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Digesting Falstaff: Food and Nation in Shakespeare’s Henry IV plays

Digesting Falstaff: Food and Nation in Shakespeare’s Henry IV plays

Fisher, Joshua B.

Early English Studies, vol. 2 (2008)

Abstract

This article examines Falstaff’s culinary excesses in Shakespeare’s Henry IV plays in terms of quality instead of quantity. Rather than viewing Falstaff simply as a figure of gluttonous vice, the article argues that Sir John can be understood as embodying an expansive metaphorical significance as food and, in particular, as overwhelmingly native English foodstuffs that both appeal to and threaten to upset Hal’s humoral balance and his capacity to govern both self and nation. As such, embracing Falstaff potentially undermines one’s proximity to proper bodily decorum and self-rule, but rejecting Falstaff potentially dissociates both Hal and audiences from a cohesive national community.

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