Harold Bloom is an octogenarian who could be described as a world teacher. He speaks beyond the Yale campus where he has taught literature for ages to the whole world. Bloom has written about genius, what we should read and how we are formed and influenced by others. Others include characters in works of imagination, particularly the works of Shakespeare.

The Bard

Shakespeare completed the bulk of his life's work in about 15 years. Bloom says he is the creator of our world. We are the progeny of Hamlet, Macbeth, Rosalind, Portia, Iago, Ophelia, Cordelia, and Lear.

If Bloom had to pick one could outstrip them all it would be the rotund knight Falstaff. Bloom's just-published book "Falstaff Give Me Life" is his eloquent reason why. In the age of Donald Trump, we need what Falstaff brings to the world.

Who is Falstaff?

Falstaff was picturesque to say the least, a bulk of a man who had a silver tongue capable of weaving timeless truths hiding under the guise of comedy. That is the secret of Falstaff. It is the genius of comic imagination. Falstaff is Shakespeare's unanswered question. So is Hamlet. Human destiny will give us the answer. Falstaff is much bigger than the figure on stage.

Prince Hal

The center of Falstaff's place in Shakespeare is as the foil to young Prince Hal who is on his way to being the soulless killer, King Henry V.

Hal is Falstaff's ambivalent buddy, always with an edge of repulsion. Hal knows underneath he is entitled. That puts it mildly.

The first Henry 4 play is where the most significant Falstaff events emerge. It is where we see his all-embracing love for the young royal done in. Finally, we realize it cannot be. Not yet, anyway.


The center of Falstaff's significance lies in two manifestations in this play. First, he is an utter iconoclast as he looks toward anything military. He will carouse and rob on the highway but he will willingly play dead to avoid being slain in combat. Second, he prefigures and commences the dismantling of Aristotle's virtue ethic.

The center of his condemnation is the speech I shall note following the embed of the New York Times review of Bloom's sage book.

Falstaff skewers honor

The following is the center of Falstaff's speech on honor.

"Can honor set to a leg? No: or an arm? Honor hath no skill in surgery, then? No. What is honor? A word. What is in that word honor? What is that honor? Air. A trim reckoning!"

In the era of Trump, all the stops are out for honor. For the Bard, building on honor is going backward. Bloom's subtitle says it all. "Give me life." To which we might add, "And respect. as well"