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Act II, Scene 4
The scene is a room in the Boar’s Head Tavern. Two lowly waiters enter. Their conversation reveals that Hal has baited Falstaff by giving him five apples with wrinkled skins, and identifying the knight as the sixth. At Doll Tearsheet’s request, musicians have been sent for. Quickly compliments Doll Tearsheet on her improved health (her red rose color, due not to health but to the excessive drinking of wine). When Falstaff enters, Doll Tearsheet tells him that she will remain friends with him since he is going to war. The first waiter announces the arrival of Pistol who wants to talk to Falstaff. Doll angrily denounces him as a “swaggering rascal” and a “foul-mouthed rogue.” She says that no swaggerers are welcome in her establishment.
Falstaff is talking freely to Doll sitting on his lap, completely unaware that Hal and Poins, disguised, have come into the room. He tells Doll that the Prince is a shallow fellow. When Doll remarks that Poins has a good wit, Falstaff says “hang him baboon”--Falstaff disagrees. He is tolerated only because he is young and wild like the Prince. Hal and Poins condemn the slander and cowardly behavior of Falstaff. Suddenly Falstaff recognizes Hal. Hal rebukes him for talking about him so indecently and says that he has heard every word. Falstaff gives all sorts of excuses for his defense. Then Peto enters saying that the King is at Westminster and messengers have arrived from the north. Moreover a dozen captains are asking for Falstaff. The Prince regrets having wasted his time when there is a commotion in the country and asks for his sword and coat and bids Falstaff good night. Bardolph says that Falstaff must leave at once for court. The women are sad at his departure and Doll says that her heart is bursting with grief and asks him to take care.
This scene presents the initial encounter between Falstaff and Hal. The rebellion is heightened along with the comic subplot.
Mistress Quickly’s speech has surely a rich flavor. Temperality, pulsidge, extraordinarily can be translated as temper, pulse, and ordinarily. Temperality combines temper and quality. Pulsidge conveys an impression of fullness that is extremely apt. Extraordinarily suggests much better than usual. She uses the word canaries to mean wine (Canary is a sweet wine). She confuses it with “canaries” a lively dance. Another interesting usage is “perfumes the blood.” Perfume can mean inflame, spreading, or perfuse. Again she says “good heart’s worth gold.” She implies that good name is better than riches.
Falstaff says that women who are quiet must be sick. Falstaff says that Doll tempts him to loose living and so he becomes bloated; gluttony and venereal diseases are associated with a swollen figure. Here Falstaff’s association with a prostitute like Doll shows his character. His loose immoral way of life is made clear here. The hostess says that Doll and Falstaff are like two dry toasts which cannot meet but grate one another.
Then comes Pistol: Quickly refers to Pistol as “captain.” Sarcastically Doll exclaims, how can such a man like Pistol be called a captain: “And captains were of my mind, they would truncheon you out, for taking their names upon you before you have earned them.” Doll’s comment is aimed at many Elizabethan captains. The uniform of the captain was easily imitated, for it consisted of nothing more distinctive than a sword, a scarf, and plumes. Pistol refers Doll as a “Galloway nag,” meaning anyone can ride her (he is openly calling her a prostitute).