"Play Out The Play"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: Falstaff and his companions, having been ignominiously foiled in their efforts to rob the king's retainers at Gads Hill, attempt to conceal their failure behind a fantastic lie. They hack their swords and tickle their noses with spear-grass so that, bloody and beaten, they will give the appearance of having engaged in a furious battle. Their attempts are to no avail, however, for Prince Hal and Poins expose their lie and reveal that the two of them robbed Falstaff's group without so much as one sword's blow. When news from court interrupts this merry scene and Hal is commanded to appear before his father the next morning, Falstaff and Hal exchange the roles of father and son in comic anticipation of the father's anger at his son's prodigality. With Falstaff in the role of the son, he implores the father not to banish "sweet," "kind," "true," "valiant Jack Falstaff, and therefore more valiant, being, as he is, old Jack Falstaff." When the sheriff suddenly arrives at the tavern to arrest Falstaff, the "tun of man"–desirous both of adding further self praise in his "role" and of diverting Hal's attention from admitting the sheriff–calls for the action to continue:


BARDOLPH
O, my lord, my lord, the sheriff with a most monstrous watch is at the door.
FALSTAFF
Out ye rouge, play out the play. I have much to say in behalf of that Falstaff.
Enter HOSTESS
HOSTESS
O Jesu, my lord, my lord–
PRINCE HENRY
Heigh, heigh, the devil rides upon a fiddlestick. What's the matter?
HOSTESS
The sheriff and all the watch at the door; they are come to search the house, shall I let them in?
FALSTAFF
Dost thou hear, Hal, never call a true piece of gold a counterfeit. Thou art essentially made without seeming so.
PRINCE HENRY
And thou a natural coward, without instinct.
FALSTAFF
I deny your major; if you will deny the sheriff, so; if not, let him enter.
. . .