I am your shadow my lord; I’ll follow you…
By now we are all familiar with Shakespeares plays Henry IV and V and much has been said over the years about the character Falstaff, who has been analyzed, dissected and deconstructed ad infinitum.But the one character that has intrigued me the most and what seems to me little has been said of is Edward “Ned” Poins.
Who exactly is Poins? Where does he come from? what is his back ground that would put him in Hal’s sphere. It is a well known fact that Poins and Hal are ace “boon cooms”, (boon companions) and that they get up to a host of shenanigans together.
But “Hal” is still a prince therefore royalty and it would be highly unlikely for him to associate with any one beneath his station,so the question remains, how does a man like Poins come into association with a prince..
… The worst that can be said of me is that I am a brother and that I am a proper fellow of my hands.. Henry IV scene II act II
Now my research leads me to the conclusion that Poins, is probably the second son of a nobleman, this means that he is in fact nobility and therefore socially a suitable companion for Hal
The second son or “brother” in many incidences stands to inherit no wealth or lands,so they often had to make thier way in the world by other means most likely thru the clergy or the military,which leads me to another theory about “Neds” physiological make up. So here we have Poins in a feudal system where status and wealth are crucial to your survival, but you really are neither in one world or the other, I believe his choice to pursue a life of “crime” and mischief as a way of rebelling or “dealing” with his lot in life.
And its his rebellious nature is what I think attracts him to Henry.Unlike Falstaff who was truly a low life and a reprobate, and was obviously using Hal’s affection for him to to further his own ends ( they probably first came in contact with each other through Falstaff at The Boar’s Head Tavern), I believe what Poins saw in Hal was a kindred spirit and their love and affection for one another was genuine and mutual.
(Ok here’s where it starts to go canon) there is no doubt that the two did seem to share a certain level of intimacy that hinted at more than “just friends” and that Hal regarded Poins as a trusted confidant perhaps even a lover? this scene….
the homo-eroticism is of the charts…
It is historical fact that there were a couple of English monarchs at this time who were openly gay William Rufus ( son of William the Conqueror) and the most well known Edward II, both men openly flaunted their sexuality ( its good to be the king) so it would be completely believable that Henry could bring Poins to court once he ascended the throne Poins being of a noble background (unlike Falstaff) therefore making his presence there socially acceptable. So why did Hal just seem to dump Poins?
Well to begin with there is no historical proof ( at least what I could find) that Edward Poins actually existed (or the fact that Henry even had any “favorites” in his court) how ever his character does make another appearance in The Merry Wives of Windsor, it seems as tho this character was created by Shakespeare as a technique to forward the plot ( like the herald in Henry V) or as an alter ego to give us a further insight into Henry’s psyche.
What ever the case I think that Poins and Hals relationship was complex and certainly worth further exploration.
here are some fanfics I came across in my research that I found beautifully written:
Ne’er Seen But Wondered At http://archiveofourown.org/works/1786165
Fool Me Once http://archiveofourown.org/works/736581
this one’s explicit
The Kings Servant http://archiveofourown.org/works/485490
Thank you all for indulging my love of English history and literature!
gifs are not mine all credit goes to the creators