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Act IV, Scene 3
The scene takes place in another part of the forest. Sounds of conflicts are heard. Falstaff and Colevile enter. Falstaff says that Colevile is a traitor coming from the dungeon. John of Lancaster, Westmoreland, Blunt, and others then enter. John orders the Earl to assemble the troops since fighting is over. In a mocking manner the Prince asks Falstaff where he has been. The Prince knows about Falstaff’s “trady tricks” of appearing when the danger is over. Falstaff is ashamed and he says that he never knew that rebuke and disgrace were the reward of valor. He insists that on his way to battlefield he had made John Colevile a captive. But the Prince knows that it is not Falstaff’s valor but Colevile’s courtesy that made it possible for the capture. He turns Colevile over to the Prince and he demands that his valor be celebrated in a broadside ballad illustrated with a picture of Colevile kissing Falstaff’s foot. Westmoreland returns and reports that the Prince’s orders have been carried out and the royal forces are now re-assembling. The Prince orders his men to take Colevile and all other captives to York for execution. The Prince then decides to leave for Court where his father, the King is lying ill. Falstaff asks permission to return by way of Gloucestershire and requests the Prince to speak well of him to the King, to which the Prince agrees. Alone, Falstaff says that the Prince is a sober-blooded boy who will never drink wine. He thinks that those who never drink wine are cowards. Wine enters the brain and makes a man lively, witty, courageous, and warm-blooded. Prince John has inherited cold blood from his father.
Bardolph enters and says that all the soldiers have been discharged and dispersed. Falstaff says “Good riddance” and he hurries to Gloucesterhsire to meet Shallow.
This scene links the main plot with the comic plot. The Prince asks Falstaff mockingly where he had been, making reference to his game of turning up when the danger is over. Ashamed Falstaff replies, “I never knew yet but rebuke and check was the valor.” This points out Falstaff’s ability to make himself appear more noble. He says he had made Colevile a captive. He compares himself to Caesar, “I came, saw, and overcame.” He demands the Prince celebrate his victory in a broadside ballad with a picture of Colevile kissing Falstaff’s foot so that his “valorous exploits” would outshine others and he would get good fame. Falstaff’s desire to be famous and his vanity is exposed here. In certain places he speaks in a high-flown style which reveals his flair for literary elegance and allusion. For example, “My lord, I beseech you give me leave to go/ Through Gloucestershire, and when you come to court,/ Stand my good lord, pray in your good report.” These prose lines coincides with verse lines.
Falstaff’s soliloquy is significant. He considers the Prince to be a young sober-blooded boy who doesn’t love him and could not be made to laugh. Men can only become friends by community of pleasures. He says that one who goes to bed heavily drunk begets a girl. Wine can activate the brain, make it quick, warm the blood, and illuminate the face. One who cannot enjoy wine can never enjoy its pleasures. In this soliloquy, the virtue of sack is explained in detail. He considers drinking as the first human principle.
The Prince is a firm, competent leader who moves relentlessly against the enemies of the Crown, Aware of Falstaff’s tricks, he reproves Falstaff but also agrees to talk about him in a good manner in court.