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Henry VI Part 1

William Shakespeare

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Act IV, Scenes v-vii

page 2 of 2

Act IV, Scenes v-vii

Act IV, Scenes v-vii

Act IV, Scenes v-vii

Act IV, Scenes v-vii

Lucy enters, asking to know the names of prisoners and to view the bodies of the English dead. He recites a long eloquent list of men lost in the battle, wondering where they are now. Joan makes fun of Lucy's style, saying, "Him that thou magnifi'st with all these titles / Stinking and flyblown lies here at our feet"(IV.vii.75-6). Lucy asks if Talbot is slain, and she asks to take the bodies of the dead to be buried in fitting honor. Joan, clearly bored with Lucy's elevated speech, urges Charles to give him the bodies and send Lucy on his way.

The bulk of the scenes between Talbot and John involve their argument about whether or not John should flee the battle. Talbot had previously viciously upbraided Fastolf for having fled a battle, but he gladly encourages his son to do the same, if it means surviving to fight another day, to carry on the Talbot name, or to avenge his father's death. Yet his son is obstinate. He has clearly learned something from Talbot about the nature of chivalry and valor: he refuses to leave the scene of the battle because such a cowardly act will render him unworthy of the Talbot name--and that will be worse than dying, than leaving his father's death unavenged, and bringing about the end of the Talbot line. And finally he dies before his father, who himself apparently dies of grief.

And, thus, dies the most consistent figure of the chivalry, valor, and honor of an older order. John's display of similar honor offers momentary hope for the survival of this order, but his quick death brings his possible influence to an end also. So, too, dies the world of a paternally bequeathed chivalry, when both father and son die in the same battle. And now England passes exclusively into the hands of politicians who fight not for king and country, as the knights of feudal times did, but for their own personal gain.

Yet again we see the contrast between Joan's new tactics of war and the old school of warfare. After the battle ends, Lucy arrives to formally mourn for the bodies of the troops, but Joan's disinterest grows with the laundry list of names Lucy recites. To her, the bodies merely smell bad and attract flies, and they have no meaning anymore. In the context of a more modern world, her viewpoint will prove the predominant one, but the world has not changed so much since Talbot's death that the bodies will not receive a fitting burial.

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ACT IV, SCENES V-VII QUICK QUIZ

What does Talbot tell his son John to do when they are in danger at the Battle of Bordeaux?
Fight to the death
Flee the scene
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Act IV, Scenes v-vii Quick QUIZ

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