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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.


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