Henry VI Part 1: Act 4, Scene 6

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Act 4, scene 6

 
The French and English soldiers fight. John is surrounded by French soldiers, but is rescued by his father. The English drive off the French. Talbot cries victory. John thanks his father for saving his life. Talbot says he was inspired by John’s bravery in striking Charles on his helmet. John has been wounded by the Bastard of Orléans in the fight and Talbot has wounded the Bastard in revenge.
 
Talbot asks his son if he is tired from the battle. He once again urges him to flee so that he may take revenge on the French in case they kill him, as seems probable. Talbot wants his son to carry on the family name for military heroism. John replies that he will not flee, because if he did, he would not be worthy of being called Talbot’s son. He is determined to stay by his father’s side and die if it comes to that.
 
Talbot compares John to Icarus, who in Greek mythology was the son of Daedalus. Both were trapped in a labyrinth and escaped by flying out using wings that Daedalus had made. Daedalus warned Icarus not to fly close to the sun lest the wax that held the wings together should melt. But Icarus did fly too close to the sun. His wings fell apart and he fell in the sea and drowned.
 
Analysis
 
This scene is a reprise of the conversation in the previous scene, with Talbot once again trying to persuade his son John not to fight. Again, he fails. John’s sense of honor will not allow him to desert his father.
 
Talbot’s comparing his son John to Icarus of Greek mythology perhaps suggests that John is too daring, being determined to get as close to the battle as his father does, just as Icarus got too close to the burning sun. Certainly Shakespeare’s audience would have known that Icarus drowned, so this comparison foreshadows John’s death.
 

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