Skip to main content

Citing Scriptures: Prince Hal's "Damnable Iteration"

First time I read Henry IV Part 1, I couldn't help laughing at this terrible quoting of the Bible.
Thou didst well, for wisdom cries out in the streets and no man regards it
Context: Falstaff was telling Hal that an old lord spoke about Hal, and very wisely too. But Falstaff "regarded him not, and yet he talked very wisely." Then the young Prince answered with the words above.

What a quote, though?

Here's what Proverbs 1:20, 24 says, in the Bishops' Bible.
Wisdome cryeth without, and putteth foorth her voyce in the streetes:...Because I haue called, and ye refused, I haue stretched out my hande, and no man regarded:
There. It's not the striking resemblance that has impressed me, but the aptness of Hal in saying it - misusing it. No wonder Falstaff said that the young prince had "damnable iteration."

On the other hand, it shows just how much he knew the Bible. Another way to think about it, eh? To be able to quote it so aptly and effectively (for his purpose, of course), one should have ample knowledge of it - at least one should have read it. Maybe Hal wasn't that ignorant after all.

I don't know if Shakespeare thought about this when he wrote all the history plays, but at the time of Henry IV, the only English Bible available was Wycliffe's translation from Latin Vulgate. This translation was not intended for the upper-class at all, because they all would have used the Latin version. So if Prince Hal and Falstaff read the Bible themselves, they would have done so in Latin.

The Wycliffe's translation is so different from Shakespeare's words that we can safely say he didn't take the quotation from that translation. In fact, it is doubtful that Shakespeare had ever laid his hand on a Wycliffe Bible at all. As for Latin, knowing Shakespeare, I bet he'd rather read 100 English books than translating any Latin into English.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Problems with Translating Shakespeare

I've found several articles regarding this on the net. I'm new to the Shakespeare world, therefore I didn't know much about the translation issue.

In the net, there are "study guides" for Shakespeare, such as No Fear Shakespeare which provides students with modern English translation of William Shakespeare. I bet students will find it highly useful, especially those who are not well-acquainted with plays or old classical literatures or writings in verse. Apart from that, I am also aware that there are modern English editions of Shakespeare available in book stores. (I know that accidentally, because I found some quotes on Goodreads which convey Shakespeare's ideas but not in his exact words.)

On the other hand, there are people like David Crystal, which I highly respect (truly I love everything he says about Shakespeare's words and also original pronunciation), who insists that no translation is needed in understanding Shakespeare. There is even a debate …

Reasons Why I Dislike Falstaff

I understand well enough that Falstaff is a funny comic character, that he provides more jokes than any other character in whole Shakespeare's canon except Hamlet, if those gloomy jokes are still counted as jokes. I also understand how he's an important character because he promotes the view so different than those considered as virtuous in his era. Nevertheless, I never consider him as a likeable character, no matter how much I laugh on him in the two Henry IV plays.

It's just that he's such a bad friend to Prince Hal. And my term "bad friend" means neither "a friend who robs and steals and pickpockets every once in a while" nor "an indifferently good man who doesn't really care about you" which would make him a good acquaintance. No. He takes both the negatives and combines them. Let me show you why I can't like this man despite all his witty lines.

1. He's a bad association to Hal Like this one is not obvious enough(!). I m…

Henry V: Self-Punishment on the Death of Bardolph

Prince Hal, and later, the king, Henry V is a complex character with volumes to think, say, and analyse about. Following his character development from Henry IV part 1 through Henry V, it's hard not to relate to him when one comes to what people call 'conflict of interests.'

For me, the worst part of it in Henry V is when he heard that his (former) friend, Bardolph, had been executed for thievery. In many productions, the directors let Henry either see the execution, or at least the hanged man. Kenneth Branagh and Hollow Crown versions even take time for a little flashback, therefore show us that the king remembered Bardolph and all things they had done together in their former days. Both also, through acting, show that the king was sad about it, yet could do nothing.

Reading the play, however, it was quite shocking that the king made no comment upon the hanging, except that it was just and necessary.

Why didn't he say anything about it? Knowing Shakespeare, he could h…