Yesterday , we talked a little about the caring relationship between Falstaff and his Doll in Act Two, Scene Four of The Second Part of Henry the Fourth.
But let’s take a quick look at the short Act Five, Scene Four, in which a beadle attempts to arrest Doll. He tells Mistress Quickly,
The constables have delivered her over to me; and she shall have whipping-cheer enough, I warrant her: there hath been a man or two lately killed about her.
Nut-hook, nut-hook, you lie. Come on; I 'll tell thee what, thou damned tripe-visaged rascal, an the child I now go with do miscarry, thou wert better thou hadst struck thy mother, thou paper-faced villain.
O the Lord, that Sir John were come! he would make this a bloody day to somebody. But I pray God the fruit of her womb miscarry!
If it do, you shall have a dozen of cushions again; you have but eleven now. Come, I charge you both go with me; for the man is dead that you and Pistol beat amongst you.
A man was killed in Doll’s presence. Good questions would be how and why. But she begins to proclaim pregnancy, which was a claim female criminals made to avoid a death sentence. Is it true? The beadle doesn’t think so, as he accuses her of using “cushions” to fake her enlarged belly. Mistress Quickly’s response, said NOT to the beadle, makes one believe that at least SHE believes that Doll is pregnant.
We have no conclusive answer as to how much time elapsed between Act Two, Scene Four and Act Five, Scene Four, but we do have some clues. The Act Four arrest of the Archbishop and Mowbray occurred (historically) in 1405, and Hal was crowned Henry V in 1413. Time has obviously passed.
If she is pregnant, could it be Falstaff’s child? It’s possible, but we have no textual evidence to support it. On the other hand, Quickly thinks that if Falstaff were here, “he would make this a bloody day to somebody.” Why? The most obvious answer is that the beadle is mistreating “his” Doll. Another possible answer, however, is that he would be enraged by her pregnancy as the child is not his. Why else would Quickly “pray God the fruit of (Doll’s) womb miscarry”?
So I lean away from Falstaff’s paternity…though it would be a wonderful thing, especially coming on the heels of Falstaff’s fatherly declaration at the end of Act Four, Scene Three:
If I had a thousand sons, the first humane principle I would teach them should be, to forswear thin potations and to addict themselves to sack.
No, I don’t think Falstaff’s the father. Then who’s the baby-daddy? Could it be the one person with whom Doll beat the dead man?
Pistol. What a phallic name for a potent sperm-donor!
And if that’s the case, maybe Falstaff and Doll’s relationship wasn’t the caring one depicted earlier…