Falstaff: A Novel

Written by Robert Nye
Review by Gerald T. Burke

In this novel’s first American publication, readers are introduced to the rascal John Falstaff of Shakespeare fame. It is 1459, and Falstaff, at the age of 81, decides to set the record of his life straight. Over one hundred days, he dictates episodes from his life to his company of secretaries-and what a life it is. Falstaff’s adventurous tales cover a raucous age of English history, including the reign of Henry IV, the pestilence of the Black Death, the ascendancy of Prince Hal (Henry V), the Battle of Agincourt, and much more.

In Nye’s hands, Falstaff emerges as an energetic character of rich dimensions, albeit habitually bawdy. On the one hand, he is appealing with his humor, compassion, and intelligence; but, on the other hand, he is appalling as a braggart, coward, and scoundrel. Shy he is not, as his tales encompass lascivious nights with Doll Tearsheet, shameless descriptions of his physical person, and graphic, if fabricated, battle scenes.

Overall, this is a wonderful novel. Nye’s lyrical language and imaginative style creates, in the true sense of the word, a character that is sure to engage and, sometimes shock, the reader.