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Henry VI Part 1

William Shakespeare

Act V, Scenes i-iv

Act IV, Scenes v-vii

Act V, Scene v

Summary

In the palace in London, Henry enters with Gloucester, Exeter, and other lords. Henry asks if Gloucester has read the letters from the pope. Gloucester says that the pope urges the negotiation of peace between England and France. Henry asks Gloucester what he thinks, and Gloucester suggests it may be the only way to stop the bloodshed. He urges another tie to the French; the Earl of Armagnac, a close relative of Charles, has offered his daughter in marriage. Henry replies that he is young and might be better suited to study than to marriage, but he will take Gloucester's advice.

Winchester enters, in the garb of a cardinal, with several messengers from the pope. Exeter wonders to himself how Winchester came to be a cardinal; certainly it means he plans to have more influence over the king. The king tells the papal messengers that he has decided that a friendly peace with France is a good idea, and he means to pursue it immediately. Gloucester tells the messengers that the king has also agreed to a marriage with the Earl of Armagnac's daughter. The court departs, except for Winchester and the main messenger from the pope. Winchester tells the messenger he owes him money for having made him a cardinal. Now he won't have to submit to anyone, he declares, especially not to Gloucester.

Charles and his nobles, including Burgundy, Alençon, the Bastard of Orléans, René, and Joan, ponder news from Paris that their countrymen there are again swearing their loyalty to England. Alençon urges Charles to march to Paris and clear up the situation. Then, a messenger enters to announce that the two segments of the English army have merged and are preparing to attack the French troops. Joan urges Charles to lead the battle, and she declares he will win.

It is now the middle of the battle, and Joan, alone onstage, realizes York is winning. She calls on the spirits that give her signs of coming events; she asks them to appear and to aid her. They arrive, and she asks them to help her win the fight for France. But the fiends refuse to speak to Joan. She reminds them that she has always offered her blood to them in exchange for their help. Yet the demons show no interest in her offerings. Becoming desperate, she offers her soul to them, but they depart. Joan, forsaken by the source of her former powers, declares that France will now surely fall to the English.

Burgundy and York fight in hand-to-hand combat offstage. The French flee, and York seizes Joan. Holding her, he tauntingly asks her if her demons can help her now. He calls her an enchantress and a witch, and he takes her away.

Commentary

Winchester begins his scheming in earnest now, buying the title of cardinal from the papal messengers. Meanwhile, Gloucester seems pure of motive in his efforts to help negotiate a peace with the French and to marry a relative of Charles to clinch the deal. The conflict between Gloucester and Winchester now takes on a clear black-and-white character, as has the conflict between York and Somerset, in which York has increasingly come to seem the better man. In this case, Winchester is apparently the only one actively plotting to get ahead, whereas Gloucester simply does his job.

After the downfall of Talbot, Joan doesn't last long either. She calls her demons to help her, and the scene proves that she indeed enjoys connections to the spirit world as she claimed, even if they don't speak to her and refuse to help her. Whether or not they ever actually helped her, they clearly fail her now, and York captures her in battle.

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A Young King and the Dangers of a Power Vacuum

by ReadingShakespearefor450th, April 30, 2013

I finished reading and blogged on Henry VI, Part One in effort to read all Shakespeare by April 2014. If it's of interest, my blog link follows:

http://ow.ly/kA2g5

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