Henry VI Part 1: Top Ten Quotes

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  1. “Of old I know them; rather with their teeth The walls they’ll tear down than forsake the siege.”
    Act 1, scene 2, lines 39-40
    The heir to the French throne, Charles the Dauphin, says this to his fellow nobles about the English in praise of their extreme bravery in battle. It fits Shakespeare’s propagandistic purpose to have even the French praise the English, their enemies. The idea is that if even the enemies of the English praise them, they must be truly heroic.
  2. “How say you, madam? Are you now persuaded That Talbot is but a shadow of himself? These are his substance, sinews, arms, and strength, With which he yoketh your rebellious necks, Razeth your cities and subverts your towns, And in a moment makes them desolate.”
    Act 2, scene 3, lines 60-65
    Talbot says this to the Countess of Auvergne after she has tried to trick him and take him prisoner, a ruse he averted by calling in his soldiers. Talbot embodies the ideal military commander, who governs his men in perfect order, just as a head governs the motions of the body to which it is attached.
  3. “here I prophesy: this brawl today, 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.”
    Act 2, scene 4, lines 124-7
    The Earl of Warwick prophesies to Richard Plantagenet the bloody outcome of the dispute in the Temple garden that would lead to the Wars of the Roses.
  4. "O what a scandal it is to our crown That two such noble peers as ye should jar! Believe me, lords, my tender years can tell Civil dissention is a viperous worm That gnaws at the bowels of the commonwealth.”
    Act 3, scene 1, lines 72-3
    King Henry VI says this in rebuke to Gloucester and Winchester, whose disagreement has led to civil disorder in the form of brawls between their serving men. In the last two lines of the quote, Henry is invoking the traditional metaphor of the body politic, in which the nation is seen as a human body, with the monarch as the head and his subjects as the body and limbs. A well governed nation was seen as a healthy body in which head, body and limbs operate as a harmonious whole, whereas a badly governed nation was seen as diseased.
  5. “Done like a Frenchman – [aside] turn and turn again.”
    Act 3, scene 3, line 85
    Joan says this after she has persuaded Burgundy to abandon the English and fight for the French. She addresses the first half of the line to Burgundy and the French nobles, and the second half aside to the audience. Her insult to the French fits Shakespeare’s propagandistic purpose in discrediting the French and portraying them as untrustworthy and dishonest. The implication is that if even Joan, the champion of the French, thinks they are untrustworthy, then this must be the case.
  6. “And you, my lords, remember where we are – In France, amongst a fickle wavering nation. If they perceive dissension in our looks, And that within ourselves we disagree, How will their grudging stomachs be provoked To willful disobedience and rebel!”
    Act 4, scene 1, lines 137-8
    Henry VI says this to the quarreling nobles, Somerset and Richard, Duke of York, when they are in France. Henry wants them to forget their petty disagreements and unite against England’s enemy, France. He adds that if the French see that the English are disagreeing amongst themselves, they will rebel against their English occupiers.
  7. “… no simple man that sees This jarring discord of nobility, This shouldering of each other in the court, This factious bandying of their favourites, But that it doth presage some ill event.”
    Act 4, scene 1, lines 187-191
    Exeter says this in a soliloquy to the audience. He is commenting on Richard, Duke of York and the other nobles’ personal dissatisfaction and ambition, which is creating disorder in the nation as a whole. Throughout his works, Shakespeare consistently shows how the actions of the ruling class directly affect the fate of the nation.
  8. “Here on my knee I beg mortality, Rather than life preserved with infamy.”
    Act 4, scene 5, lines 32-3
    John says this to his father, Talbot, before the siege of Bordeaux. 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.
  9. “Him that thou magnifiest with all these titles Stinking and flyblown lies here at our feet.”
    Act 4, scene 7, lines 75-6
    Joan says this to Sir William Lucy after the English defeat at Bordeaux, in reply to Lucy’s question about where Talbot is. Lucy lists Talbot’s grand titles, and Joan gets bored listening to them. To her, the great warrior is just a stinking, rotting corpse.
  10. “Break thou in pieces, and consume to ashes, Thou foul accursèd minister of hell.”
    Act 5, scene 5, lines 92-3
    Richard, Duke of York curses Joan in these words in response to her curse on England before she is led away to be burned at the stake. In the final scenes of the play, Joan is portrayed as a witch in league with evil spirits, a whore, a liar, and a hypocrite. Her portrayal is a piece of character assassination of a historical figure who is popularly seen in France as a national heroine and a saint.

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