1 Henry VI: Plot Summary
From Stories of Shakespeare's English History Plays by Helene Adeline Guerber. New York: Dodd, Mead and company.
The first act opens in Westminster Abbey, during the funeral of Henry V. whom Bedford Regent of France, Gloucester Protector of
England, and other dignitaries escort to the tomb.
In his grief, Bedford bids the heavens hang themselves with black, and swears 'England ne'er lost a King of so much worth,' while Gloucester also praises the master who 'ne'er lift up his hand but conquered.' Exeter opines all England should
mourn in blood, for 'the subtle-witted French,' no
longer afraid of their foes, are rising up against
them, while the Bishop of Winchester claims that
Henry fought the battles of the Lord, and was
aided by the Church. Angry that any glory should
be ascribed to the priests, Gloucester mutters they
hastened the King's death, whereupon Winchester
accuses him of pride. When he adds the taunt that
Gloucester's wife adores her husband more than
her God, a quarrel ensues, which Bedford tries to
check until the funeral is over, fervently praying
Henry V's spirit may keep the realm 'from civil
broils.' Before the end of the ceremony a messenger brings bad tidings from France, where the English have lost most of their conquests. Horrified that such a statement should be made in Henry V's dead presence, Bedford charges the messenger
to speak softly, while Gloucester inquires whether
Paris and Rouen have also yielded. The messenger avers lack of men and money brought about this calamity, too, ere he urges the English to recover what is lost.
These tidings so appal all present, that Exeter
exclaims were 'tears wanting to this funeral, these
tidings would call forth their flowing tides.' Then
Bedford calls for his armour, to start immediately
for France, and make the French 'weep their intermissive miseries,' just as another courier reports the Dauphin crowned at Rheims, and joined by Alengon, by the Bastard of Orleans, and by
Reignier of Anjou. Hearing this, Exeter exclaims the French will now all rally around their King, while Gloucester mutters that if Bedford proves slack, he will fight the French himself, a
threat he is grimly assured he will never be called
upon to execute.
A third messenger next reports a fight between
Talbot and the French, wherein the Englishman was
defeated and taken prisoner, owing to the cowardly
defection of Sir John Fastolfe. His account of
the battle of Patay proves so graphic, that it decides Bedford to start immediately, and 'hale the
Dauphin headlong from his throne.' As he is about
to leave, the messenger informs him Orleans is besieged, and their army so weak and faint that the Earl of Salisbury can scarcely restrain his men from mutiny. Bedford gone, Gloucester proposes to visit the Tower and inspect the artillery, while Exeter mounts guard over the young King. Having
watched the rest depart, Winchester mutters 'each
hath his place and function,' and jealously adds he
will not long 'be Jack out of office,' for he fully intends to gain possession of the King, and 'sit at chiefest stern of public weal.'
Immediately after, we behold the English fortifications before Orleans, where after sundry trumpet calls, King Charles of France is seen advancing with his army. He claims that Mars, hitherto so faithful to England, now smiles upon the French, who
have come to succour Orleans, which the English
have been besieging several months. When Alencon ascribes the vain efforts of the English to lack of their usual fare, Reignier adds it will be easy to drive them away. Signalling for attack, Charles now calls out in chivalrous fashion, 'him I forgive
my death who killeth me, when he sees me go back one foot or fly.' But, a moment after, the French troops are really driven back by the English, Charles crying he would stand firm would his men only remain by him! While Reignier exclaims Salisbury
'fighteth as one weary of his life,' Alencon avers
Froissart was right when he claimed none but Olivers
and Rolands were born In England during the
reign of Edward III. Such is the English courage,
that Charles favours a retreat, saying hunger will
enforce the citizens 'to be more eager,' for he feels
sure they will gnaw their very walls sooner than allow their city to be taken.
Just then the Bastard of Orleans enters, crying
Charles need not be dismayed, because Heaven has
sent a holy maid to raise the siege 'and drive the
English forth the bounds of France.' When he
adds that her spirit of prophesy exceeds that of 'the
nine sibyls of old Rome,' and can descry 'what's past
and what's to come,' Charles bids the Bastard introduce this wonder. No sooner has he gone to get her, however, than the monarch delegates Reignier to occupy his place upon the throne, while he hides amid the spectators, saying 'by this means shall we sound what skill she hath.'
These arrangements completed, the Bastard ushers in Joan, — La Pucelle, — whom Reignier addresses, only to be immediately told he can not beguile her. Then, turning her back upon him, Joan
singles out the real Dauphin, for whom she says she
has a private message. With the comment 'she
takes upon her bravely at first dash,' Reignier and
the rest draw aside, while the Maid informs the
Dauphin she is an untrained shepherdess, to whom
appeared the Mother of God, so transforming her
by her divine glory, that 'whereas I was black and
swart before,' 'she infused on me that beauty I
am bless'd with which you see.' Then Joan bids
the King propound any question he pleases, and test
her strength, whereupon Charles challenges her to
single combat, promising to believe in her if she
vanquishes him. Bidding him prepare, the Maid
draws a blade she claims to have found in St. Catherine's churchyard, and the two begin to fight. To Charles' dismay, he is promptly disarmed, but when he exclaims Joan is an Amazon and fights with the sword of Deborah, she modestly rejoins were she
not helped by Christ's mother, she would be 'too
weak.' Entreating her aid, Charles promises her
love in exchange, but Joan replies, 'I must not yield
to any rites of love, for my profession's sacred from
above,' adding that when the English are out of
France she will 'think upon a recompense.'
From the background, the courtiers watch this
scene, wondering at its length, and exchanging facetious remarks in regard to its subject. Overhearing Reignier now inquire whether Orleans shall be abandoned, Joan exclaims 'fight till the last gasp,' promising to be their guard. This pleases Charles,
as does Joan's boast 'assign'd am I to be the
English scourge. This night the siege assuredly
I'll raise.' He urges all to obey her, vowing that
'glory is like a circle in the water, which never
ceaseth to enlarge itself till by broad spreading it
disperse to nought.' Adding that 'with Henry's
death the English circle ends,' he proclaims the
Maid, — whom he compares to 'Caesar and his
fortunes,' — inspired like Mahomet, and declares
'no prophet will I trust, if she prove false.'
The next scene is played in London, as the Duke
of Gloucester arrives with his serving men 'to survey
the Tower,' for he fears dishonest practices are rife.
When he haughtily demands admittance, he is surprised to hear the warder answer him rudely. In his anger, Gloucester threatens to break down the gates, and his servants are about to rush forward,
when the lieutenant demands what this means? To
Gloucester's assertion that he must get in, the
lieutenant objects that Winchester ordered neither
he nor any of his pary should be admitted. This
statement causes Gloucester to denounce the Bishop,
and charge the lieutenant with being 'no friend to
God or to the King!'
They are still disputing when Winchester arrives with a large retinue. Rudely addressing Gloucester, he receives an equally impolite reply, which provokes an exchange of taunts, wherein Winchester accuses Gloucester of being 'the proditor, and not
protector, of the King or realm,' while Gloucester
taxes his foe with encouraging wantonness. Uncomplimentary speeches are bandied to and fro, until Gloucester bids his men attack his opponent. In the ensuing fray, Gloucester's men drive away the others, but before the battle is ended, the Mayor of
London appears to reprove both parties for breaking
the peace. Both Gloucester and Winchester now
pour out their grievances, and seeing they are about
to renew the skirmish, the Lord Mayor has the riot
act read. Unwilling to be 'a breaker of the law,'
Gloucester now desists, promising to meet Winchester where they can break their 'minds at large!' Thirsting for just such an opportunity, the cardinal vows, he'll have Gloucester's heart's blood, and both parties move off, growling defiance. Thus rid of
conflicting elements, the mayor prepares to depart
too, wondering that nobles should quarrel thus,
when 'I myself fight not once in forty year.'
The curtain next rises on the Orleans ramparts,
where a gunner informs his son their city is in danger
of being taken by the English, who are already masters of the suburbs. The lad knows this, having repeatedly discharged the big gun, although he regretfully acknowledges he has always failed to hit the foe. His father, however, boasts the shot cannot
fail next time, for he has trained the gun on a certain gate, where English officers often come to 'overpeer the city.' For three days past he has watched this point, to discharge his piece as soon as officers appear, and, now being obliged to leave for a while, he bids his son mount close guard, and summon him
should occasion arise.
The father has no sooner gone than the lad mutters he will not trouble his parent should he see any one at the gate! These words are scarcely uttered, when Salisbury, Talbot, and Glandsdale appear on the English fortifications. Salisbury is just welcoming Talbot, who, recently exchanged for a French general, relates his captivity and his various attempts to secure release. It is evident he still feels sore about the defeat of Patay and the defection of Sir John Fastolfe, for when asked how the French entertained him, he feelingly describes the insults heaped upon him. He and Salisbury now approach the fatal gate, and as they draw near, the boy on the Orleans side applies a lighted torch to his cannon. Gazing through the bars, Salisbury is just
assuring Talbot he shall soon have his revenge, and is pointing out the spot whence they mean to attack Orleans, when there is a flash of light, and Salisbury and one of his companions fall. Bending over his fallen comrade, Talbot exclaims in horror
that one side of his head has been blown off, and that
the victor of thirteen battles is slain! Then he vainly tries to win a last word from the sufferer, who feebly makes a sign, wihich is interpreted as a demand for revenge. Talbot has just promised to avenge Salisbury's death, when a noise is heard
accompanied by thunder and lightning.
A messenger then rushes forward, declaring the
Dauphin is coming with 'power to raise the siege,'
and accompanied by Joan, a 'holy prophetess new risen up.' These tidings cause the dying Salisbury to groan aloud, while Talbot cries he will lead the English instead of his friend, who is carried off to his tent.
A little while later, we perceive Talbot pursuing the Dauphin, but falling back in dismay when Joan appears, because his men flee in a panic at the mere sight of a woman in armor! When the Maid stands close before him, Talbot reviles her, and offers to
fight, a challenge she accepts. But, in spite of his
best efforts, she soon gets the better of him, and
leaves him, contemptuously remarking his hour has not yet come, for she must Victual Orleans forthwith,' while he helps Salisbury write his testament!
After the Maid has vanished crying, 'this day is ours, as many more shall be,' Talbot confessing his 'thoughts are whirled like a potter's wheel,' implores his companions to renew the fight or renounce the name of Englishmen! The skirmish
therefore continues, until, In spite of heroic efforts,
Talbot perceives Joan has succeeded in entering Orleans.
A little while later King Charles, and the Maid
appear on the walls of this city, where Joan bids her
companions plant their colours, for Orleans has been
rescued and her promise redeemed. After lauding
the Maid, Charles declares no greater triumph was
ever won, while Reignler and Alengon call for general rejoicing. But although the courtiers try to attribute the glory to the King, Charles ascribes it all to Joan, enthusiastically offering to share his crown with her, have her praises sung, and honour
her with a finer tomb than any sovereign! He adds that her name shall hereafter be used as the French rallying cry, and invites all present to a banquet in honour of the victory.
The second act opens before Orleans, where a French sergeant bids his sentries mount careful guard. The sentinels are grumbling, when Talbot, Bedford and Burgundy draw near with
forces and scaling ladders, crying the French are
so secure that they can easily be surprised! Talbot
rejoices at the prospect of victory, while Bedford
pronounces Charles a coward for seeking the aid of
a witch to regain his kingdom! Hearing this, Burgundy inquires who the Maid may be, only to receive from various interlocutors more or less reliable information about Joan.
The ladders placed, Bedford invites Talbot to
mount first, only to be told it would be wiser to scale
the ramparts from different points, so if some fail
others may succeed. This plan being adopted, the
English reach the crest of the wall before the sentinels can give the alarm. With their battle-cry 'St. George' and 'a Talbot,' the English scramble over the walls, and a moment later the French escape from Orleans In scanty attire. In the fugitives we
recognise the Bastard of Orleans, Alencon and
Relgnier, all hotly chiding each other, for not mounting better guard. They are still discussing the surprise, and wondering what has become of the King, when the Bastard exclaims Joan was with him and hence they need feel no anxiety about his safety.
Just then Charles and the Maid run In, the King denouncing his companion for having led him into a
trap! The Maid retorts that instead of blaming her, he should reprove his guards. Then Charles accuses the different nobles of poorly defending their share of wall, although all deny It. Besides, Charles himself acknowledges having spent part of the night in going the rounds, to ascertain that the sentinels
were all at their post. The Maid concludes the
English found some weakly guarded spot, and is just
suggesting their forces be rallied so they can retrieve
the day, when an English soldier rushes forward,
crying 'a Talbot!' Deeming his companions close
behind him, the French flee, dropping the clothes
and valuables they carry, which the soldier collects,
gleefully exclaiming his ruse has brought him plentiful spoil!
The curtain next rises within Orleans, where Bedford summons the English, and Talbot orders the body of Salisbury buried In the centre of the city. He wonders where the King, Joan, and their confederates may be, as they must have escaped from
bed at the first alarm. Burgundy then mockingly
reports how he saw the King and Joan flee past
him, arm in arm, like a pair of turtle-doves 'that
could not live asunder day or night.' The English
are still on this square, when a messenger Informs
Talbot the Countess of Auvergne wishes him to visit
her. After some joking with his companions, Talbot rejoins that when a lady craves audience a gentleman cannot refuse. He therefore sends his compliments and promises to call before long, but when he invites his friends to accompany him, they laughingly decline, Bedford sagely remarking 'unbidden guests are often welcomest when they are gone.' Summoning one of his captains, Talbot now whispers to him, uttering aloud the final words, 'you perceive
my mind?' and receiving an affirmative answer,
grimly watches his man depart.
In the castle of Auvergne, the Countess charges her porter to bring her the keys as soon as her visitor has entered. When this man has left the room, she murmurs she hopes to outdo the great
heroines of history by winding her coils around the
bravest of the English. As her soliloquy ends, a
servant ushers in Talbot, whom the lady welcomes
with pretended surprise, saying the man she imagined
like to a Hercules seems little more than a dwarf!
This uncomplimentary reception so angers Talbot,
that he turns on his heel, curtly stating he will visit
her at a more opportune time. The Countess has
just sent her page after him to inquire why he is
leaving so abruptly, when the porter brings in the
keys. Calling to Talbot that he is now her prisoner,
the Countess tauntingly adds she means to avenge
her country's wrongs by making him suffer all she
can. When Talbot laughs, she vows his mirth will
soon turn to sorrow, but starts in dismay when he
rejoins she has only secured Talbot's shadow! He
soon adds that were his whole frame here, 'your
roof would not suffice to contain it,' an enigmatical
remark to which he furnishes the solution by winding his horn, whereupon English troops immediately force their way into the castle, for they have been lying in ambush awaiting this very signal.
Completely outwitted, the Countess now begs
Talbot's pardon, which he freely grants on condition she feed his men, 'for soldiers' stomachs always serve them well.' This scene ends with the Countess' humble assurance, I 'think me honoured to feast so great a warrior in my house.'
In the Temple Garden in London, some nobles
congregate after a council, where they have evidently been quarrelling, since they exclaim this will be a convenient place to settle their dispute! At these words, Richard Plantagenet, heir of Mortimer and York, bids Suffolk proclaim him right and Somerset wrong, a decision this nobleman declines to
make. Called upon to pronounce judgment in his
turn, Warwick states it is easier to decide between
the merits of two hawks, two dogs, two blades, two
horses, or two girls, than such 'nice sharp quillets of
the law.' Hearing this, Plantagenet avers the
truth is plainly on his side, and invites all present
sharing his opinion to imitate him and pluck a white
rose from a bush near by. Thereupon Somerset
summons those who side with him, to pluck red ones
from another bush. While Warwick plucks a white
blossom, and Suffolk a red, Vernon suggests that
the majority of roses decide the quarrel — a decision
which satisfies both parties. One nobleman after
another now steps forward to pick his flower,
proudly justifying his choice, although taunted by
These taunts produce friction, especially when
Somerset accuses Suffolk of being of common
birth, although Warwick indignantly proves him descended from Clarence. Then Somerset retaliates by charging Plantagenet with being the offspring of a traitor. Hearing this, Plantagenet claims his father was wrongfully accused, and offers to prove
it at the point of his sword! The quarrel becomes so acrimonious that Suffolk finally marches away uttering a defiant speech, and is closely followed by Somerset. Plantagenet wonders how he can brook such insults, until Warwick reminds him that Parliament will soon decide his case, and that meanwhile the heads of both parties, Winchester and Gloucester, are bound to keep peace. He adds that should Plantagenet not recover his title, he will uphold him arms in hand, and solemnly pledges himself always to wear the white rose. Next he prophesies that this 'brawl to-day, grown to this faction in the Temple Garden, shall send, between the red rose and the white, a thousand souls to death
and deadly night.' Then, thanking the partisans
who have loyally sided with him, Plantagenet goes
away, inviting them to dinner, sure that 'this quarrel will drink blood another day.'
The curtain next rises on the Tower of London, where aged Mortimer is brought into the court by his jailers. Bidding them set his chair down in the sunshine so he can rest, he declares himself so weary that he lives only in the hope of seeing his nephew. When the jailer assures him Plantagenet is coming,
the aged Mortimer exclaims that after seeing him
he will be able to depart in peace!
A moment later Plantagenet appears, and after embracing this nephew, whom he hails as the hope of the Yorks, old Mortimer sinks back in his chair. To account for his delay, Plantagenet relates his quarrel with Somerset, who taunted him with his
father's death. As he wishes to know why his
parent lost his life, Mortimer explains that his father
was even better entitled to the crown than Henry
IV. After setting forth the genealogy proving this
claim, the aged lord relates how, — displeased with
Henry's government, — the Percys revolted, and tried
to place York on the throne. As a result, Mortimer was made a prisoner and had to spend the rest of his life in the Tower, — while his brother was beheaded as a traitor! This explanation satisfies Plantagenet his father's execution was an act of
'bloody tyranny,' a statement his uncle bids him
never express aloud, since the House of Lancaster
is as fixed as a mountain and likely to resent it.
A few moments later, the aged Mortimer breathes
his last in his nephew's arms, still giving him good
advice. Pledging himself to give his kinsman a fitting burial, and mournfully watching the jailers bear away his corpse, Richard Plantagenet declares it behooves him also to avenge the insult Somerset offered his race, and hastens to Parliament to
secure the restitution of his father's title and estates.
The third act opens in Parliament,
where Winchester, seeing Gloucester attempt to post
up a bill, snatches it from him and tears it to pieces,
bidding him accuse him openly without 'invention,' so he can answer with 'sudden and extemporal speech!' Turning upon his opponent, Gloucester now reviles him, accusing him of having twice criminally attempted his life! In return Winchester denounces Gloucester, telling the lords present his
antagonist is insulting him wantonly, although they
are of equal rank. This statement Gloucester refutes, and the quarrel waxes ever fiercer as Somerset and Warwick join in it to support their respective parties.
Meantime, Plantagenet prudently holds his
tongue, and young Henry VI, who has watched the
contention with terror, — piteously implores his
uncles Gloucester and Winchester to be friends, assuring them 'civil dissension is a viperous worm that gnaws the bowels of the commonwealth.'
This truth becomes only too apparent when a tumult arises, which is soon followed by the entrance of the mayor, complaining that the followers of Winchester and Gloucester, forbidden all other
weapons, are pelting each other with pebbles! As
a result, all the windows in the street are broken
and many bloody heads are to be seen. Through
the open doors a glimpse is gained of the skirmish,
which the King implores Gloucester to end. Vowing that if forbidden stones they will use their teeth, Gloucester's servants continue the fight, until he interferes, and the terrified little King implores Winchester to use his authority in behalf of peace.
Hearing Warwick urge this too, the churchman
haughtily vows that unless Gloucester submit he
will never yield. Out of compassion for the child
monarch, Gloucester now gives in, and Warwick
calls Winchester's attention to the fact that his foe
is holding out his hand In token of reconciliation.
The bishop, however, seeming unready to meet his
antagonist half way, is reproached by the King for
acting so little according to his calling. This re-
proof being reiterated by Warwick, Winchester re-
luctantly shakes hands with Gloucester, who realises
how hollow this truce is when the priest murmurs
he has no intention of respecting it.
Meantime, deceived by appearances, the little King sighs with relief, and dismisses the quarrelling servants, who, perceiving their masters hand in hand, deem it expedient to cease fighting. All go off, therefore, to have their wounds bound, and Warwick
solemnly presents Plantagenet's petition, which Gloucester upholds. Duly prepared for this move, the King announces Richard Plantagenet is restored to his rank, and at Warwick's suggestion decrees he shall have all 'that doth belong unto the house
of York.' In return for this boon, Plantagenet
does homage to Henry VI, and while kneeling receives again 'the valiant sword of York.' This ceremony over, all congratulate the new Duke, save Somerset, who grumbles against him.
Business settled, Gloucester informs his little
Majesty it behooves them to cross the seas so he
can be crowned in France, and they depart. Left
alone in the hall after the others have marched out,
Exeter murmurs old dissensions will soon break out
into flame, for he fears the fatal prediction that
'Henry born at Monmouth should win all, and Henry born at Windsor should lose all,' may yet
In France, the Maid approaches the gates of Rouen, attired like a peasant, and accompanied by four disguised soldiers, who bear sacks on their backs. Instructing these men to enter with her as
harmless peasants, Joan proposes to deliver the
place to the Dauphin, who is lying in ambush out-
side. With the punning remark that the sacks
they bear will serve as means to sack the city, the
soldiers knock, describing themselves to the porter
as poor peasants coming to market to sell corn.
Because all such venders are invariably allowed free
access, the watchman lets the group pass in, and as they do so, the Maid triumphantly exclaims 'nova, Rouen, I'll shake thy bulwarks to the ground.'
Meanwhile, Charles and his followers arrive,
the King remarking the Maid is to signal by thrusting a lighted torch out of the tower window. They are grouped together, eagerly gazing upward, when Joan suddenly appears on the tower, waving a brand, which she joyously dubs 'the happy wedding torch
that joineth Rouen unto her countrymen.' Sounding their trumpets, Alencon, the Bastard and Reignier force their way in, and a moment later Talbot flees across the stage, lustily swearing against the Maid, who has forced him thus to retreat.
After some confused running to and fro, Bedford,
surrounded by English generals, is brought in a
chair close to the wall. Within the town are now
seen the Maid, the King of France and their followers. Hearing Joan taunt them, the Duke of Burgundy bids her scoff on, for he will choke her ere long! In reply to a taunt from King Charles,
Bedford suggests that instead of bandying words,
they proceed to deeds, a remark which makes the
Maid inquire whether he proposes to 'run a tilt at
Death within a chair?' This seems too cruel to
Talbot, who reproves her for defying a half dead
man, and haughtily challenges her to another duel.
After putting their heads together for a while,
the English, who have chosen Talbot as their spokesman, watch him step forward and dare the French to meet them in battle on the plain. To this the Maid rejoins they would be fools 'to try if that our
own be ours or not' only to be told Talbot is not
speaking to her, but to the warriors, whom he reviles for not acting like gentlemen. The Maid now suggests they leave the ramparts, and passes out of sight with a jaunty farewell to the foe and the remark, 'we came but to tell you that we are
When she has gone, Talbot states unless they
recover Rouen their reputation will be lost. Bergundy, too, is anxious to regain the city, but before beginning operations, wishes to remove the Duke of Bedford. He, however, refuses to budge, declaring his presence will encourage the soldiers,
a spirit his friends admire ere setting off to attack
Some more fighting ensues, after which Sir John
Fastolfe flees across the stage, declaring he would
forsake all the Talbots in the world to save his
life! He is closely followed by a captain, who
protests against his cowardly flight. After some
more excursions to and fro, the Maid, Alengon, and
Charles escape from the city in their turn, while
Bedford, perceiving the English have triumphed,
dies for joy. It is, therefore, only a corpse which
is borne into the city by Talbot, Burgundy and
their men, who exclaim that Rouen has been lost and recovered in a day!
After wondering where the Maid and the French
can be, the English decide to place the recovered
town under good guard and march off to Paris,
to witness the coronation of their little King. But,
before leaving, Talbot gives orders for Bedford's
burial, declaring 'a gentler heart did never sway in
On the plains near Rouen, the fleeing French
assemble, the Maid bidding her countrymen not
grieve over the loss of the city, since 'care is no
cure, but rather corrosive for things that are not
to be remedied.' When she encourages them with
hopes of future success, Charles inquires what she
intends to do; so after some demur, she reveals she
proposes to win the Duke of Burgundy over to the
French side. Should this come to pass, Charles
feels sure the English would soon leave France, so
he hopefully watches the Maid's efforts.
Just then trumpets are heard and the English
march out of Rouen headed by Talbot. They
have scarcely passed out of sight, when a second
march ushers in the Burgundians. Bidding the
French sound a parley, the Pucelle announces she
wishes to talk to the Duke. Burgundy answers
these summons by saying he has no time for idle
talk, and when Charles bids the Maid 'enchant
him with her words,' he rudely urges her to be
*not over-tedious.' In an eloquent speech, Joan
now invites her interlocutor to gaze upon France
and behold the marks of ruin implanted by years
of warfare, pleading his arms should rather be
turned against the common foe, for 'one drop of
blood drawn from thy country's bosom should grieve
thee more than streams of foreign gore.' Touched
by this speech, Burgundy finally mutters she has
bewitched him or nature is causing him to relent!
Meanwhile, the Pucelle explains how the English are merely using him to reach their ends, and how, once masters of France, they will discard him. Vanquished by these arguments, Burgundy joins the French, vowing he will never trust Talbot again.
Although proud of her victory, the Maid considers
this 'done like a Frenchman: turn and turn again,'
(a very unorthodox version of her real sentiments)
— and while the rest congratulate her upon what
she has done, Charles invites all present to join
him and Burgundy and 'prejudice the foe.'
The next scene is played in the palace in Paris,
where Henry VI is seated on his throne, while Talbot lays his sword at his feet, boasting of his military feats. When Gloucester assures the Monarch this is the great Talbot, the little King bids him welcome, stating he remembers how his father said
'a stouter champion never handled sword,' — surely
a remarkable feat of memory for an infant nine
months old! In reward for his services, Talbot is
created Earl of Shrewsbury, and given a share in
the coronation pageant, and all march out save two
lords of the Yorkish and Lancaster factions. These
now renew aloud a quarrel previously begun, and
after challenging each other, decide to petition the
King to permit an immediate encounter, for all
duels have been prohibited during the campaign.
The fourth act opens in Paris, as
Gloucester invites Winchester to crown the King.
This done, the governor of Paris takes his oath,
after which Fastolfe enters, bearing a letter from the
Duke of Burgundy. Indignant to behold this coward, Talbot marches up to him and tears off his insignia of the Garter, proclaiming to all present how shamefully Fastolfe behaved at the battle of Patay. His explanation satisfies the spectators, and determines the King to banish Fastolfe from court 'on pain of death.'
This execution done, Henry VI begs to hear
what Burgundy writes, and Glouster, gazing at
the letter, is surprised to see it is merely addressed
'to the King of England.' Its contents further
enrage him, for the Duke states that, moved by
compassion for his country's woes, he forsakes the
English to join Charles, 'rightful King of France!'
This treachery being duly explained to the little King, he promptly requests Talbot to punish the Duke, saying he wishes he could go with him and show Burgundy 'what offence It is to flout his friends.'
When Talbot has departed, the would-be duelists, supported by their respective masters, present their plea, relating how they quarrelled while crossing the seas, in regard to the colour of their rose badges; thus continuing the fight begun in the
Temple Inn Garden. They and their sponsors
wrangle on, until the little King exclaims madness
must prevail, since men can quarrel for so slight a
cause as the colour of a rose! He implores both
Dukes to make peace, a request they heed as little
as their followers, since they too, challenge each
other. The King, — who is all for peace, — charges
all Englishmen to remember it ill becomes them to
quarrel among themselves when they have other
foes to contend with. In hopes of ending the strife,
he further dons a red rose, claiming both Somerset and York as his kinsmen, and begs them to continue in peace and love, and vent all their anger on the enemy. He next appoints weighty duties for each, and states he will now return to Calais and
from thence to England, where he hopes soon to
learn they have conquered the French! Thereupon
Henry VI marches out, while Warwick murmurs
the King 'prettily, methought, played the orator.'
Then, hearing York grumble because the monarch
assumed Somerset's badge, Warwick vainly tries to
pacify him, and all finally leave the hall except
Exeter, who exclaims had York only revealed his
sentiments, people would have known this mouldering quarrel 'doth presage some ill event.' Besides, he feels certain a sceptre in a child's hand must bring about ruin and confusion.
In the next scene the mighty Talbot is summoning the city of Bourdeaux to surrender, only to be warned he is in imminent danger, for trumpets herald the approach of the Dauphin. Caught between the town and the French army, Talbot
bravely prays 'prosper our colours in this dangerous fight!'
The curtain next rises on the plains of Gascony,
where a messenger, meeting York, reports Talbot
before Bourdeaux, whither the Dauphin is following him. Angry to think that Somerset, who was to send supplies, has failed to do so, York exclaims he cannot march on with so small a force, although Talbot needs reinforcements. Praying
God comfort his countrymen in this necessity, but
realising if he is slain, war will soon cease in France,
York remains inactive.
When Sir William Lucy also urges him to hasten
to Talbot's rescue, York rejoins he cannot go, although he knows Talbot has just been joined by his young son, from whom he has been parted for seven years. Grieving that the father should welcome this lad to a grave, York marches out, sadly
saying 'no more my fortune can, but curse the
cause, I cannot aid the man.' Left alone, Lucy
comments that while the vulture of sedition
feeds in the bosom of great commanders, conquests
are lost and Henry V's memory disgraced.
In another part of Gascony, Somerset receives
an embassy from Talbot. Declaring it is too late
to send forces to succour his comrade, who by overdaring, has 'sullied all his gloss of former honour,' Somerset accuses York of having 'set him on to fight and die in shame.' Just then Sir William Lucy reports Talbot lost and crying out against York
and Somerset, whose defection is causing his death.
Although Somerset now casts the blame upon York,
Lucy rejoins the latter accuses him, and despairingly adds 'the fraud of England, not the force of France, hath now entrapped the noble-minded Talbot!' This speech shames Somerset into sending
horsemen to Talbot's aid, although Lucy fancies
this help will come too late, and declares 'his fame
lives in the world, his shame in you!'
We return to the English camp near Bourdeaux,
where a wonderful scene occurs between John Talbot and his son, the father regretting the youth should arrive 'unto a feast of death,' and urging him to flee for the sake of his mother and family. The boy, however, declares his father may flee,
having already earned a reputation for courage, but
that he must remain, and when Talbot bids him live to avenge him, cries 'here on my knee, I beg mortality, rather than life preserved with infamy.' When the son, in his turn, pleads v^ith his father to escape, the old man proves as obstinate as he;
so both remain, and after they have taken affection-
ate leave of each other, the father exclaims 'come,
side by side together live and die, and soul with
soul from France to heaven fly.'
We now see the battle-field, where, in the midst
of the fight, Talbot's son is rescued by his father,
who proudly claims he has twice given him life!
The lad having shown his mettle, is praised for the
wonders he has done, and again urged to flee since
he has proved his courage. Not even the prospect
of future revenge can prevail, however, so both
plunge back into the fray, exclaiming 'let us die in
pride,' for neither will consent to abandon the post
In another part of the battle-field, old Talbot,
supported by an attendant, later seeks traces of
his son, describing how the lad protected him when
in peril. Just then his attention is called to the fact
that soldiers are bringing in the body of young Talbot! The father, after bidding the lad a touching farewell, clasps him in his arms, crying, 'soldiers, adieu! I have what I would have, now my old arms are young John Talbot's grave,' and expires.
The heart-broken father has just breathed his last,
when the French King enters with the Maid, declaring had York or Somerset supported Talbot, the day would have turned out bloody for them. Both the Bastard and Maid confirm this verdict,
and relate how young Talbot defied them, while Burgundy exclaims had he lived, he would have
made a noble knight. On perceiving the young
hero 'inhearsed' in his father's arms, the Bastard
fiercely proposes hacking both corpses to pieces, but
Charles bids him forbear, declaring 'that which we
have fled during the life, let us not wrong it dead.'
At this moment Sir William Lucy is ushered in,
to inquire In regard to prisoners and dead, for his
task is to compute their losses. When Lucy rattles
off the imposing string of titles borne by Talbot,
the Maid contemptuously bids him cease using silly
terms, as the man he magnifies with 'all these titles,
stinking and fly-blown lies here at our feet.' Discovering thus that Talbot is slain, Lucy wishes his eye-balls might turn into bullets to hurl against the foe, before he begs for the bodies to bury them. The Maid advises they be handed over to him since
their presence putrifies the air, and Lucy bears them
off, declaring 'from their ashes shall be rear'd a
phoenix that shall make all France afeard.' This
scene closes with Charles' invitation to his followers to accompany him to Paris, for he feels all will be his, 'now bloody Talbot's slain.'
The fifth act opens in the palace of
London, where Henry VI is inquiring of his nobles
whether they have read the letters from abroad
suing for peace? As Gloucester is in favour of accepting the proposals, the King adds that strife always seemed Impious and unnatural between professors of the self-same faith. When Gloucester adds that the Earl of Armagnac is offering his
daughter in marriage with a large dowry, the King,
although over young to marry, promises to 'be well content with any choice which tends to God's glory and my country's weal.' Just then Winchester enters in his new cardinal robes, accompanied by legate and ambassador. Because he hates Winchester, Exeter indulges in unkind comments, although the King announces Winchester shall be his
peace emissary. Turning to the ambassador, Gloucester then informs him how the King, having heard of the virtues and dowry of Armagnac's daughter, is ready to accept the proposed alliance,
in confirmation of which Henry VI entrusts to him
a ring for the lady whom he is to escort to Dover.
All having gone out, save Winchester and the legate, the Cardinal disburses the sum promised the
Pope in return for his new title. Then, in an aside, he mutters that thanks to his new dignity he can now overawe Gloucester, and make him either
'stoop and bend the knee, or sack this country with
In the plains of Anjou, Charles and his forces assemble, just as news arrives that the Parisians are rebelling against the English. When the Maid and generals advise Charles to take advantage of this fact, he hesitates, until a scout reports that both parts of the English army have conjoined, and are
about to offer battle. Although this move is unexpected, Charles does not flinch, while Burgundy hopes the spirit of Talbot is not present since he was most feared by the English. The Maid, however, prophesies all France will soon belong to Charles,
who, thus encouraged, goes into the fight.
The curtain next rises before Angiers, where
fighting takes place and where the Maid despairingly cries that, since the French are fleeing, she must call up 'ye choice spirits that admonish' her. In the midst of thunder and lightning fiends now appear, whom Joan addresses as her 'familiar
spirits,' entreating their aid. Gazing silently at
her, they all file past, while she vainly offers to
feed them with her blood, or to sacrifice to them
her chastity. Then they vanish, and Joan, realising that even 'Hell is too strong for me to buckle with,' and that France's glory 'droopeth to the dust,' vanishes to continue the fight.
Some time later, in the midst of the fray, the
Maid is seen struggling with York, who has taken
her captive. In triumph, he cries he has secured a
prize, and that her spells and charms will henceforth
be useless! While the Maid curses him, he taunts
her, but is surprised when she begins to revile her
monarch, too. Joan is led away, and the fighting
goes on until Suffolk drags Margaret of Anjou
on the scene, as his prisoner. He is, however, so
fascinated by her beauty, that he wonders who she
may be, and learning her father is Reignier, King
of Naples, promises her his protection. Then he
murmurs he has fallen so deeply in love, that he
would fain woo his captive, but dares not. He is
just adding he will have to send for pen and paper
since he is tongue-tied, when the lady, mystified by
his queer actions, inquires what ransom he demands.
Concluding 'she's beautiful and therefore to be
woo'd, she is a woman therefore to be won,' Suffolk openly regrets he is provided with a wife.
Fancying him mad, because he does not answer her,
Margaret hears him murmur he will woo her for his King, and promise to place a sceptre in her
hand and a crown on her head ! When she demurs
that she is unworthy to be Henry's wife, he exclaims he is unworthy to woo for his master, yet that he implores her to consent to his royal alliance. Because, finally, she refers him to her father, Suffolk summons Reignier to a parley. Appearing
on the walls, the King of Anjou, seeing his
daughter captive, offers to come down and discuss
the proposed alliance. A moment later he joins
them, and Suffolk after making his proposal, receives Reignier's consent, provided no dowry be asked and he be allowed to remain in possession of Maine and Anjou. After agreeing to these terms,
Suffolk returns Margaret to her father, promising
to hasten to England to arrange for the wedding,
although he murmurs he would fain sue in his own
After taking leave of Reignier, Suffolk approaches
Margaret, and when she promises 'a pure unspotted
heart, never yet taint with love,' to her future
spouse, he kisses her, under pretext he must bear
that token to his master, too. Then, watching
father and daughter re-enter Angiers, Suffolk sighs
although he would win Margaret himself, he must
prove so eloquent an advocate, that Henry will consent to the marriage he has devised.
The curtain next rises on York's camp, just as
he orders his servants to bring forth the witch to
burn her. A moment later the Maid appears on
the stage, followed by an old shepherd, — her father,
— who exclaims he has sought her far and near,
only to behold a sight which is death to him! The
Maid, however, refuses to recognise the shepherd,
insisting she is of gentle descent, although the old
man describes how he married her mother, and calls
Joan the first born of his children. The fact that
she disowns her own father, is scornfully commented upon by Warwick, York and the shepherd, who all vainly try to make her admit her origin. In despair, the father finally curses Joan, and bids the men burn her, for he considers hanging too
good! He departs after saying this, but when
York orders the soldiers to lead Joan away she
cries she will speak. Then she wildly claims to
be descended from Kings, to be immaculate, and
chosen from above, vowing her maiden blood
'will cry for vengeance at the gates of heaven!'
When Warwick coolly orders barrels of pitch placed
around the stake, Joan, deeming no other plea will
move such relentless hearts, claims the protection
of the law in regard to pregnant women. When
all present exclaim because a virgin makes such a
plea, and suggest that any offspring of the
Dauphin should perish, Joan declares he is not at
fault, and wildly names one French nobleman after
another. These excuses so enhance her guilt, that
she is ordered off to the stake, and leaves the stage,
cursing France and all around her, and saying
'darkness and the gloomy shade of death environ
you, till mischief and despair drive you to break
your necks, or hang yourselves!' This curse is answered by one equally lurid on the part of York as she is led away to death.
A little later, Winchester greets York, informing
him peace has been concluded with the Dauphin
and the French. These tidings prove unwelcome
to the Duke, who would have preferred to fight
It out, and who foresees that if trickery is used, the
realm of France will soon be lost. A moment later
Charles approaches with his train, announcing he
has come to learn the English conditions for peace.
At York's request, Winchester explains that Henry
w^ill suspend war, provided Charles will become his
subject, pay tribute, and consent to act merely as
England's viceroy. Although Alencon deems these
hard conditions, and Charles urges he has already
recovered half his realm, York so berates him, that
his friends advise him in a whisper to conclude the
truce 'although you break It when your pleasure
serves.' Thus over-persuaded, Charles consents,
and after swearing allegiance to England, dismisses
his army, while peace is proclaimed.
In the London palace, Suffolk gives the King
such a glowing account of Margaret's beauty, that
he thereby breeds 'love's settled passions' in the
royal heart. But when Henry VI asks Gloucester's consent to this marriage, the Protector reminds him he has recently entered into a contract with the daughter of Armagnac, which cannot honourably
be broken. Determined to reach his ends, Suffolk
objects an Earl's daughter Is unworthy of consideration, and when Gloucester remarks Margaret is scarcely more, claims her father is titular King of Naples and Jerusalem. He finally so fires Henry
VI's youthful imagination, that the latter decides
the question, promising If Margaret will cross the seas, he will make her his 'faithful and anointed Queen.'
Then, Henry VI authorises Suffolk to collect one-tenth of the kingdom's revenues to defray travel expenses, and leaves the stage with Gloucester, who greatly disapproves this move. Left alone,
Suffolk triumphantly announces he has prevailed, claiming that just as Paris bore Helen over to Troy, he will bring Margaret to England, to rule the King, although he fully intends to 'rule both
her, the King and realm.'