Henry VI Part 1

by: William Shakespeare

Act IV, Scene i

Commentary

Talbot's response to Fastolf again demonstrates his understanding of chivalry and valor and his obsolescence. Fastolf is an example of the worst kind of soldier, but he represents an increasingly fearful group of soldiers.

Vernon and Basset try to decide their own interpersonal quarrel by petitioning the king, but they merely reveal the continued disagreement between York and Somerset. The king offers convincing arguments for why they should end their fighting, namely that the French are watching them and will take infighting as a sign that the English will be unable to rule them. He tries to resolve the dispute by taking a red rose from Somerset and explaining that it means nothing, as he loves both nobles equally. But York is displeased, and Henry's gesture fails to bring reconciliation.

The king also tries cleverly to make the two nobles get along by assigning them significant positions within the English campaign. Yet he doesn't foresee that their petty infighting may infiltrate their military dealings and weaken the English armed front. In fact, it is Somerset's antipathy to York that leads to his slowness in providing troops to York and precipitates the death of Talbot, hence, overturning the English advantage in France. The French win the battle, but the English give them the victory via their internal squabbling.


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