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MonkeyNotes-Henry VI, Part 1 by William Shakespeare

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Act I, Scene II

Summary

Charles, the Dauphin of France, is positioned along with his
noblemen near Orleans. They are discussing their recent
victories against the English and decide to seize Orleans. The
English, under the command the Earl of Salisbury beat them
back. The Bastard of Orleans brings Joan La Pucelle to meet
the Dauphin. She succeeds in convincing him that she is
divinely inspired to drive the English out of France. Charles
consents, under her guidance and with her help, to fight the
English and recover Orleans for the French.

Notes

In this scene, the French noblemen, the Dauphin and Charles
make their first appearance. They are reveling in the glow of
their recent victories against the English. The Dauphin
attributes this change of events to the planet Mars. He remarks
that it has transferred its influence from the English army to the
French. Mars is the planet that governs war and warriors, the
reference to it once again brings up the superstitious theme that
is found in the first scene. Encouraged by their good fortune
and the capture of Talbot, they attack Orleans, feeling assured
of success.

They are defeated and discouraged and the scene loses the
fervor with which it began. It comes to life again with the entry
of Joan La Pucelle. She is one of the playís key characters and
the embodiment of French hope and courage. This scene
performs the task of introducing her to the audience: she is a
shepherdís daughter, blessed with divine inspiration ordained
to "be the English scourge." The shift in the Mood of the
Frenchmen is clear; they are once again resolved to defeat the
English. So, the entry of Joan in the play marks a shift in the
direction of positive action taken by the French.

There is a strain of crude comedy running through this scene:
the rhetorical apparatus is used to expose the comic underside
of Joanís character, namely, her base origins. It is formulated
explicitly when Joan tells Charles that if he tries her in
"combat" he will find she exceeds her sex. It is given a touch of
sublimity in Charles, Bright star of Venus fallen down on the
earth." The sense of physical energy elevated to moral purity is
totally reversed by this bawdy punning.

This scene comes directly after the gathering of English
noblemen at Henry Vís funeral. Already, in that scene the
hostility and selfish ambition among the English noblemen is
clear. Therefore, this scene highlighting the trench resolve to
win provides a sharp contrast required emphasizing the theme
of Englandís lack of unity. Moreover, Joan provides a new
hope that gives unity to the French counter action against the
English and the scene ends on an upbeat note with the French
ready to do battle again.

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MonkeyNotes-Henry VI, Part 1 by William Shakespeare
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