Henry VI, Part 1 | Study Guide

William Shakespeare

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Henry VI, Part 1 | Act 1, Scene 6 | Summary

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Summary

The siege of Orléans has been lifted. Joan la Pucelle now stands on the walls of the recaptured city, alongside Charles the Dauphin, Reignier, and Alanson. All are in a celebratory mood, but Charles is positively giddy with victory. He makes a series of extravagant promises to Joan: he will divide his kingdom with her, he says, and erect magnificent monuments in her honor. After her death, Charles prophesies, Joan will even replace Saint Dennis as the patron saint of France. As Charles says, "No longer on Saint Dennis will we cry,/But Joan la Pucelle shall be France's saint."

Once the Dauphin's speech concludes, a flourish of trumpets sounds, and the French leaders exit to enjoy a night of banqueting and bonfires.

Analysis

Charles's initial encounter with Joan (Act 1, Scene 2) revealed him to be a man of great emotional volatility, capable of falling head over heels in love in the middle of a sword fight. His florid language in this scene continues this somewhat unflattering trend. Joan, at this point, has helped the Dauphin to win exactly one battle—admittedly, not one the French expected to win, but still only one battle. Charles, however, is ready to have Joan both crowned and canonized after the victory at Orléans. To recap: the Dauphin is going to build a pyramid—the biggest, best pyramid—for a woman he met less than a week ago. These are not the words of a sane man: they are the words of a Frenchman in a Shakespeare play. Whatever glory Charles and his party gained through their victory at Orléans is dulled somewhat by displays like this, making hotheads like Talbot look sober by comparison. Shakespeare uses a similar strategy in Henry V: the sheer silliness of the French characters prevents the audience from taking their military conquests too seriously, helping to prepare for the "surprise" English victory at Agincourt.

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