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Act IV, Scene VII
Talbot is wounded and dying and grieves over the body of his
dead son. While the French are standing over the bodies of the
dead Sir William Lucy comes to inquire about those who have
lost their lives. He asks for the bodies of the two Talbot and
Joan let his have them.
Talbotís final words, spoken over the body of his dead son,
accept and transcend the dilemma of death and extinction by
returning to the classical consolation of fame and formulating it
in an enlarged context. "Thou antic death... two Talbotís,
winged through the lither sky, In thy despite shall íscape
mortality. Here the reward of earthly fame is combined with
the consolation of resurrection after death. Their "name" is not
cut off by death but they become immortal beings. From this
last oration Talbot moves to the clear-eyed acceptance of his
fate that concludes the speech, "Soldiers, adieu! I have what I
would have, / Now my old arms are young Talbotís grave."
The death of Talbot is a crucial moment in the play. He and his
son, the soul of English honesty and valor, are overcome by the
French only because they are let down by the petty rivalries of
noblemen competing for power in an England rapidly sinking
into anarchy. The death of Talbot is a both celebration of
English courage and a warning against those political
tendencies, which time and again had brought England into
chaos and misery.
The unresolved problem of fame and the consolation that it
provides remains the single problem posed by the life of
Talbot. Does an "honorable" death justify a life that has proved
futile in the unforeseeable calculus of human history? Or does
the final word remain with Joan as she insultís Talbotís body?
"Him that thou manifest with... at our feet."
Joan has the peasantís dislike of fancy talk and high-flown
titles. She turns this scorn on English nobility. Lucyís speech,
with its enumeration of titles, is the perfect caricature of the
stiff formality associated with an English nobleman. Joanís
mockery of it underlines its absurdity. Talbotís simple heroism,
which is certainly presented non-ironically, is disfigured rather
than adorned by these trappings.
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