Falstaff, Briefly

Dropping off my kids at school today I was explaining to them about the standarized testing that the school is doing (for older grades) and said, “Don’t expect to see any Shakespeare on a test like that. You kids might understand some of it but nobody else would.” “I know,” says the 7yr old, “Like if they asked what play is Romeo from, I’d know that the answer is Romeo and Juliet.” “That’s an easy one,” I say, “Since he’s got his name right there in the name of the play.  But what if they asked about Falstaff?” “Who’s he?” “Oh, just another character in one of the plays.” “Yes, but who *is* he?” That got me stumped, as I’m now about about 3 seconds from where they need to be.  “He’s a funny fat guy,” I tell them, and say a silent prayer that the karma gods don’t give Harold Bloom a heart attack. This seems an acceptable summary to small children, however, and they go off to school laughing at the idea of  a Shakespearean funny fat guy.

8 thoughts on “Falstaff, Briefly

  1. You could have told them "he's like Santa Claus, but drunk." Of course, the initial question "What play would you say Falstaff is in?" opens up it's own can of worms, as not everyone (particularly Harold Bloom) sees Falstaff from Merry Wives as the same character as the inimitable rogue from the Henry IV plays.

  2. Falstaff? An accidental rearer of kings, and one who reminds that same king of his humanity. A debauch who secures marriages through testing and trial. A wit beyond compare, but safely within reproach.

    That's Falstaff.

  3. From reading Harold Bloom, I think your description was more useful than a thousand pages of his nonsense.

  4. Falstaff as drunk Santa? Not sure if that's the image I want in my kids heads :).

    re: the "what play is he in" thing, that was kinda exactly my point that I knew would go right over their heads, I grabbed the most logical character who jumps across plays. I do that. 🙂

  5. It's just how he signs a letter to Hal in Henry IV, Part 2…it seemed like as good a way to sum him up as anythnig else was likely to be.

  6. OMG, one of my students said the BBC Falstaff was like "Santa drunk on cookies and milk"!

    He's a father, vice, mentor, BFF, and scapegoat. There. Simple. Ammiright?

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