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MonkeyNotes-Henry VI, Part 1 by William Shakespeare

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Act V, Scene III

Summary

The English are beating the French and Joan uses her occult
power to summon the spirits that have helped her in the past.
She asks for their help but no effort on her part moves them to
help her. When they depart Joan realizes that French defeat is
now certain.

Joan is captured by the English and is taken to be burnt at the
stake. Suffolk has captured Margaret, Reignier’s daughter, and
is besotted by her beauty. He decides to get the King married to
her since he cannot marry her himself. Reignier agrees to the
match on the condition that Maine and Anjou are returned to
the French. Suffolk agrees and sets forth to England to
persuade Henry to marry the beautiful Margaret.

Notes

Through out the play Joan is seen in two different and
contrasting lights: the French see her as a "saint" and the
English as a "witch." This matter is settled in this scene, for the
spirits that come at her bidding are "fiends" lending support to
the English point-of-view that depicts her power as black-
magic and witchcraft. The spirits desert her and take with them
the good fortune that had led to the French victories. The
playwright makes it explicit here that the French victory had
nothing to do with courage but was a result of occult powers
used against the upright and brave English.

This scene also serves, as an introduction for Margaret, the
woman Henry VI will marry. Suffolk’s infatuation for her leads
him to arrange a marriage between the King and Margaret. He
agrees to give Reignier, Maine and Anjou in lieu of this
marriage. Suffolk is well aware that the king is already
engaged to be married and this decision of his will have far-
reaching consequences.

Suffolk epitomizes the failure of a courtly aristocracy to
provide an adequate image of feudal service and chivalry.
Shakespeare sets one Frenchwoman against the other, for no
sooner has Joan been dragged off the stage than Suffolk enters
with Margaret in his hand.

Shakespeare uses contrast for the basic structure of the whole
scene between Margaret and Suffolk. Suffolk is so overcome
by his infatuation with Margaret that he chivalrously offers to
let her go with the immediate result that he has to stop her
when she takes him at his word and starts to leave. The first
part of the scene is built upon humorous cross-purposes, with
both characters addressing the audience rather than one
another.

Suffolk debates how he may avoid letting her go. She reacts to
his self-absorption with a mixture of bewilderment and
mockery. In the second half of the scene Margaret turns tables
on Suffolk by using his own technique against him.

Margaret’s witty use of "quid pro quo" suggests a perfect
balance between them. The cross-purposes which, at the start
of the scene, began by isolating Margaret and Suffolk from
each other, gradually come to suggest collusion. Shakespeare
clinches the point as Margaret leaves the stage. After Suffolk
has plighted her his faith on Henry’s behalf, he calls her back
again and asks her for a kiss, ostensibly as a ‘token to his
majesty.’ However, after giving him the kiss, she proves to be a
perfect match for him as she shows that she understands his
real meaning and the facts of the situation in her lightly
mocking, teasing reply, "That for thyself: I will not so presume.
To send such peevish tokens to a King." There is humor and
formal balance in this scene.

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MonkeyNotes-Henry VI, Part 1 by William Shakespeare
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