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Henry VI, Pt. 1 :: Scenes :: Henry VI, Part 1: Act I, Scene 1

Scene 1

Westminster Abbey.

(King Henry the Fifth; Duke of Bedford; Duke of Gloucester; Duke of Exeter; Earl of Warwick; Bishop of Winchester; Duke of Somerset; Heralds; First Messenger; Second Messenger; Third Messenger)

The nobility of England bear Henry V to his grave, lamenting the loss of the greatest soldier the kingdom has ever known. Winchester attributes the dead king’s successes to the church, but Gloucester angrily denies it. A messenger brings news of dreadful losses in France, accusing the nobles of squabbling amongst themselves and thereby leaving the soldiers in France unsupported. Bedford swears to go to France and reverse this, but a second messenger brings the news that Charles the Dolphin has had himself crowned King of France, and that many high nobles have joined his cause. A third messenger informs the nobility that their greatest general, Talbot, has been captured and imprisoned by the French. The English nobles leave to prepare for war, while Winchester, left with no official roles, plots to take control of the infant king and hence take power. ( line)

Dead march. Enter the Funeral of King Henry the Fifth, attended on by the Duke of Bedford, the Duke of Gloucester, the Duke of Exeter, the Earl of Warwick, the Bishop of Winchester, and the Duke of Somerset; Heralds, etc.

BED.

Hung be the heavens with black, yield day to night!

Comets, importing change of times and states,

Brandish your crystal tresses in the sky,

And with them scourge the bad revolting stars

That have consented unto Henry’s death:

King Henry the Fifth, too famous to live long!

England ne’er lost a king of so much worth.

GLOU.

England ne’er had a king until his time:

Virtue he had, deserving to command;

His brandish’d sword did blind men with his beams;

His arms spread wider than a dragon’s wings;

His sparkling eyes, replete with wrathful fire,

More dazzled and drove back his enemies

Than midday sun fierce bent against their faces.

What should I say? His deeds exceed all speech:

He ne’er lift up his hand but conquered.

EXE.

We mourn in black, why mourn we not in blood?

Henry is dead, and never shall revive.

Upon a wooden coffin we attend,

And death’s dishonorable victory

We with our stately presence glorify,

Like captives bound to a triumphant car.

What? Shall we curse the planets of mishap

That plotted thus our glory’s overthrow?

Or shall we think the subtile-witted French

Conjurers and sorcerers, that, afraid of him,

By magic verses have contriv’d his end?

WIN.

He was a king blest of the King of kings.

Unto the French the dreadful Judgment Day

So dreadful will not be as was his sight.

The battles of the Lord of hosts he fought;

The Church’s prayers made him so prosperous.

GLOU.

The Church? Where is it? Had not churchmen pray’d,

His thread of life had not so soon decay’d.

None do you like but an effeminate prince,

Whom like a schoolboy you may overawe.

WIN.

Gloucester, what e’er we like, thou art Protector,

And lookest to command the Prince and realm.

Thy wife is proud, she holdeth thee in awe,

More than God or religious churchmen may.

GLOU.

Name not religion, for thou lov’st the flesh,

And ne’er throughout the year to church thou go’st

Except it be to pray against thy foes.

BED.

Cease, cease these jars and rest your minds in peace.

Let’s to the altar. Heralds, wait on us.

In stead of gold, we’ll offer up our arms,

Since arms avail not now that Henry’s dead.

Posterity, await for wretched years,

When at their mothers’ moist’ned eyes babes shall suck,

Our isle be made a nourish of salt tears,

And none but women left to wail the dead.

Henry the Fifth, thy ghost I invocate:

Prosper this realm, keep it from civil broils,

Combat with adverse planets in the heavens!

A far more glorious star thy soul will make

Than Julius Caesar or bright—

Enter a Messenger.1. MESS.

1. MESS.

My honorable lords, health to you all!

Sad tidings bring I to you out of France,

Of loss, of slaughter, and discomfiture:

Guienne, Champaigne, Rheims, Orleance,

Paris, Guysors, Poictiers, are all quite lost.

BED.

What say’st thou, man, before dead Henry’s corse?

Speak softly, or the loss of those great towns

Will make him burst his lead and rise from death.

GLOU.

Is Paris lost? Is Roan yielded up?

If Henry were recall’d to life again,

These news would cause him once more yield the ghost.

EXE.

How were they lost? What treachery was us’d?

1. MESS.

No treachery, but want of men and money.

Amongst the soldiers this is muttered,

That here you maintain several factions;

And whilst a field should be dispatch’d and fought,

You are disputing of your generals.

One would have ling’ring wars with little cost;

Another would fly swift, but wanteth wings;

A third thinks, without expense at all,

By guileful fair words peace may be obtain’d.

Awake, awake, English nobility!

Let not sloth dim your honors new begot.

Cropp’d are the flower-de-luces in your arms,

Of England’s coat one half is cut away.

Exit.1. MESS.

EXE.

Were our tears wanting to this funeral,

These tidings would call forth her flowing tides.

BED.

Me they concern, Regent I am of France.

Give me my steeled coat, I’ll fight for France.

Away with these disgraceful wailing robes!

Wounds will I lend the French in stead of eyes,

To weep their intermissive miseries.

Enter to them another Messenger.2. MESS.

2. MESS.

Lords, view these letters full of bad mischance.

France is revolted from the English quite,

Except some petty towns of no import.

The Dauphin Charles is crowned king in Rheims;

The Bastard of Orleance with him is join’d;

Reignier, Duke of Anjou, doth take his part;

The Duke of Alanson flieth to his side.

Exit.2. MESS.

EXE.

The Dauphin crowned king? All fly to him?

O, whither shall we fly from this reproach?

GLOU.

We will not fly but to our enemies’ throats.

Bedford, if thou be slack, I’ll fight it out.

BED.

Gloucester, why doubt’st thou of my forwardness?

An army have I muster’d in my thoughts,

Wherewith already France is overrun.

Enter another Messenger.3. MESS.

3. MESS.

My gracious lords, to add to your laments,

Wherewith you now bedew King Henry’s hearse,

I must inform you of a dismal fight

Betwixt the stout Lord Talbot and the French.

WIN.

What? Wherein Talbot overcame, is’t so?

3. MESS.

O no; wherein Lord Talbot was o’er-thrown.

The circumstance I’ll tell you more at large.

The tenth of August last this dreadful lord,

Retiring from the siege of Orleance,

Having full scarce six thousand in his troop,

By three and twenty thousand of the French

Was round encompassed, and set upon.

No leisure had he to enrank his men;

He wanted pikes to set before his archers;

In stead whereof sharp stakes pluck’d out of hedges

They pitched in the ground confusedly,

To keep the horsemen off from breaking in.

More than three hours the fight continued,

Where valiant Talbot above human thought

Enacted wonders with his sword and lance:

Hundreds he sent to hell, and none durst stand him;

Here, there, and every where, enrag’d he slew.

The French exclaim’d, the devil was in arms;

All the whole army stood agaz’d on him.

His soldiers, spying his undaunted spirit,

“A Talbot! A Talbot!” cried out amain,

And rush’d into the bowels of the battle.

Here had the conquest fully been seal’d up,

If Sir John Falstaff had not play’d the coward.

He, being in the vaward, plac’d behind

With purpose to relieve and follow them,

Cowardly fled, not having struck one stroke.

Hence grew the general wrack and massacre;

Enclosed were they with their enemies.

A base Wallon, to win the Dauphin’s grace,

Thrust Talbot with a spear into the back,

Whom all France with their chief assembled strength

Durst not presume to look once in the face.

BED.

Is Talbot slain then? I will slay myself

For living idly here in pomp and ease,

Whilst such a worthy leader, wanting aid,

Unto his dastard foemen is betray’d.

3. MESS.

O no, he lives, but is took prisoner,

And Lord Scales with him, and Lord Hungerford.

Most of the rest slaughter’d or took likewise.

BED.

His ransom there is none but I shall pay:

I’ll hale the Dauphin headlong from his throne,

His crown shall be the ransom of my friend;

Four of their lords I’ll change for one of ours.

Farewell, my masters, to my task will I.

Bonfires in France forthwith I am to make,

To keep our great Saint George’s feast withal.

Ten thousand soldiers with me I will take,

Whose bloody deeds shall make all Europe quake.

3. MESS.

So you had need, for Orleance is besieg’d;

The English army is grown weak and faint;

The Earl of Salisbury craveth supply,

And hardly keeps his men from mutiny,

Since they, so few, watch such a multitude.

Exit.3. MESS.

EXE.

Remember, lords, your oaths to Henry sworn:

Either to quell the Dauphin utterly,

Or bring him in obedience to your yoke.

BED.

I do remember it, and here take my leave,

To go about my preparation.

Exit Bedford.BED.

GLOU.

I’ll to the Tower with all the haste I can,

To view th’ artillery and munition,

And then I will proclaim young Henry king.

Exit Gloucester.GLOU.

EXE.

To Eltam will I, where the young King is,

Being ordain’d his special governor,

And for his safety there I’ll best devise.

Exit.EXE.

WIN.

Each hath his place and function to attend:

I am left out; for me nothing remains.

But long I will not be Jack out of office.

The King from Eltam I intend to send,

And sit at chiefest stern of public weal.

Exeunt.

 
 
 
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