This is why I love the World Wide Web. It took me from Falstaff to Elvis Presley.
I was looking up a phrase used by Shakespeare, which took me straight to the King. So there is a link between Shakespeare’s Falstaff and Elvis Presley, and it has nothing to do with the fact that they both had a weight problem. But you have to be quick to see the link. You know how videos stop playing on YouTube.
Here’s how I found it…
I caught the tail end of Shakespeare’s King Henry IV, Part II, on television last night. I saw Henry IV die after speaking to his son, Prince Hal, who is then crowned king. Falstaff, the prince’s old companion, and his friends rejoice at his coronation, expecting royal favours, but when they greet the young monarch, he repudiates them.
He has turned over a new leaf, he tells Falstaff, and banishes him from his sight, calling him an old reprobate who must mend his ways.
But Falstaff is not so easily dejected. The king does not mean what he says, Falstaff later tells his friends:
“I shall be sent
for soon at night.”
He is sadly mistaken. Prince John, the king’s younger brother, and the Lord Chief Justice arrive with their officers to take Falstaff and his friends to prison.
That is the last we see of Falstaff. It seems a sad end for a lovable rogue. But he dies peacefully in his bed and not in prison. The scene is described in King Henry V.
His friends mourn his death and Bardolph says,
“Would I were with him, wheresome’er he is, either in
heaven or in hell!”
But Falstaff is not in hell, assures the Hostess, who was with him when he died. She says:
“Nay, sure, he’s not in hell: he’s in Arthur’s
bosom, if ever man went to Arthur’s bosom. A’ made
a finer end and went away an it had been any
christom child; a’ parted even just between twelve
and one, even at the turning o’ the tide: for after
I saw him fumble with the sheets and play with
flowers and smile upon his fingers’ ends, I knew
there was but one way; for his nose was as sharp as
a pen, and a’ babbled of green fields.”
“Arthur’s bosom”, what is “Arthur’s bosom”, I wanted to know and found out what the Hostess meant was “Abraham’s bosom”: “the place of comfort where the Jews said the righteous dead awaited Judgment Day”(Wikipedia). It is mentioned in the Bible, in the story of the rich man and Lazarus:
“And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried;
and in hell he lifted up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.”
(Luke, 16:22-23, King James Version)
There is a gospel song called Bosom of Abraham. And it was sung by Elvis Presley.
A song I had not heard till I looked up what the Hostess meant when she said Falstaff was in “Arthur’s bosom”.
But why did she confuse Abraham with the good King Arthur? There must be an explanation for that, too. But I am happy Falstaff led me to Elvis Presley.