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Act III, Scene 3
Once again it is time for some laughter. At the tavern, Falstaff complains to Bardolph that he has lost weight since the robbery and is now wasting away. Bardolph, not surprisingly, is unsympathetic. Falstaff then curses Bardolph's big red nose. When the hostess arrives, Falstaff asks her about his missing purse and accuses her of picking his pockets. He further refuses to pay his bill and claims that a very valuable ring of his grandfather's was also stolen. When the hostess mentions that she had heard the prince remark that the ring was worthless, Falstaff curses the prince and swears that if he were there he would cudgel him.
At that moment the prince arrives, followed by Peto. Falstaff continues arguing with the hostess and insulting her, even as his lies are exposed. When Hal informs Falstaff that his pockets were picked on his orders, however, Falstaff apologizes to the hostess. Falstaff then asks about the matter of the robbery, and Hal informs him that the money has been paid back. Falstaff is overjoyed, but his spirits dampen when he learns that he has been given the command of a troop of foot soldiers. Hal then gives assignments to Peto and Bardolph and orders Falstaff to meet him the next day.
The scene opens with Falstaff in low spirits, as he claims to have been wasting away with worry since the robbery. He blames his villainous companions for his condition and claims that he is not long for this world. He is in no danger of dying and not losing weight of course, as Bardolph is quick to point out, and his guilt, if it can even be called that, is short-lived. He is soon cursing Bardolph roundly and arguing with the hostess, whom he has clearly been taking advantage of.
Falstaff is in fine form throughout the scene. Though he is caught in lie after lie, he is utterly unapologetic. He has told the hostess that Hal owes him a thousand pounds, and when Hal asks him to explain this he says that Hal owes him his love, which is "worth a million" (145). He evades the issue entirely of his supposedly valuable ring, which is indeed made of copper. He assaults both the prince's and the hostess'character. He refuses to show any respect for Hal's station, for he is merely the "lion's whelp" (155), the king's son, and not the lion, the king.
Beneath Falstaff's bluster, however, is an element of disgrace. The picture of Falstaff, with nothing in his pockets but bills from bars and brothels and "a pennyworth of sugar candy" (169) is somewhat pathetic. While he claims that he has been supporting Bardolph for some thirty-two years, he himself is dependent on Hal to pay for his expenses. Still, he is defiantly irredeemable and unapologetic for who he is, and Hal cannot help but to forgive and assist him. Although it may be difficult to admire Falstaff, it is difficult not to love him; and the world would indeed be a poorer place if "plump Jack" (II, iv, 497) were banished.
The prince's new, no nonsense attitude is established here. Although he still has a soft spot in his heart for Falstaff, he is no longer the fun loving Hal but the serious Prince Henry, the heir apparent to the throne. His chiding of Falstaff for accusing the honest hostess of thievery and his excoriating of his character here has a solemnity that has not been heretofore been present. "Art thou not ashamed?" (172-3) he indignantly asks. He has no time to spare in sport or drink at the tavern but, rather, settles matters, gives instructions to Falstaff, Peto, and Bardolph, and leaves. Hal here shows himself to be ready to take the command of an army.