Henry VI Part 1: Act 4, Scene 5

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Act 4, scene 5

 
Talbot enters with his son, John. He had planned to use the siege of Bordeaux to teach his son the art of war, so that John could take over from his father after the latter’s death. But now Talbot knows that John will certainly be killed if he stays for the battle, so he tells him to flee. John refuses to desert his father. Talbot says if they both stay, they will both die. John tells his father to flee and says he himself will stay, since his own death would be no great loss to the English and would not be significant enough for the French to boast about. John adds that he prefers an honorable death than a life lived in shame.
 
Talbot worries that his wife, the boy’s mother, will be left without husband or son, but John replies that his mother would not want to be shamed by a cowardly son. They argue further, but eventually Talbot agrees that they will live or die together.
 
Analysis
 
In his willingness to die rather than live dishonored by cowardice and betrayal of his country, John’s bravery is contrasted with the cowardice and petty self-seeking of characters such as Sir John Fastolf and Somerset.
 
John’s courage is reinforced by his extreme youth. He is little more than a boy, yet shows the heroic qualities of his father – qualities that are conspicuously lacking in the bickering nobles. In his determination to be a worthy successor to his father, John also contrasts with Henry VI, who lacks the valor and decisiveness of his father Henry V.
 
 

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