Renascence: Essays on Values in Literature, Summer 2003 v55 i4 p279(15)

Dives and Lazarus in The Henriad. Matthew Fike.

Full Text: COPYRIGHT 2003 Marquette University Press

STUDIES of Falstaff's role in The Henriad tend to emphasize the positive qualities that he embodies and to overlook the crimes that he commits. Roy Battenhouse, for example, considers him a "holy fool" and "comic oracle" who slyly comments on the ills of Henry's realm ("Falstaff As Parodist" 32, 40). Harold Bloom takes the praise a step further. Falstaff represents consciousness, imaginative freedom, vital intellect, the principle of play, and life itself. He is an "outrageous version of Socrates" and "the veritable monarch of language." Those who subscribe to "the social morality that is the permanent curse of Shakespearean scholarship"--who, in other words, deal Falstaff any blows--are "joyless scholars" (278-318, esp. 281, 306). Ralph Berry expresses a more balanced view: "Behind the attractive rogue is a real rogue, and the play's [Henry IV, part one's] business is to keep these alternating images before us" (82). It is indeed as problematic to overlook the criminal reality of Falstaff's life as it would be to ignore his role as parodist and champion of the imagination. Positive and negative, far from being mutually exclusive, are both essential to a fair assessment of the character.

Battenhouse and Bloom are also alike in asserting that Shakespeare's multiple allusions to Jesus's parable of Dives and Lazarus in Luke 16:19-31 helpfully illuminate Falstaff's role. "By repeated references to the parable ...," writes Battenhouse, "Falstaff has figured his times as those of the rich fool Dives, and himself as the age's Lazarus, fated to enjoy only crumbs from the table of its rulers, but with an inner faith in the table of Psalm xxiii" (47). Similarly, Bloom asserts, "Since Falstaff is perpetually in want of money, neither he nor we associate the fat knight with Dives ... Sir John must end like Lazarus," though the assertion comes a page after Bloom tacitly links Falstaff and Dives by pointing out that "Falstaff himself is another glutton" (311-12).

By stressing Falstaff's use of the parable to satirize the political situation and to soften his own misdeeds, both critics overlook a more objective evaluation of the character, which the story of Dives and Lazarus enables. Without denying "the love and loyalty, the wit and imagination, and the comic genius" that Falstaff clearly manifests (Cubeta 204), we may well consider the possibility that, although he is Lazarus-like in death, he corresponds in life not only to Dives and his five surviving brothers but also to Jesus's Pharisaic audience.

In the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, Jesus makes two points. First, whatever one's station in life may be, death brings about a reversal of fortune in the spirit of the Beatitudes: "Blessed are ye that hunger now: for ye shall be satisfied.... But wo be to you that are riche: for ye haue receiued your consolation" (Luke 6:21, 24). (1) Second, even a miracle will not cause persons to reform if they are so hard of heart as to ignore the Law and the Prophets. Leon Morris sums up the parable's message this way: "If a man [says Jesus] cannot be humane with the Old Testament in his hand and Lazarus on his doorstep, nothing--neither a visitant from the other world nor a revelation of the horrors of Hell--will teach him otherwise" (254-55).

Falstaff's allusions to Dives and Lazarus in Henry IV, part one, empty the story of its warning by reversing the order of the narrative and dissolving the causal connection between hardness of heart and damnation. (2) His first allusion associates Bardolph's face with Dives's torment: "I never see thy face but I think upon hellfire and Dives that lived in purple; for there he is in his robes, burning, burning" (3.3.31-33). (3) Only later does Falstaff say that his recruits are "as ragged as Lazarus" (4.2.25). For Jesus, Dives is damned as a result of his lack of compassion toward Lazarus. In Falstaff's parodic use of the parable, there is damnation, and there is mistreatment of the poor; however, the causal element in the parable comes second without any link to damnation, which is merely used to characterize Bardolph's face. Parabolic language, the verbal building block of Falstaff's insult, no longer conveys a warning to the rich of dire consequences in the afterlife. Or as the Lord Chief Justice puts it in another context, Falstaff is guilty of "wrenching the true cause the false way" (Henry IV, part two, 2.1.108-9), of emptying the parable of its warning and displacing its language onto a barroom joke.

The notion that such biblical allusion signals "a Christian intelligence in Falstaff" (Battenhouse, Shakespeare's Christian Dimension 299) and that he covertly has "a Christian spirit as wise as serpents and as harmless as doves" ("Falstaff As Parodist" 33) is somewhat misleading, for intelligence and spirit are not identical. Having a Christian intelligence--being aware of the parable and able to manipulate its language--does not mean that Falstaff possesses a Christian spirit, the charitable disposition that Jesus hopes to inculcate in the Pharisees. Thus the joke linking Bardolph's disfigured face and Dives's torment in hell illustrates the presence of a Christian intelligence but the absence of a Christian spirit.

Indeed, the following analogy suggests that Falstaff may be a Dives-figure himself. Harry Morris points out that "the fat knight usually attributes his own worst faults to others," (283-85) which is why he calls his victims at Gadshill "bacon-fed knaves" (2.2.84) and why, in yet another allusion to the parable, he says of his tailor: "Let him be damned, like the glutton. Pray God his tongue be hotter!" (Henry IV, part two, 1.2.34-35). Like Dives in his expensive purple garment, Falstaff wants Master Dommelton to send him "two-and-twenty yards of satin" (43), but the tailor demurs because he knows that bill-paying is anathema to Falstaff. If Morris is right that Falstaff projects his own gluttony onto others, it is also possible that his reference to Bardolph's face as recalling "hellfire and Dives," like his later claim that "his face is Lucifer's privy kitchen" (Henry IV, part two, 2.4.332), reveals in Falstaff a perhaps unconscious realization that his gluttonous self may end up in hell with the rich man. If so, this example would not be the first time that a joke revealed a person's true disposition. If Falstaff is worried about his soul, he displaces any sense of impending doom onto a joke at Bardolph's expense.

Falstaff's inveterate ways and knowledge of the parable also make him resemble the five wicked brothers who survive Dives. To the rich man's request that Lazarus be sent to warn them, Abraham replies, "They haue Moses & the Prophetes: let them heare them" (Luke 16:29), an echo of Moses's words in Deuteronomy 30:11-14:

   For this commandement which I commande thee this day, is not hid
   from thee, nether is it farre off. It is not in heauen, that thou
   shuldest say, who shal go vp for us to heauen, and bring it vs, and
   cause vs to heare it, that we may do it? Nether is it beyonde the
   sea, that thou shuldest say, Who shal go ouer the sea for vs, &
   bring it vs, and cause vs to heare it, that we may do it? But the
   worde is verie nere vnto thee: euen in thy mouth & in thine heart,
   for to do it. (4)

Moses reminds the Israelites of the Law, much as Jesus reminds the Pharisees of Moses's writings in the Old Testament. Reforming does not require a special message from heaven or from across the sea; it rather involves paying attention--as Dives fears his five brothers do not--to what has already been revealed. There is no need of a miracle like Lazarus's return to the brothers to warn them. The rich man's request no doubt anticipates Jesus's own resurrection and the Jews' refusal to believe in him. That, in turn, brings us again to Falstaff.

The knight has the kind of evidence that Dives wishes his brothers to have. Like the hard-hearted brothers who have Moses and the Prophets, Falstaff ignores the significance of the resurrection and continues to sin egregiously, even joking about his misdeeds just prior to his reference to Dives in hell:

   I was as virtuously given as a gentleman need to be, virtuous
   enough: swore little, diced not above seven times--a week, went
   to a bawdy house not above once in a quarter--of an hour, paid
   money that I borrowed--three or four times, lived well and in
   good compass; and now I live out of all order, out of all compass.

Humor notwithstanding, the passage makes two things clear about Falstaff: he takes his ethics from society, not from the Church or the Bible, and his culpability is beyond doubt. He swears, gambles, fornicates, does not pay back his loans, and eats too much. In addition, he is a petty thief, exploits the poor, does not pay his bar bill, and is trying to manipulate Hal into supporting him once he becomes king. Falstaff's sins make him a good example of what theologian Shirley C. Guthrie calls the kingdom "between the times" (between the resurrection and the end of history) when human beings, though aware of the promise expressed in the gospels, still continue to sin (284). Again, consciousness of the Christian faith and the ability to manipulate Jesus's words signal a keen Christian intelligence, but so far it is hard to locate in Falstaff's allusions any sign of a Christian spirit. As his language indicates, he has heard the good news, but like Dives's five surviving brothers, who have Moses and the Prophets, he does not modify his misbehavior.

The root of Falstaff's errant ways is his gluttony, which strengthens the link to Dives and his brothers even further. Luke writes that the "riche man ... fared wel and delicately euerie day" (16:19). As New Testament scholar Joel B. Green points out, "Jesus has it that this was daily fare for this wealthy man ... in an economy where even the rich could afford to kill a calf only occasionally" (605-6). The rich man's extravagances make him "an impious reveller" (Jeremias 183) and highlight his lack of charity not just to Lazarus but also to his community. Famine, one of the four horsemen in Revelation, is pictured by Albrecht Durer as much the same sort of figure as Dives--"not a famished specter but a fat German banker, clutching his money scales and clad in opulent contemporary dress, the cause of starvation in others, himself the picture of heedless prosperity" (Duffy 42-43).

ALTHOUGH it would be inaccurate to say that Falstaff causes anyone to starve, his financial well-being does depend on his ability to take advantage of others. He runs up such a large bar bill at Mistress Quickly's establishment that she is nearly ruined (Henry IV, part one, 3.3); he participates in the Gadshill robbery on top of a lifetime as a petty thief and confidence man; at the end of Henry IV, part two, he is one thousand pounds in debt to Shallow (5.5.12), a phenomenal amount of money at a time when "an artisan earned around 5 [pounds sterling] a year" (Berry 82); and in Henry V Bardolph says that he received nothing for his service to Falstaff (2.3.42-3). Moreover, Hal's specific mention of Falstaff's "unbuttoning ... after supper" and going to "leaping houses" (Henry IV, part one, 1.2.3, 9) suggests that the indulgence of one's appetite for food leads to indulgence in lust and other deadly sins. As Chaucer's Parson puts it, "He that is usaunt to this synne of glotonye, he ne may no synne withstonde" (316). For Falstaff, wealth, sin, and poverty perpetuate each other. Gluttony drives him to run up a large bill, he steals to acquire the funds to pay it off, but he squanders his money on more loose living and eventually has to steal or borrow again. "Everything he is," writes Berry, "all that he owns or can borrow, serves his gigantic appetite for continuing life and continuing pleasure" (80-81). Although Battenhouse suggests that "the sleeping Falstaff, with pockets full of testimony to wastrel living, symbolizes foxily the state of the household [Henry's kingdom]" ("Falstaff As Parodist" 41), the bar bill in Henry IV, part one, also confirms that Falstaff rivals Dives for gluttony. Or more precisely, as the Lord Chief Justice tells him, "Your means are very slender, and your waste [waist] is great" (Henry IV, part two, 1.2.139-40). Falstaff's gluttony makes him both a fat Lazarus and a poor Dives.

Jesus's point about money, however, is not that merely having it leads to damnation (indeed Abraham was a wealthy man); one is damned for having an inappropriate attitude toward it, acquiring it unjustly, and not using it charitably (Jeremias 185). (5) Dan De Quille, in his novel Dives and Lazarus: Their Wanderings and Adventures in the Infernal Regions, (6) has the following moral imperative inscribed over the door to "the cavern of Plutus, god of riches": "'Seek not Proud Riches, but Such as thou mayest get Justly, Use Soberly, Distribute Cheerfully, and leave Contentedly'" (77). Attitude is key. Luke uses the phrase "the riches of iniquitie" (16:9)--or in more modern translations like the RSV, "unrighteous mammon"--to characterize ill-gotten wealth.

The characters' names in the parable reinforce the contrast between unrighteous mammon and a life of poverty. The name "Dives" (Latin, rich) was added by commentators and is not part of the original parable. K. Grobel suggests that the rich man's name also relates to the word nineve, which means nobody, and Grobel makes the obligatory mention of Odysseus's encounter with the cyclops (381). (7) Nineve, which may be "an allusion to the rich city of Nineveh and God's judgment upon it," would be "a derisory word to describe the status of the rich man in the underworld" (Marshall 634-35). If Dives is really Nobody, then he can also be Anybody, and "perhaps this is Jesus's way of inviting his money-loving listeners to provide their own [names]" (Green 606). Lazarus, on the other hand, is the only named character in any of the parables, both to emphasize his virtuous spirit and to recall Lazarus, the brother of Mary and Martha, whose resurrection from the dead in John 11 does not cause people to repent. The poor man's name appropriately means "God helps" (Collins 265); certainly nobody else will. He is a diseased cripple (the dogs compound his misery by licking his sores), but it is not likely that he is a leper (if he were, the rich man and his guests would not abide his presence for fear of contamination). He sits near the gate of Dives's property, hoping to eat scraps of food as well as the loaves of bread used as napkins and then thrown on the ground (Green 606).

In death, however, each man experiences a reversal of fortune. Dives is damned not for being rich but for acquiring his wealth unrighteously and for hardheartedly focusing on sensual pleasures rather than putting his means to what Spenser's Guyon calls "Right vsaunce" (The Faerie Queene, II.vii.7). Lazarus is saved not because he has been actively good but because his poverty has prevented him from indulging in the sins to which money leads (Collins 267). His blessed afterlife compensates for his life of misery and deprivation. As Abraham tells Dives in verse 25, "Sonne, remember that thou in thy life time receiuedst thy pleasures, and likewise Lazarus paines: now therefore is he comforted, and thou art tormented."

By alluding to a number of details just summarized, Shakespeare suggests that Falstaff's profit from the king's press, like his stolen and borrowed money, qualifies as unrighteous mammon. Falstaff admits to Bardolph that he "misused the King's press damnably," making over three hundred pounds by allowing wealthy men to bribe their way out of military service. He then conscripted

   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 ... a
   hundred and fifty tattered prodigals ... most of them out of prison.
   (Henry IV, part one, 4.2.11-41)

Falstaff tells Hal that his men are "food for powder ... exceedingly poor and bare, too beggarly" (64-68). Later he remarks to himself, "I led my ragamuffins where they are peppered. There's not three of my hundred and fifty left alive, and they are for the town's end, to beg during life" (5.3.35-38). Leading his ragged recruits into the thick of the battle at Shrewsbury results in the death of all but a couple of his troops, the implication being that he will keep the fallen men's wages. Those who survive evidently do not get paid and have to beg for sustenance ever after. In light of such facts, Bloom's claim that "Falstaff betrays and harms no one" is simply inaccurate (285): profit based on the suffering of others is surely unrighteous mammon. As E. Pearlman writes, "Falstaff presents the underside of war ... the administrative and moral abuses, the poverty and insult of which soldiering has been eternally composed" (113), the very abuses that the Act for Taking Musters of 1557 was created to stop (Fortescue 112; Wilson 84-85).

In Henry IV, part two, Falstaff is in the conscription business again, this time in league with Justice Shallow, and the parabolic language continues.

   [A table and chairs are set out.]
   Shallow: Nay, you shall see my orchard, where, in an
   arbor, we will eat a last year's pippin of mine
   own grafting, with a dish of caraways, and so forth....
   Falstaff: 'Fore God, you have here a goodly dwelling
   and a rich. Shallow: Barren, barren, barren. Beggars all,
   beggars all, Sir John. Marry, good air. Spread, Davy....
   Falstaff: This Davy serves you for good uses. He is
   your servingman and your husband.
   Shallow: A good varlet, a good varlet, a very good
   varlet, Sir John. By the Mass, I have drunk too
   much sack at supper.... (5.3.1-15)

The passage contains a number of direct echoes of the parable: "table," "rich," "beggars," and gluttony. Like Dives, Falstaff, and Shallow relax at the latter's goodly, rich estate, indulging in a fine meal and excess drink. Although Shallow's "beggars all" may signal momentary guilt about the men whom they have pressed into military service, it is more likely that he ignores the underprivileged and sees himself and others like him as beggars. Despite his access to unrighteous mammon, he styles himself as a Lazarus: when hardness of heart leads to self-delusion, self-pity displaces guilt.

Battenhouse's reading of the conscription passage in Henry IV, part one, is that Falstaff deftly transforms his Lazaruses into prodigals, which enables him to cast himself not as Dives but as the good father; Falstaff, Battenhouse argues, implies that King Henry is a Dives-figure who ignores his people's poverty ("Falstaff As Parodist" 43). Two distinctions are lacking here. First, although King Henry may to some degree shirk his responsibility for tending the kingdom's economic condition, Falstaff is still guilty of exploiting it. The fact that he may subtly indict the king does not absolve him of his own crimes. Second, Falstaff's use of biblical allusion to describe his actions may once again signal a Christian intelligence but does not mean that the audience should also credit him with a Christian spirit. Instead, we must evaluate his misdeeds in the parabolic terms that Shakespeare provides. In the pursuit of unrighteous mammon, Dives, Falstaff and Shallow actively exploit their countrymen. The irony, therefore, is that Falstaff simultaneously gloats about treating disadvantaged men so poorly and does not see that Dives, his analogue in the parable, portends his own possible damnation.

The Henriad's final allusion to the parable of the rich man and Lazarus is Mistress Quickly's loving recollection of Falstaff's death: "Nay, sure he's not in hell. He's in Arthur's bosom, if ever man went to Arthur's bosom" (Henry V, 2.3.9-10). Frederick Turner's suggestion that Falstaff is in "Arthur's bosom, not that of Abraham or Jehovah or even Christ" and that it is "a third place, neither heaven nor hell" is unlikely (112). (8) "Arthur's bosom" is Quickly's malapropism for "Abraham's bosom," meaning "the abode of the blessed dead" ("Bosom" I. 1.b). (9) In the parable, to be in Abraham's bosom means that a soul resides in the favorable part of the Greek Hades or the Hebrew Sheol and enjoys "close fellowship with the patriarch" (Creed 212). Lazarus resides in the pleasant part of Hades, whereas Dives dwells in an unpleasant area akin (but probably not identical) to Gehenna, the place of eternal torment. The technical definition of Abraham's bosom--the place where righteous souls await the resurrection--need not concern us because the resurrection upgrades such references as Quickly's to the Christian heaven. The key point is that Lazarus's presence there signifies his "position of intimacy and honor at the heavenly banquet" (Green 607). The beggar who ate scraps from the rich man's table is now at table in paradise with the patriarch. Moreover, since Lazarus's full name, Eleazar, identifies him with the Gentile who served as Abraham's servant in Genesis 15:2 (Goulder 638), Jesus's point may be that if the Pharisees are not careful, "they will see the gentiles finding mercy instead of themselves" (Marshall 633).

The problem, then, is how to reconcile Quickly's "not unbiased judgment" that Falstaff, like Lazarus, is saved (Cubeta 200) with the fact that, as a Dives-figure or worse, he deserves damnation. Despite the passage's distance from the scene that the characters describe, we can be reasonably certain that Falstaff said and did certain things on his deathbed: he fumbled with the sheets; he probably attempted to recite Psalm 23; he cried, "God, God!" three or four times; he asked for more blankets; like Socrates he went cold from the feet up; he railed against sack and women and talked of the Whore of Babylon; and he "saw a flea stick upon Bardolph's nose, and 'a said it was a black soul burning in hell" (2.3.38-40). But that is where the facts end and the speculation begins. For all of Quickly's certainty, the passage does not tell us whether Falstaff is damned or saved.

The critics have seen the issue both ways. Over half a century ago Kathrine Koller noted that Falstaff's death does not match the criteria for a holy death in the ars moriendi tradition.

   There were no long prayers though he called on God; no
   confession though he talked of sins. The vision of burning souls
   may have been the devil's temptation to despair. There was no
   making of a will. There was no deathbed repentance.... Whether
   Falstaff burns in hell or rests in Abraham's bosom remains an
   unsolved problem in spite of the Hostess. (385-86)

In a more recent article, Christopher Baker takes the opposite view.

   His final end, resting in "Arthur's bosom," is the return of a comic
   prodigal to the father he sought to escape.... in death he suggests
   an Anglican Everyman, "moved to earnest and true repentance"....
   The death scene reveals Falstaff as the archetypal fallen
   Christian, saved from Dives's fate by his gracious conversion. (70-1,
   81, 83)

Both views are somewhat problematic. Koller notes omissions that do not necessarily signal a lack of salvation, and Baker depends too heavily on Quickly's opinion. Ambiguity abides, for example, when Falstaff cries out to God. Cubeta asks whether the dying knight conveys fear, contrition, or the despair of abandonment (207). I suggest the possibility that "'God, God!'" becomes a cry of wonderment because Falstaff, his mortal body failing but his spiritual eyes alight, is seeing a little way into the after life, like King Lear who cries, "Look there, look there!" (5.3.317).

ALTHOUGH the retrospective narration makes it impossible to know how Falstaff speaks on his deathbed, a possible conclusion on his afterlife may be based on the parable. Falstaff has gone from crimes and assorted sins that make him worse than Dives and the Pharisees to a genuine recognition of his faults. Like Lazarus, he is rejected by King Henry V, who, like Dives, is earlier clad in his purple "garment all of blood" and now wears his "new and gorgeous garment, majesty" (Henry IV, part one, 3.2.135; Henry IV, part two, 5.2.44). Falstaff has become Lazarus at the rich man's gate. Given the knight's frequent allusions to the parable, it is reasonable to view his afterlife in similar terms. From an Old Testament point of view, salvation or damnation depends on living according to the Law and the Prophets versus living in a way that ignores them. Lazarus's ratio of good and evil deeds is favorable; the rich man's is not. Similarly, such commendable qualities as the imagination outweigh, even if they do not cancel, Falstaff's vices. His life is not flat like that of Dives; it is instead composed "of a mingled yarn, good and ill together," and the good outweighs the ill (All's Well that Ends Well 4.3.70-71). Although he cannot claim the innocence of Lazarus, he avoids the hardened heart of Dives and is due for a positive reversal of fortune in the afterlife. Salvation seems reasonable.

The problem with this view is that it presupposes that our merit is sufficient basis for our salvation. The more important factor is grace, as Falstaff himself understands: "O, if men were to be saved by merit, what hole in hell were hot enough for him?" (Henry IV, part one, 1.2.105-6). If good works alone do not lead to salvation, then great misdeeds must surely lead to damnation; only grace, made active by faith, ensures salvation. At that moment in the first tavern scene, he justifies "purse taking" by claiming that it is his "vocation" (101-2) and then immediately attributes villainy to Gadshill, much as he attributes gluttony to others later on. Still, the operation of grace may be what Battenhouse means by Falstaff's "inner faith in the table of Psalm xxiii." Unlike his quips in the tavern scene, however, Falstaff's deathbed statements indicate a painful awareness of, and contrition for, his faults, a clear exception to Bloom's sense that the knight represents "freedom from censoriousness, from the superego, from guilt" (288).

To the objection that Falstaff is merely pretending to play the role of the moriens, we may invoke the simplest but most overlooked piece of evidence in the scene that Quickly recounts. If she can love and forgive "plump Jack" (Henry IV, part one, 2.4.474) after he has cheated her, promised to marry her, and then asked her to bring Doll Tearsheet to him, then surely God will forgive him as well. An apt analogy appears in Hosea 3:1, where "the love of YHWH for Israel is substantiated and exemplified in Hosea's own relationship with his [harlotrous] wife" (Seow 297). (10) So despite the sentimentality of Quickly's statement, her sense that Falstaff is now in a good place is a reasonable assumption.

There is some truth, then, to Bloom's claim "that Sir John must end like Lazarus, rejected by the newly crowned King in order to win admission to 'Arthur's bosom'" (312), though one must object to the post hoc fallacy. If Falstaff is saved, it is not because the young king rejects him (the relationship between events is merely chronological, not causal) but instead because the old man's hard heart softens, making him able to accept the grace he alludes to in Henry IV, part one. This acceptance undercuts Bloom's sense that "Falstaff's implicit interpretation of the text [the parable] is nihilistic: one must either be damned with Dives, or else be saved with Lazarus, an antithesis that loses one either the world to come or this world" (312). The statement is a false dichotomy based on an Old Testament ethic. Although the reference to "Arthur's bosom" calls the parable to mind, one who sins can return to the fold like the prodigal son.

It is insufficient to say that Falstaff is only a Lazarus-figure or even a parody of Henry IV's troubled realm, for Falstaff's criminal life is an object lesson to Henry V of the gross mismanagement that he must avoid and of the corruption that he must quell in order to be a successful ruler. The knight's life is thus a "negative witness" (Fike 39, n. 6) to the moral life that the young king must affirm and achieve. Shakespeare's biblical allusions in The Henriad convey a strong ethical imperative and social consciousness, and Falstaff emerges as an even more complicated and fascinating character against the full spectrum of parabolic language. As an extended analogy, Shakespeare's allusions to Luke's parable provide the means to understand the true depth of the knight's depravity and to chart his spiritual progress; therefore, his portrait is both more somber than Battenhouse and Bloom propose and more hopeful. Ultimately, Falstaff is the key figure in a lifelong psychomachia modeled on the parable: he is not only a round character in both senses of the term but also a dynamic one who plays the negative role of Dives, his brothers, and the Pharisaic audience. But his eventual contrition suggests that, like Lazarus, he enjoys felicity in the afterlife.


1) All biblical quotations, unless otherwise noted, are taken from the 1560 Geneva Bible. I have omitted italics and spelled out words that are abbreviated in the original.

2) Direct allusions to the parable appear in Henry IV, part one, 3.3.31-33, 4. 2.25; Henry IV, part two, 1.2.34-35, 5.3.1-15 (critics have overlooked the latter passage); and Henry V, 2.3.9-10.

3) All quotations from Shakespeare's plays come from Bevington's edition.

4) For this linkage I am indebted to Bultmann 203 and Fitzmyer 1128.

5) See also Esler 198 and Derrett 373. For a contrasting view see Mealand 48.

6) Berkove's introduction suggests that De Quille worked on the novel between 1890 and 1893 (37). De Quille places Falstaff in hell along with Gulliver, Sinbad, and the Ancient Mariner (98). The implication is that Falstaff is here because he lied about killing Hotspur.

7) Grobel's point is that the Coptic Nineue combines nine (nothing) and oue (one or someone), hence Nobody.

8) The possibility that Falstaff is in Avalon connects with the line from "Sir Launcelot du Lac" and the subsequent reference to the "Nine Worthies," one of whom is Arthur (Henry IV, part two, 2.4.33, 218).

(9) The phrase also appears in Richard II as the likely destination of the late Norfolk (4.1.104-5) and in Richard III of "The sons of Edward" (4.3.38).

(10) "Then said the Lord to me, Go yet, and love a woman (beloved of her housband, and was an harlot) according to the love of the Lord toward the children of Israel: yet they loked to other gods, & loved the wine bottels" (Hosea 3:1).

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After receiving his PhD in English from the University of Michigan, Matthew Fike was a founding faculty member of the American University in Bulgaria during the 1990s. He is currently an assistant professor of English at Winthrop University in Rock Hill, South Carolina.