DARREN: In which play does Falstaff appear?

JACK: That would be plays … Henry the Fourth, Part One and Two, and The Merry Wives of Windsor.

DARREN: So that was a different Falstaff than Henry the Fifth?

Sir John Falstaff is a comic character created by William Shakespeare. A fat, vain, and boastful knight, he spends most of his time drinking with petty criminals, living on stolen or borrowed money. He is best known from Henry IV, Part 1, where he is the companion of Prince Hal. Although Falstaff is a drunken, corrupt lowlife, he has charisma and a zest for life that the prince enjoys. In Henry IV, Part 2, Prince Hal is on his path to kingship, and ultimately rejects Falstaff as a companion. They meet briefly only twice in the play, and Falstaff is ageing and unwell.

Darren is incorrect that Falstaff appears in Henry V – he dies offstage, but another character memorably describes his death.

Sir John Falstaff appears in the comedy, The Merry Wives of Windsor. He is vaguely recognisable as the same character, but there is otherwise no connection to the earlier plays, and it has been argued that it isn’t the same Sir John Falstaff. Although nominally set during the reign of either Henry IV or Henry V, everything in the play suggests that it actually takes place in Shakespeare’s own time, around the late 1500s. Tradition has it that the play was written at the request of Queen Elizabeth I, who asked Shakespeare to write a play where Falstaff falls in love.

[Painting shown is Falstaff II by Eduard von Grützner, 1904]

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