Act II, Scene 4 Summary and Analysis
Charles VI: King of France
The Dauphin: son of Charles VI; heir to the throne
Constable of France: leader of the French armed forces
Duke of Burgundy, Duke of Orleans, Duke of Bourbon: French nobles and military commanders
The scene now shifts to the French court, where King Charles VI is conferring with his advisors and his son the Dauphin about the English invasion. The king, recalling England’s victories over the French at Crecy (1346) and Poitiers (1356) just a few decades earlier, calls for speedy mobilization of the army “To line and new-repair our towns of war/With men of courage and with means defendant.”
The Dauphin acknowledges the prudence of his father’s words on general principle, saying it is always a good idea to take precautions. He minimizes the present threat, however, by observing that the English throne is “so fantastically borne” that no one need fear the “vain, giddy, shallow, humorous” Henry. For this he is chided by the Constable of France, who points to England’s traditional resoluteness and warns against overconfidence.
Here Exeter enters with a warning of his own. Invoking the English victor at Crecy, Henry’s ancestor Edward III, Exeter tells Charles to “resign/Your crown and kingdom, indirectly held/From him, the native and true challenger.” Henry is coming, he says, “in thunder and in earthquake like a Jove.” Exeter also conveys Henry’s “scorn and defiance, slight regard [and] contempt” for the Dauphin. The king ends the scene by saying that Henry will receive his answer on the morrow.
Here, in a scene that matches the counseling of Henry in Scene 2, Shakespeare contrasts the firmness and unity of the English court with the divided, somewhat vacillating mood of the French. The Constable’s quarrel with the Dauphin betrays some basic disagreements between the country’s rulers, and the king’s hesitant reaction to Exeter is the opposite of Henry’s stinging reply to the Dauphin’s messenger.
Also worth noting is the character of the Dauphin, who, like the conspirators in the preceding scene, condemns himself with his own words, “vain, giddy, shallow, humorous.” Here, as elsewhere, his similarities to Henry in age and position serve to heighten their differences in personality and temperament. The two are mirror twins. Where Henry in many ways personifies the noblest values of the...
(The entire section is 592 words.)