Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
The great nobles and churchmen of England gather in Westminster Abbey for the state funeral of King Henry V, hero of the Battle of Agincourt and conqueror of France. The eulogies of the dukes of Gloster, Bedford, and Exeter, and of the bishop of Winchester, profound and extensive, are broken off by messengers bringing reports of English defeat and failure in France, where the dauphin, taking advantage of King Henry’s illness, had raised a revolt.
The gravest defeat reported is the imprisonment of Lord Talbot, general of the English armies. Bedford swears to avenge his loss. Gloster declares that he will hasten military preparations and proclaim young Prince Henry to be king of England. The bishop of Winchester, disgruntled because the royal dukes had asked neither his advice nor his aid, plans to seize the king and ingratiate himself into royal favor.
In France, the dauphin and his generals, discussing the conduct of the war, attempt to overwhelm the depleted English forces. Although outnumbered and without leaders, the English fight valiantly and tenaciously. Hope of victory comes to the French, however, when the Bastard of Orleans brings to the dauphin’s camp a soldier-maid, Joan la Pucelle, described as a holy young girl with God-given visionary powers. The dauphin attempts to trick her by having Reignier, the duke of Anjou, pretend to be the dauphin. La Pucelle sees through the trick easily and, just as easily, defeats the dauphin in a...
(The entire section is 1323 words.)
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This play, the first of a tetralogy which includes the three parts of Henry the Sixth and Richard III, opens with the funeral of Henry V. The English nobles bemoan the death of the king, squabble among themselves, and discuss the fate of the English cause in France. A series of messengers enter and announce that most of France has been lost and Lord Talbot, England's great champion, has been captured by the French. The English nobles vow to fight and defeat the French in order to regain that country for the young king, Henry VI. The scene switches to the city of Orleance, where the French have been driven back by the English. Joan de Pucelle (Joan of Arc) rallies the dispirited French and promises that she will raise the siege. Back in London, the duke of Gloucester's and the bishop of Winchester's men fight over armaments stored in the Tower of London; their skirmish is broken up by the mayor of London. Back in France at the siege of Orleance, the French kill Sir Thomas Gargrave and the earl of Salisbury. Talbot and Pucelle fight inconclusively, but the French nonetheless take back Orleance through her inspiration.
The English, led by Talbot and with the aid of Burgundy, manage to recapture Orleance. The countess of Auvergne invites Talbot to visit her at her castle with the intent of taking him prisoner. The attempt fails. Back in England, Richard Plantagenet (representing the Yorkist faction) and the...
(The entire section is 655 words.)