King Henry VI Part 2: Top Ten Quotes

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  1. “The Duke yet lives that Henry shall depose, But him outlive, and die a violent death.” Act 1, scene 4, lines 30-31 The spirit raised by the conjuror Bolingbroke and the witch Jourdayne make this prediction to the ambitious Eleanor regarding the fate of Henry. It is ambiguous, in that “Shall depose” and “die a violent death” could apply to York or Henry. However, this combination of treason and withcraft is enough to seal Eleanor’s fate and that of her innocent husband. “But what a point, my lord, your falcon made, And what a pitch she flew above the rest!” Act 2, scene 1, lines 5-6. Henry makes this apparently innocent remark to Humphrey about his high-flying falcon at the hawking party. The high-flying hawk is a frequent metaphor in Shakespeare for ambition. Suffolk twists Henry’s words (which are meant literally) into a metaphor in order to accuse Humphrey of personal ambition.
  2. “…. I prithee peace, Good Queen, and whet not on these furious peers, For blessed are the peacemakers on earth.” Act 2, scene 1, lines 32-34 Henry tries to make peace between his quarreling nobles by echoing Christ’s words in the Sermon on the Mount, “blessed are the peacemakers” (Matthew 5:9). This is typical of Henry’s spiritual but unworldly approach to kingship.
  3. "I must offend before I be attainted, And had I twenty times so many foes, And each of them had twenty times their power, All these could not procure me any scathe So long as I am loyal, true, and crimeless.” Act 2, scene 4, lines 60-64 Humphrey dismisses his wife’s warnings that Suffolk, York, and Beaufort are plotting to destroy him. He has absolute faith that his own honesty is his best protection. His faith proves naÔve and misplaced. Eleanor’s fears prove correct.
  4. “… were’t not madness then To make the fox surveyor of the fold, Who being accused a crafty murderer,His guilt should be but idly posted over Because his purpose is not executed? No, let him die in that he is a fox, By nature proved and enemy to the flock, Before his chops be stained with crimson blood As Humphrey, proved by reasons, to my liege.” Act 3, scene 1, lines 252-60 Suffolk makes the case for killing Humphrey as a traitor even though he has not been proven to have committed any treason or other crime. Suffolk reasons that just as a farmer should kill a fox as a pre-emptive act, because it is the fox’s nature and intention to kill the farmer’s lambs, so they should kill Humphrey before he can do evil.
  5. “Lay not thy hands on me; forbear, I say. Their touch affrights me as a serpent’s sting. Thou baleful messenger, out of my sight!” Act 3, scene 2, lines 46-48 Henry VI says this to Suffolk after Suffolk feigns surprise at finding Humphrey dead. Henry intuitively knows that Suffolk is responsible for Humphrey’s murder. The moment marks a change in Henry from naÔve child to a man with slightly more political realism.
  6. “Ah, what a sign it is of evil life Where death’s approach is seen so terrible.” Act 3, scene 3, lines 5-6 Henry VI utters this reflection on Beaufort’s state of mind as he raves on his deathbed and tries to bribe death to let him live. In the Christian thought of Shakespeare’s time (and the time in which the play was set), it was thought that if someone had a clean conscience and was at peace with God, he or she made a good death. Humphrey is an example of a virtuous man who makes a good death, repenting his sins. Beaufort, though a churchman, is portrayed as a worldly and evil man who is tortured by what remains of his conscience.
  7. “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
  8. “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.
  9. “Break thou in pieces, and consume to ashes,Thou foul accursËd 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.
  10. “BULLCALF O Lord, sir! I am a diseased man. FALSTAFF What disease hast thou? BULLCALF A whoreson cold, sir, a cough, sir, which I caught with ringing in the king's affairs upon his coronation-day, sir."

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