But to say I know more harm in him than in myself were to say more
than I know. That he is old, the more the pity, his white hairs
do witness it. But that he is, saving your reverence, a whoremaster,
that I utterly deny. If sack and sugar be a fault, God help the
wicked. If to be old and merry be a sin, then many an old host that
I know is damned. If to be fat be to be hated, then Pharaoh’s lean
kine are to be loved. No, my good lord, banish Peto, banish Bardolph,
banish Poins, but for sweet Jack Falstaff, kind Jack Falstaff, true
Jack Falstaff, valiant Jack Falstaff, and therefore more valiant
being, as he is, old Jack Falstaff,
Banish not him thy Harry’s company,
Banish not him thy Harry’s company.
Banish plump Jack, and banish all the world.
Prince: I do; I will.
This exchange occurs during Harry and
Falstaff’s game of role--playing, as Falstaff pretends to be Harry
so that Harry can prepare for his upcoming meeting with his father.
Falstaff uses his time in the role of King Henry mainly to praise
himself, urging Harry to keep Falstaff near him—something that the
real king would never do, but certainly in keeping with Falstaff’s
character. Playing Harry, Falstaff lists his own faults, and then
excuses each of them—“If sack and sugar be a fault, God help the
wicked. If to be old and merry be a sin, then many and old host
that I know is damned”—and then, improbably, begins to list his
own supposed virtues, calling himself “sweet,” “kind,” “true,” and
“valiant.” Falstaff is not sweet, kind, true, or valiant, but his
constant claims to be these things are part of what makes him endearing.
In any case, this speech is important because it lets us in on some
of the complexities of Harry and Falstaff’s relationship. Falstaff
understands that he is undesirable company for Harry and worries
that Harry will one day break his ties with him. So, in the role
of King Henry, Falstaff urges Harry not to do so. Harry’s icy reply,
“I do; I will,” foreshadows the moment of the actual break in the
next play, 2 Henry IV.