lighting upon a good sonnet of a gentlemans, a friend of mine, that loved better to be a Poet, then to be counted so, called the author a rymer, notwithstanding he had more skill in good Poetrie, then my slie gentleman seemed to have in good manners or humanitie. But my quarrell is to a tooth-lesse dog, that hateth where he cannot hurt, and would faîne bite when he hath no teeth. His name is H.S. Do not take it for the Romane H.S. for he is not of so much worth, unlesse it be as H.S. is twice as much and a halfe as halfe an As. But value you him how you will, I am sure he highly valueth himselfe. This fellow, this H.S. reading (for I would you should knowe he is a reader and a writer too) under my last epistle to the reader J.F. made as familiar a word of F. as if I had bin his brother. Now Recte fit oculis magister tuis, said an ancient writer to a much-like reading gramarian-pédante: God save your eie-sight, sir, or at least your insight. And might not a man, that can do as much as you (that is, reade) finde as much matter out of H.S. as you did out of J.F.? As for example H.S. why may it not stand as well for Haeres Stultitiae, as for Homo Simplex? or for Hircus Satiricus, as well as for any of them? And this in Latine, besides Hedera Seguace, Harpía Subata, Humore Superbo, Hipocrito Simulatore in Italian. And in English world without end. Huffe Snuffe, Horse Stealer, Hob Sowter, Hugh Sot, Humphrey Swineshead, Hodge Sowgelder. Now Master H.S. if this do gaule you, forbeare kicking hereafter, and in the meane time you may make a plaister of your dried Marjoram. I have seene in my daies an inscription, harder to finde out the meaning, and yet easier for a man to picke a better meaning out of it, if he be not a man of H.S. condition.”

It will be noticed that Florio’s reflections upon Shakespeare’s breeding, morals, and manners, while couched in coarser terms, are of the same nature as Chapman’s. Ben Jonson, as shall later be shown, in Every Man out of his Humour, casts similar slurs at Shakespeare’s provincial origin. It is likely that the friend whose sonnet had been criticised and who was called a “rymer” by “H.S.” was none other than George Chapman. The fifth book of Shakespeare’s Sonnets to the Earl of Southampton was written against Chapman’s advances upon his patron’s favour. In the tenth Sonnet in this book, which is numbered as the 38th in Thorpe’s arrangement, Shakespeare refers to Chapman as a rhymer in the lines:

“Be thou the tenth Muse ten times more in worth
Than those old nine which rhymers invocate.”

The few records concerning Florio, from which we may derive any idea of his personal appearance and manner, suggest a very singular individuality. There was evidently something peculiar about his face; he was undoubtedly witty and worldly-wise, a braggart, a sycophant, and somewhat of a buffoon. He was imbued with an exaggerated idea of his own importance, and possessed of most unblushing assurance. In 1591 he signed his address “To the Reader,” prefixed to his Second Fruites, “Resolute John Florio,” a prefix which he persisted thereafter in using in similar addresses in other publications. In 1600 Sir William Cornwallis (who at that time had seen Florio’s translation of Montaigne’s Essays in MS.) writes of him: “Montaigne now speaks good English. It is done by a fellow less beholding to nature for his fortune than wit, yet lesser for his face than fortune. The truth is, he looks more like a good fellow than a wise man, and yet he is wise beyond either his fortune or education.”

Between the year 1598 (when Florio dedicated his World of Wordes to the Earl of Southampton) and 1603, when Southampton was released from the Tower upon the accession of James I., we have no record of Florio’s connection with that nobleman. It was undoubtedly due to Southampton’s influence in the new Court that Florio became reader to Queen Anna and Gentleman of the Privy Chamber to James I. His native vanity and arrogance blossomed into full bloom in this connection, in which he seems to have been tolerated as a sort of superior Court jester. The extravagant and grandiloquent diction of his early dedications read like commonplace prose when compared with the inflated verbosity of his later dedications to Queen Anna. In 1613 he issued a new edition of Montaigne’s Essays which he dedicated to the Queen. A comparison of the flattering sycophancy of this dedication with the quick transition of his tone in his curt and insolent address “To the Reader” in the same book will give some idea of the man’s shallow bumptiousness.


By the grace of God, Queen of England, Scotland, France and Ireland. Imperial and Incomparable Majestic. Seeing with me all of me is in your royal possession, and whatever pieces of mine have hitherto under the starres passed the public view, come now of right to be under the predomination of a power that both contains all their perfections and hath influences of a more sublime nature. I could not but also take in this part (whereof time had worn out the edition) which the world had long since had of mine and lay it at your sacred feet as a memorial of my devoted duty, and to show that where I am I must be all I am and cannot stand dispersed in my observance being wholly (and therein happy) Your Sacred Majesties most humble and Loyal servant,



Enough, if not too much, hath been said of this translation, if the faults found even by my own selfe in the first impression be now by the printer corrected, as he was directed, the work is much amended; if not, know, that through this mine attendance on her Majestic I could not intend it: and blame not Neptune for thy second shipwrecke. Let me conclude with this worthy mans daughter of allianceQue l’en semble donc lecteur.’

Still Resolute

Gentleman Extraordinary and Groome of the Privy Chamber.”