Henry VI, Part One: Act V

One witch gone and a new one on the horizon…

Key words, people, and phrases

Paramour: mistress

Grave: wealthy, sober, dignified

Repine: to be mortified, to murmur discontent

Periapts: amulets

Lordly monarch of the north: Satan

Crest: helmet

Wooden: awkward business, not likely to succeed

Plighted: to pledge

Collop of my flesh: part of a man’s flesh

Boiling choler: anger

Margaret of Anjou: the daughter of the King of Naples, Duke of Anjou. She is Henry’s manipulative future queen.

Scene 1 summary

Gloucester brings a proposal of peace to the King from the pope, the Holy Roman Emperor, and the Earl of Armagnac. Of course, the King was keen to reach peace, as he was not very manly and warlike. The Earl of Armagnac is a powerful man in France and close to Charles. He offered his daughter’s hand in marriage to strengthen the alliance. This marriage would also, of course, come with a large dowry. The King scoffs at the idea, saying that his time would be better spent with his books than with women. Then, he immediately agrees to the marriage.

Just then, the Cardinal of Winchester enters…wait. Did I say Cardinal Winchester? Why, yes I did. The Bishop is now a Cardinal and Exeter ominously repeats the prophesy that if Winchester became a Bishop, he would make himself equal to the King. This came true as he wielded strong influence over the highly religious young King.

The King asks for the terms of peace to be written up, including the marriage. All but the Cardinal and a legate of Rome leave. The Carndinal asks the legate to bring the pope the money he promised him for granting him the Cardinal’s robes. Once alone, the Cardinal reaffirms Exeter’s prophesy.

Scene 2 summary

Charles, Joan, Burgundy, the Bastard of Orléans, and Alençon receive news that the people of Paris are revolting against the English. The messenger explains that the divided English forces have united into one and march toward them. The French decide to march toward Paris and meet the English army.

Scene 3 summary

Finally, we see proof that Joan is indeed a witch as she calls her demons on to the stage. She pleads with them to help her secure victory for France. She offers her blood, then her body, then her soul. The refuse to help and leave the stage, foreshadowing doom for France. Joan fights with York and is taken prisoner. He mocks Joan, alluding to Charles’ love for her. She curses them both and York silences her.

Then, Suffolk captures a young woman who he immediately falls in love with. She turns out to be Margaret of Anjou, Daughter of the King of Naples, Duke of Anjou. After talking to himself for an awkwardly long time, and stumbling through his proposal, Suffolk convinces Margaret to marry the King. She claims she is unworthy of the King, but in the end agrees.

They go to her father for permission. He gives it fairly willingly to the man who sort of kidnapped his daughter. Margaret and her father comment frequently on the fact that she is unworthy of the King. The scene ends with Suffolk repeatedly asking Margaret for kiss “for the King” (wink, wink). Margaret is forced to say no a silly number of times.

Scene 4 summary

The scene begins with the final condemnation of Joan as witch and a whore. First, Joan denies her own father, insisting she is born of noble blood. Throughout the entire exchange, Joan is very un-saintlike as she insists she is high-born and chosen by God. In the end, her father curses her and urges the English to burn her. Next, she tries to save herself by hailing herself as a virgin. Then, she immediately turns around and tells them she’s pregnant. The father is either Charles, Alençon, and Reignier. Of course, the English would not be thrilled to have the offspring of any of those men alive, so her plea falls of deaf ears. So, Joan is is lead off to be executed. Warwick does graciously request pitch be poured on the logs, so her death would be quick.

The rest of the scene is a negotiation of a peace agreement based loosely on the truce of 1444. York is salty that all this manly fighting will end in a lady-like peace. The conditions of the peace greatly favor the English as Charles is asked to swear loyalty to the King and make his allies swear to never fight against the crown. England gets Normandy also. Charles agrees, but as Alençon points out, he can ignore the truce whenever he wants.

Scene 5 summary

This final, short scene was likely added later to lead into the events of Henry VI, Part 2. 

Suffolk has convinced the King that Margaret is pretty much the best female to ever walk the Earth, so obviously Henry wants to marry her. Gloucester gently reminds the King that he is already betrothed to a French noble-woman, who has a better position and a bigger dowry. Suffolk gives an impassioned speech about how the King should not be bound by dowries like the commoners. Also, Margaret will give him better sons because she’s better in pretty much every way. Hebert is convinced and sends Suffolk to get Margaret.

Suffolk, in an aside, compares himself to Paris getting Helen, which ended SUPER well for the Trojans. He says she will rule the King, and he will rule her, and so the realm.

Discussion Questions and Activities

  1. How common do you think it was in those days for a Bishop to pay the Pope to be made a Cardinal?
  2. Research Joan of Arc and how her life came to an end. How does it compare to the play?
  3. Needless to say, Suffolk and Margaret have an awkward introduction. Act it out. Try to pick up on the comedic notes.
  4. Based on how poorly Margaret and Henry are viewed in history, discuss how appropriate the Paris and Helen reference is.

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