Henry VI Part 1: Act 5, Scene 1

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Act 5, scene 1
 
Henry VI enters with Gloucester and Exeter. Henry asks the lords if they have read letters from the Pope in which he urges Henry to make peace with France. Henry asks their advice. Gloucester favors making peace, to prevent further loss of English lives. Henry agrees. Gloucester adds that the Earl of Armagnac, a French noble, has offered his daughter in marriage to Henry, with a generous dowry. Henry thinks he is too young to marry, preferring his studies, but agrees to meet the ambassadors from the Pope and Armagnac.
 
Winchester, who has been promoted from Bishop to Cardinal, enters with the ambassadors. Exeter remarks on Winchester’s promotion aside to the audience that Henry V once prophesied that if Winchester was made a cardinal, he would want equal power with the king.
 
Henry tells the ambassadors that he agrees to peace. On Henry’s behalf, Gloucester also accepts the Earl of Armagnac’s offer of his daughter as a wife for Henry.
 
All exit except Winchester and the Papal Legate (ambassador). Winchester gives to the Legate the money with which he has bribed the Pope to make him a cardinal. Left alone on the stage, Winchester says in a soliloquy that he considers himself to be Gloucester’s social superior. If Gloucester will not submit, Winchester plans to lead a revolt.
 
Analysis
 
Henry V is given the status of a prophet in his correct prediction about Winchester’s ambition. Winchester’s bribing the Pope in return for the post of cardinal points to what the officially Protestant England of Shakespeare’s day saw as the corruption of the Catholic Church.
 
In this scene, Gloucester emerges as having more integrity than his rival Winchester. While Winchester is prepared to bribe to get ahead, Gloucester is only acting as the king’s advisor.
 
 

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