Study Guide

Henry VI Part 1 Patriotism

By William Shakespeare

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Remember, lords, your oaths to Henry sworn:
Either to quell the Dauphin utterly
Or bring him in obedience to your yoke.
I do remember it, and here take my leave
To go about my preparation.
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. (1.1.165-172)

For these lords at present, patriotism means doing what they can to establish the young King Henry VI and preserve his father's memory. It's a long time until Henry VI can be an effective king, but the nobles are going to try to aid his kingdom in the meantime. At least, some of them are anyway… Winchester seems to be plotting already, if you glance ahead to the end of the scene (1.1.173-177).

Henry the Fifth, thy ghost I invocate:
Prosper this realm, keep it from civil broils,
Combat with adverse planets in the heavens. (1.1.53-55)

Bedford cares about England and wants it to prosper, but he doesn't have the greatest plan for that, at least not yet. The best he can do so far is to call on Henry V's ghost. Worrying, especially since the next thing that happens is that a messenger arrives to say the French are rebelling.

Awake, awake, English nobility!
Let not sloth dim your honors new begot.
Cropped are the flower-de-luces in your arms;
Of England's coat, one half is cut away. (1.1.80-83)

For this messenger, being patriotic means warning the English nobility about what's happening in France and encouraging them to get cracking. The play suggests that's a good idea for a patriot, but it's a little unclear on how to do it.

God's mother deignèd to appear to me,
And, in a vision full of majesty
Willed me to leave my base vocation
And free my country from calamity.
Her aid she promised and assured success.
In complete glory she revealed herself; (1.2.79-84)

Joan's saddling up her horse and charging out to save France. For her, patriotism seems to mean kicking the English out.

They called us, for our fierceness, English dogs;
Now like to whelps we crying run away.
Hark, countrymen, either renew the fight,
Or tear the lions out of England's coat. (1.5.25-28)

For Talbot, patriotism involves kicking butt. It's not just that, though. It's also living up to a certain expectation about what it means to be English, and being as brave as the lions on England's coat of arms.

Now, Salisbury, for thee and for the right
Of English Henry, shall this night appear
How much in duty I am bound to both. (2.1.38-40)

For Talbot, loyalty to country also includes loyalty to one's fellow fighting men, which is why he's so keen to avenge Salisbury's death. And it also includes honoring the King, which is why he speaks of "English Henry." He doesn't say which Henry. Is he promising loyalty to Henry VI, or fondly remembering Henry V? Perhaps both?

Henry the Fourth, grandfather to this king,
Deposed his nephew Richard, Edward's son,
The first begotten and the lawful heir
Of Edward king, the third of that descent; (2.5.63-66)

Uh oh… If patriotism means loyalty to the king, where are we now? The present king might be descended from a guy who cut in line to get to the kingship. So is he really the rightful king? And if he's not, who should people be loyal to? Maybe Mortimer's heir, who turns out to be Richard. Cue the frenetic violins, people. This is major, as you already know if you've been reading Shakespeare's other history plays.

He [Gloucester] shall submit, or I will never yield.
Compassion on the King commands me stoop,
Or I would see his [Winchester's] heart out ere the priest [Winchester]
Should ever get that privilege of me. (3.1.125-128)

Winchester and Gloucester are always accusing each other of being too ambitious and wanting the throne. Gloucester may enjoy being Lord Protector and running things, but in the end he probably does care about Henry VI. We can see that here because he backs down from the quarrel to please the king. Winchester, however, is much slower to do so in the rest of the scene, probably because he actually is too ambitious.

Look on thy country, look on fertile France,
And see the cities and the towns defaced
By wasting ruin of the cruel foe.
As looks the mother on her lowly babe
When death doth close his tender-dying eyes.
O, turn thy edged sword another way;
Strike those that hurt, and hurt not those that help.
One drop of blood drawn from thy country's bosom
Should grieve thee more than streams of foreign gore. (3.3.44-48, 52-55 )

Here Joan describes patriotism as being about the land and people of France, rather than loyalty to a king or to comrades in arms. Burgundy was loyal up until now to Henry VI and to his pals in the English army, but Joan says he should think about the land of France itself. It's hard to tell for sure since she's trying to get Burgundy to swap sides, but this may be Joan's actual view of patriotism, given how often she talks about France.

Then take my soul—my body, soul, and all—
Before that England give the French the foil. (5.3.22-23)

Wow—Joan is risking everything here as she calls upon the demons. We bet Charles isn't out their promising to give up his soul if France can win the battle. Is Joan one of the most patriotic characters in this play? Note: Shmoop does not recommend entering into contracts with vastly powerful, evil supernatural beings. It usually doesn't go well.

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