A monologue from Act IV, Scene ii

by: William Shakespeare

NOTE: Henry IV, Part I was originally published in 1598. It is now a public domain work and may be performed without royalties.

FALSTAFF: If I be not ashamed of my soldiers, I am a soused gurnet [1]. I have misused the king's press [2] damnably. I have got, in exchange of a hundred and fifty soldiers, three hundred and odd pounds. I press [3] me none but good householders, yeomen's sons; inquire me out contracted bachelors, such as had been asked twice on the banes [4] -- such a commodity of warm slaves as had as lieve hear the devil as a drum, such as fear the report of a caliver [5] worse than a struck fowl or a hurt wild duck. I pressed me none but such toasts-and-butter, with hearts in their bellies no bigger than pins' heads, and they have bought out their services [6]; and now my whole charge consists of ancients, corporals, lieutenants, gentlemen of companies -- slaves as ragged as Lazarus in the painted cloth, where the glutton's dogs licked his sores; and such as indeed were never soldiers, but discarded unjust servingmen, younger sons to younger brothers, revolted [7] tapsters [8], and ostlers [9] trade-fall'n [10]; the cankers of a calm world and a long peace; ten times more dishonorable ragged than an old fazed ancient [11]; and such have I to fill up the rooms of them as have bought out their services that you would think that I had a hundred and fifty tattered prodigals lately come from swine-keeping, from eating draff [12] and husks. A mad fellow met me on the way, and told me I had unloaded all the gibbets [13] and pressed the dead bodies. No eye hath seen such scarecrows. I'll not march through Coventry with them, that's flat. Nay, and the villains march wide betwixt the legs, as if they had gyves [14] on, for indeed I had the most of them out of prison. There's not a shirt and a half in all my company, and the half-shirt is two napkins tacked together and thrown over the shoulders like a herald's coat without sleeves; and the shirt, to say the truth, stol'n from my host at Saint Alban's, or the red-nose innkeeper of Daventry. But that's all one; they'll find linen enough on every hedge.

1 pickled fish

2 right of conscription

3 draft

4 public announcement of intent to marry, made three times

5 musket

6 bribed me to let them stay at home

7 runaway

8 bartenders

9 one who takes care of horses

10 out of work

11 tattered flag

12 garbage

13 gallows

14 shackles

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