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By Dian Henderson

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212–13]), which, once the fiction is exposed, he can then dismiss with a further twist of outrageous sophistry (“I knew ye as well as he that made ye . . 258–60]), Falstaff is both an ideal tutor for a kingto-be who will soon enough launch a war of his own on fantasy evidence and the Prince’s most dangerous liability. Gambon’s Falstaff is not only—perhaps not even—the antithesis of the values of the regime from which he has (probably corruptly) obtained his knighthood; he is also their monstrous, shaming, parodic incarnation.

Gambon’s Falstaff is not only—perhaps not even—the antithesis of the values of the regime from which he has (probably corruptly) obtained his knighthood; he is also their monstrous, shaming, parodic incarnation. If it is a measure of the force, and the richness, of Gambon’s portrayal that he made us happy to entertain his world of lies as a kind of truth, one thing was for sure: the silences that surrounded both his mock banishment and the real event were entirely Gambon’s, and Falstaff’s, own.

What merits further investigation, though, are the implications of this sensibility for the understanding of dramaturgic form and for the ways in which patterns of utterance in texts are, within the cultural situation occupied by these productions, construed as not only performable, but, in the sense adumbrated by Worthen, performative. Let us turn again, then, to “I do, I will”. In 1951, 1964 and in most stagings that have followed, there was no question that Hal was no longer playing when he delivered his reply to Falstaff; certainly, by 1966, if he was still taking the piss out of the old man, it was on Pinter’s not-at-all light-hearted terms.

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