King Henry the Fourth, Part 2, II. iv, Falstaff with Doll Tearsheet, Henry & Poins. Painter Henry Fuseli ; engraver William S. Leney (1769-1831).publishers John & Josiah Boydell, 1795.
Henry IV, Part 2, has suffered, like many other sequels, from comparison with its prototype. The elegant interweaving of plot lines around the Percys’ rebellion in Part 1 is generally held to be missing in the episodic structure of Part 2, with its pastoral scenes in the Gloucestershire countryside, and glimpses of the tail-ends of the flagging rebellion. The dark tone is set by the king’s ultimately fatal illness, echoed in the analogous stress on the aging impotence of Falstaff and his cronies, which reaches a grim climax in the repudiation of Falstaff by his ex-friend Prince Hal, as the new King Henry V. Though this repudiation completes the relationship of Hal and Falstaff which lies at the heart of Part 1, there has been debate about how far the two plays are intrinsically related, though they are often performed as a sequence, which is how Part 2 is most often revived. Most audiences are alienated by its down-beat tone, but this elegiac quality was sympathetically exploited in Orson Welles’ Falstaff (or Chimes at Midnight), with a wintry setting that memorably matches the melancholy cooling of Falstaff’s genius. HMR
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