Henry VI Part 1: Act 5, Scene 2

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Act 5, scene 2

 
Charles enters with his lords and Joan. He reports the good (for France) news that the citizens of Paris have revolted against the English and are turning again to the French side. Alençon and Joan advise Charles to march to Paris and enforce the people’s loyalty to France.
 
A messenger arrives and reports that the divided English army has united and is prepared to fight Charles’s forces immediately. Burgundy says he hopes the spirit of Talbot does not live among the English. Joan assures him that Talbot is gone and that Charles will win.
 
Analysis
 
The fickleness of the French populace is shown in the word “turn,” used twice in the opening lines of the scene (lines 3 and 6). The word recalls Joan’s words in Act 3, scene 3, line 85: “Done like a Frenchman – [aside] turn and turn again.” While the fickleness of the masses is one of Shakespeare’s perennial themes, he drives home the point especially keenly with reference to the French, whom he wants to portray as untrustworthy.
 
The exchange between Burgundy and Joan about the ghost of Talbot is significant. Both Talbot and his son are dead, and with them, it has been suggested, died a part of England’s chivalrous and honorable past. But Burgundy, who retains a romantic admiration for Talbot’s qualities, says he hopes “the ghost of Talbot” is not among the English. Joan dismisses the possibility out of hand. She has no truck with old romantic ideas of chivalrous heroes and spirits of the dead. With what is at this point in the play a pragmatic, secular (she has long left behind her initial claims of a mission from God), and modern sensibility, she understands that fear can be a psychological barrier to victory and tells Charles to forget such destructive thoughts.
 
 

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