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Henry VI Part 1

William Shakespeare

Act V, Scene vi

Summary Act V, Scene vi


In York's camp, York has arranged a trial for Joan, attended by Warwick and a shepherd. The shepherd is Joan's father, and he weeps to see her fallen state. Yet she refuses to acknowledge any connection to him. Warwick asks her if she denies her parentage, which York thinks is a sign of her wickedness. The shepherd begs her to admit he is her father, but Joan insists the English have merely brought him in to suggest her birth was low. Distraught, the shepherd says he wishes some wolf had eaten her when she tended his sheep. He urges the English to burn her, as hanging would be too good a death, and departs.

York orders her to be taken away, but Joan insists on telling of her origins. She announces that she is the descendant of kings, chosen by the heavens to be virtuous and holy and to bring miracles to the earth. She declares that her judges are unable to believe in her innocence because they are polluted by their own lusts and stained by the bloods of the innocents they have killed before. She declares she has always been a chaste virgin; if the English spill her blood, they will only be sending her to heaven, where she can call upon God to reap revenge. York is unconvinced and tells the guards to take her away. Warwick orders the preparation of a large bonfire in which to burn her.

Joan asks them to stop in their plan to kill her, now declaring that she is pregnant and they mustn't murder the child within her. York is startled that the allegedly holy virgin now claims to be with child; who fathered the child, they wonder? They suggest Charles, but she denies it. She says it was Alençon, then she names René. The English think all these names suggest she has been promiscuous with the French lords, while all the while claiming to be a virgin. York tells her to cease her efforts, they are in vain; she will go to the bonfire no matter what she says. Joan then curses England, and she is led away.

Winchester enters, with letters from Henry. York reads of the plan to negotiate peace. He is frustrated to think that so many died and were captured for their country, only to now be dishonored by what he considers "effeminate peace"( He foresees the loss of the rest of the French kingdom.

Charles enters with his lords, Alençon, René, and the Bastard of Orléans, to discuss the terms of the treaty. York urges Winchester to speak, since he is filled with too much anger to speak himself. Winchester says that Henry consents to cease the war and to let Charles's men become feudal lords, loyal to the crown of England. And he tells Charles that he may become a viceroy under the king. But Alençon doesn't want Charles to become a shadow of his former powerful self, and Charles himself reminds Winchester that he possesses more than half the French territories and is already reverenced as king in those regions; he would rather be king of half a kingdom than viceroy of a whole one. York asks Charles if he wants to quibble about the terms and give the hard line: either accept the title offered generously by Henry or the English will continue the war.

René urges Charles to accept the offer, knowing another is not likely to come again. Alençon agrees. Charles should accept and, thus, stop the massacre of his people; he can always go back on his word when conditions are favorable. Charles agrees to the truce, on the condition that the English leave him all his fortified towns. York insists that they swear allegiance to the English throne, and they do. Then, he tells them to dismiss their armies.