Pistol’s Figs

‘Fig me’ King Henry 4.2, [5.3.117-121]; Henry the Fifth [3.6.59-62]. (Pistol) “Die and be damned! and figo for thy friendship!” Fluellen: “It is well.” Pistol: “The fig of Spain!” Fluellen: “Very good.” Merry Wives of Windsor, [1.3.26-28].

Pistol mentions figs (or ‘fico’) in every play in which he appears, but I’m finding some divergence of opinion exists as to what he means by the ‘Fig of Spain’ in Henry 5. Although definitely intended as insult, some say ‘cunt’ is what is meant, others, (as here) suggest it indicates a poisoned fig… A couple somewhat related observations: of all of Shakespeare’s plays, Mark Antony is mentioned only twice in plays in which he does not appear (Henry 5, and Macbeth) and according to this chronology of the writing of the plays, both of these were written right before the plays that featured Mark Antony in a principal role…. Does this suggest anything? Further, in Henry 5, Pistol is the one compared to Mark Antony; so that, if “Fig of Spain” is indeed an allusion to poisoned figs, that would make Henry 5 and Antony and Cleopatra (in which Cleopatra is bitten by venomous asps concealed amongst figs) the only ones which closely associate the ideas of poison and figs; and a deeper comparison between Pistol and Antony than that which Fluellan suggests might be justified.

Here are the Antony and Cleopatra mentions: long life better than [1.2.32-35]; and then those surrounding the suicide here.


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