Henry VI, Part 1 | Study Guide

William Shakespeare

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Henry VI, Part 1 | Act 4, Scene 3 | Summary

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Summary

The action moves to the fields in Gascony, the southwestern French region surrounding Bordeaux. York learns from a messenger that the Dauphin's forces, more than tripled by reinforcements, are on their way to attack Talbot. Fearing this would happen, York has requested a troop of horsemen, but Somerset has not yet sent the "promisèd supply." In York's eyes this delay can only be regarded as an act of treason.

Sir William Lucy, freshly arrived from the siege of Bordeaux, urges York to go and rescue Talbot. York insists, however, that this will be impossible without Somerset's horsemen. Lucy mentions that Talbot's young son has gone to his father's aid, and the two men reflect that both Talbots will likely die in the upcoming siege. York, cursing his luck, leaves the stage, and Lucy ruefully remarks on the "vulture of sedition" that is devouring the English from within.

Analysis

This scene confirms Talbot's prediction from Act 4, Scene 2: the English are likely to lose Bordeaux, and Talbot will almost surely lose his life in the process. The mention of the young John Talbot further raises the stakes, since father and son are now in mortal danger. At this point it may be premature to assume, as York does, that Somerset is a "traitor villain"; Shakespeare has not yet told Somerset's side of the story. Still this delay does not reflect favorably on Somerset, especially in light of his ongoing feud with York.

Sir William Lucy, who appears for the first time in this scene, carefully avoids taking a side in the York/Lancaster dispute—for now. Like King Henry, Lucy is a Cassandra figure, a helpless but prophetic spectator: he sees England on a collision course with defeat in France and civil war at home but has no power to steer the country away from disaster. His predictions for England's future are as grim as Henry's: "whiles they [the commanders] each other cross,/Lives, honors, lands, and all hurry to loss."

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