In this article, I contend that the Henry IV plays evoke the plurivocity of language in order to show not only the multiplicity of possible interpretations but more importantly the location of those interpretations within the audience. The plays’ use of allusion and parody necessarily forces the audience into interpretive acts because they both rely on the audience’s prior knowledge and on their ability to make implicit connections between this knowledge and the text being delivered. I focus on two particular uses that demonstrate this interpretive burden well: first through allusions to Falstaff as Sir John Oldcastle and second through Falstaff’s pervasive biblical parody. I then argue that this audience-centered hermeneutic constructed within the texts dramatizes post-Reformation England’s contentious religious and political battle over lay access to the scriptures.


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pp. 337-357
Launched on MUSE
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