Henry VI, Part 1 | Study Guide

William Shakespeare

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Henry VI, Part 1 | Act 4, Scene 6 | Summary

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Summary

Still on the battlefield near Bordeaux, Talbot exhorts his soldiers to keep fighting despite their apparent abandonment by the Duke of York. He rescues his son John, whom he praises for his courage in fighting the French. He asks again if his son will consider fleeing the battle, now that his brave deeds prove he is no coward. John refuses again, preferring to fight and die by his father's side.

Analysis

This scene, like Act 4, Scene 5 before it and Act 4, Scene 7 after, derives much of its emotional power from Talbot's grand style of speech. In earlier scenes, most notably Act 1, Scene 4, Talbot's warrior spirit shone through a much rougher exterior: his speeches, full of carnage and malice, often had a harsh and breathless quality. Now, as he nears the end of his life, Talbot seems to be honing the style of his own eulogy.

One of Shakespeare's main tools for creating these elevated moments is the heroic couplet: a unit of two consecutive rhymed lines of iambic pentameter. Much of Henry VI, Part 1 is written in blank verse (unrhymed iambic pentameter), and portions of dialogue are even written in prose. In these scenes, however, almost everything Talbot says is organized into couplets. The rhyme scheme pulls his words away from the backdrop of ordinary dialogue and gives them a rhythm that stands aloof from the rush of battle.

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