Prince Hal and the Body Falstaff: Theatre as Psychic Space in Shakespeare’s 1&2 Henry IV

By: Elise Denbo

Abstract: Aligning psychoanalytic and embodiment approaches, this paper focuses on 1&2Henry IV using Julia Kristeva’s concept of the imaginary father, a ‘maternal-paternal conglomerate,’ as a third space within primary-narcissism. While Hal’s ‘education’ has been analyzed in relation to dualities of order and disorder, few, if any have considered Falstaff as an intrapsychic figure of intimate revolt who supports the crafting of psychic- theatrical-imaginary space. Hal’s youthful narcissism and his ability to connect with the popular voice are explored as a result of Falstaff’s presence in the ‘prehistory’ of his kingship. Falstaff’s verbal copia, his ‘belly of tongues,’ recalls the unruly female tongue as the site of disorder, but also the mother tongue that confers national identity as a return to the vernacular richness of the land and its people. While Hal is able to organize the various dialects and settings of 1&2HenryIV, it is the body Falstaff who impregnates the play.