Henry the Sixth, Part 1
Note: TLN refers to the Through Line Numbering system employed by the University of Victoria's Internet Shakespeare Edition of the 1623 First Folio edition of Henry VI, Part 1. Scene numbers are based on the cut edition adapted for the University of Waterloo production of Henry the Sixth, Part One, available HERE in its most up-to-date form. Older editions are available in the dramaturgy hub.
In all cases except where otherwise noted, the Oxford Shakespeare edition of Henry VI, Part I (edited by Michael Taylor) has been used for cross-referencing and clarification purposes. For specific citation details, please see the production Bibliography.
Glossary compiled by Kelsey Sewell, Research Dramaturg.
1.1a, TLN 10
“Comets importing change of Times and States”
- Comets: Conventionally thought to presage dire events for nations and deaths of great men, though here Bedford seems to want to use them as weapons in some kind of galactic conflagration brought on by the cosmic disturbance of Henry V’s death (Taylor).
1.1a, TLN 11
“Brandish your crystal Tresses in the Skie”
- Strained image: Bedford imagines the distinctive tails (tresses) of the comets as threatening, transparent whips (Taylor).
- Crystall: transparent (Taylor).
- Tresses: ‘Comet’ derives from a Greek word meaning “long-haired star” (Hattaway).
1.1a, TLN 31
“What? shall we curse the Planets of Mishap”
- Planets of Mishap: planets that regulate misfortune (Taylor).
- “Shakespeare’s references of the planets are mainly astrological, interwoven with picturesque details from the lives of the celebrities of mythology, whose names they bear. There was a widespread belief of planetary influence in Elizabeth [I]’s day, particularly the planet under which a mortal happened to be born, thought to influence his life. The epithets and expressions applied to the planets generally mostly owe their inspiration to astrology. Typical examples are, “some ill planet reigns”, “ill aspects of planets evil,” “adverse planets,” “the planets of mishap.” Frequent mentions of Jupiter, or Jove, and Mars are made throughout Shakespeare’s plays, gods of the sky and thunder, and god of war, respectively (Clark et al).
1.1a, TLN 53
“Cease, cease these Iarres, & rest your minds in peace;”
- Iarres: jars – discord (Taylor).
1.1a, TLN 90
“Cropt are the Flower-de-Luces in your Armes”
- Flower-de-Luces: The complicated genealogy of the French fleur-de-lis, the iris (Fox, Davis, 273-4), the heraldic symbol of the French monarchy, should not obscure the essential fact that the English appropriated it for the English royal coat of arms as a cultural symbol of Edward III’s claim to the sovereignty of France (Oxford).
1.1a, TLN 103
“The Dolphin Charles is crowned King of Rheimes”
- Rheimes: Charles VII was crowned seven years later at Rheims in 1429 though he had also been crowned king at Poitiers in 1422. The English do not acknowledge Charles as king until 5.5 (Taylor).
1.1a, TLN 165
“Bonfires in France forthwith I am to make”
- Bonfires: of celebration (for a victory) and conflagration (Taylor).
1.1a, TLN 166
“To keepe our great Saint Georges Feast withall.”
- Saint George’s feast: On St. George’s Day (April 23), although it would be usual for the victorious English to light bonfires on any day of victory over the enemy. Saint George is the patron saint of England and the Order of the Garter and the rallying cry for patriotic English warriors (Taylor).
1.1a, TLN 183
“To Eltam will I, where the young King is”
- Eltam: Eltham is a royal residence, situated in Kent on the road to Canterbury, about nine miles from London.
1.1a, TLN 190
“And sit at chiefest Sterne of publique Weale.”
- Sit…Weale: Be the most important helmsman of the state. Suggests that “sit” makes him sound almost comically complacent, and chiefest is a self-aggrandizing tautology (Oxford).
1.2a, TLN 195
“Mars his true moving, even as in the Heavens/ So in the Earth, to this day is not known.”
- Mars…knowne: Introduces the French in terms of a superstitious ignorance. Mars (a) the Roman god of war (b) the planet. Earth: the waywardness of the god of war’s favours matches the eccentricity of the planet’s orbit (Oxford).
1.2d, TLN 332
“Why no, I say: distrustfull Recreants”
- Recreants: Faithless cowards (Taylor).
1.3a, TLN 361
“Since Henries death, I feare there is Conueyance”
- Conveyance: ‘Furtive or light-fingered carrying off’ (OED 4).
1.3a, TLN 372
“Breake up the Gates, Ile be your warrantize”
- Warrantize: pledge, guarantee (Taylor).
1.3a, TLN 385
“Arrogant Winchester, that haughtie Prelate”
- Prelate: A cleric of high rank and authority, as a bishop, archbishop or superior of a religious house or order (OED, n.1a).
1.3b, TLN 393
“[Winchester] and his men in Tawney Coates”
- Tawney Coates: Worn by the summoners of the ecclesiastical courts who attended on a bishop (Taylor).
1.3b, TLN 395
“Piel’d Priest, doo’st thou command me to be shut out?”
- Piel’d Priest: “Peeled” – tonsured, shaven (Taylor).
1.3b, TLN 397
“I doe, thou most usurping Proditor”
- Proditor: traitor. The choice of this word, its only occurrence in Shakespeare, was determined by its resemblance to ‘protector’ (Taylor).
1.3b, TLN 403
“Ile canuas thee in thy broad Cardinalls Hat”
- Canuas: canvas – (a) entangle in a net; (b) toss in a blanket (Taylor).
1.3b, TLN 410
“Do what thou dar’st, I beard thee to thy face”
- Beard: defy, challenge (Taylor).
1.3b, TLN 424
“Out Tawney-Coates, out Scarlet Hypocrite”
- Scarlet Hypocrite: In reference to the colour of the Cardinal’s robes.
1.3c, TLN 429
“Thus contumeliously should breake the Peace,”
- Contumeliously: insolently (Taylor).
1.3c, TLN 432
“Hath here distrayn’d the Tower to his vse.”
- Distrayn’d: distrained – seized, confiscated. ‘A loose use of the legal term’ (Hart).
1.4a, TLN 494
“Call’d the braue Lord Ponton de Santrayle”
- Lord Ponton de Santrayle: mentioned as captain, not a lord (Hall).
1.4a, TLN 510
“The Scar-Crow that affrights our Children so”
- Scar-Crow: This contemptuous attitude looks forward to the Countess of Avergne’s derision in the second act (Taylor).
1.4a, TLN 519
“And spurne in pieces Post of Adamant”
- Adamant: a legendary mineral of supreme durability (Taylor).
1.4a, TLN 545
“How far’st thou, Mirror of all Martiall men?”
- Mirror of all Martiall: Model of soldiers (Taylor).
1.4b, TLN 581
“Puzel or Pussel, Dolphin or Dog-fish”
- Puzel: slut
- Pussel: virgin, girl, maid
- Dolphin or dogfish: Spelling Dauphin with the lower-case ‘d’ and the F ‘ol’ brings out the intent of Talbot’s dismissive comparison the French prince of two kinds of fish, one princely, the other scavenging (dogfish = a small shark). The pairing of the fish mirrors the equally dismissive pairing of ‘Puzel’ and ‘Pussel’. (Taylor)
1.5a, TLN 595
“Here, here shee comes. Ile have a bowt with thee:”
- Bowt: A bout: a military (or perhaps sexual) encounter (Taylor).
1.5a, TLN 596
“Deuill, or Deuils Dam, I’ll coniure thee:”
- Deuils Dam: Devil’s mother (Taylor).
1.5a, TLN 597
“Blood will I draw on thee, thou art a Witch”
- Blood…witch: Drawing a witch's blood was supposed to be a protection from her power. So Talbot will counter Joan’s evil supernatural magic with his own soldierly form of good magic: shedding Joan’s blood in honest combat. “It was believed that to scratch a witch cancelled her power, in the same way as one could avert the black magic with the name of Jesus or with holy water. Letting the blood of a witch flow could place her in your power, could break the spell of her wholeness: her flow restored her to the normal world, where the blood of menstruation is a badge of lowliness and weakness” (Warner, 109).
1.5a, TLN 607
I must goe Victuall Orleance forthwith:”
- Victual: provision (Taylor).
1.5a, TLN 614
“My thoughts are whirled like a Potters Wheele”
- Potters Wheel: There are a number of references in the Old Testament to the idea of God as a potter making (and breaking) his peoples out of clay. But Talbot focuses on the wheel rather than the potter which suggests something closer to ‘the giddy round of fortune’s wheel’ (The Rape of Lucrece, 952) (Taylor).
1.5a, TLN 616
“A Witch by feare, not force, like Hannibal”
- Hannibal: Famous Carthaginian general. F’s comma after ‘force’ suggests that we take Hannibal and Joan as both working by fear rather than by force, even though Hannibal might be considered the exemplar of force in his extraordinary career as a general against the Romans. For Hannibal’s exploitation of ‘fear’, the play’s commentators refer to Plutarch’s and Livy’s accounts of the incident where Hannibal ordered his men to tie lit torches to the horns of two thousand oxen to make the Romans think that they were outnumbered (Taylor).
1.5a, TLN 621
“Now like to Whelpes, we crying runne away”
- Whelpes: Whelps – puppies (Taylor).
1.5a, TLN 624
“Or teare the Lyons out of Englands Coat”
- Lyons: In the English coat of arms three lions passant (i.e. standing, one foot raised) guardant (i.e. with heads turned to look at the viewer) were quartered with the fleur-de-lis (Taylor).
1.6a, TLN 644
“Diuinist Creature, Astrea’s Daughter”
- Astrea: The goddess of justice, and the daughter of Jupiter. She lived on earth during the golden age but, at the advent of the Iron Age, repelled by men’s wickedness, she carried her divine scales off to the constellation of Libra. Her return to earth would signal a new age of justice. Charles continues to combine the Christian with the pagan in his celebrations of Joan (Taylor).
1.6a, TLN 657
“When they shall heare how we haue play’d the men”
- Play’d the men: acting courageously (Taylor).
1.6a, TLN 669
“No longer on Saint Dennis will we cry”
- Saint Dennis: First bishop of Paris and patron saint of France (Taylor).
2.1a, TLN 686
“Lord Regent, and redoubted Burgundy”
- Redoubted: (a) feared, dreaded (b) distinguished (Taylor).
2.1a, TLN 690
Hauing all day carrows’d and banqueted”
- Carrows’d: Caroused, or celebrated (Taylor).
2.1a, TLN 692
“As fitting best to quittance their deceite,”
- Quittance: repay (Taylor).
2.2a, TLN 799
“Am sure I scar’d the Dauphin and his Trull”
2.3a, TLN 898
“This is a Riddling Merchant for the nonce”
- Riddling Merchant: trader in riddles (but ‘merchant’ also meant ‘fellow’)
- For the nonce: As the occasion requires (a dismissive tag) (Taylor)
2.3a, TLN 922
“Taste of your Wine, and see what Cates you haue”
- Cates: delicacies (Taylor).
- This scene has no basis in the Chronicles and is an instance of what John W. Blanpied in Time and the Artist in Shakespeare’s English Histories (London and Toronto, 1983) describes as one of those imaginatively conceived ‘subhistorical hollows nonexistent for the chroniclers’ (34). It probable takes place in the garden—clearly marked in Prokter and Taylor—of the Inner Temple, one of the four Inns of Court in Fleet Street that make up the official legal university of England. The Inner Temple and the Middle Temple were leased to students of the Common Law from the early fourteenth century onwards. The scene dramatizes the beginnings of the Wars of the Roses, the struggle between the Houses of York and Lancaster, over an obscure point of law, the ‘case of truth’. The Wars of the Roses developed out of the instability caused when Bolingbroke seized the throne. Given the importance of the white and red roses as props in this scene, Oxford adds ‘A rose brier’ to the introductory direction. Appropriately for the setting, the scene’s vocabulary is noticeably legal. This scene tears away the veneer of courtly civility that dominated the exchanges between Talbot and the Countess in the previous scene. It is a scene that most commentators most confidently ascribe to Shakespeare (Taylor).
- An invention of the dramatist, he is a follower of York. It is he who suggests—naively as it turns out—that the dumb significants (the roses) be construed as ballots in a vote as to who is in the right in the case of truth (Taylor).
2.4a, TLN 930
“Dare no man answer in a Case of Truth?”
- Case of Truth: “While this is left undefined, it is clear that the question at issue was one affecting Plantagenet’s reinstatement or the succession to the crown, or both combined (Cairncross). Or perhaps neither: we never do find out what the particular ‘case’ is, and later remarks its triviality. The scene might glancingly (because of contemporary sensitivities) allude to a major case of the Wars of the Roses: the accumulation of land and thus power by a few magnates (Taylor).
2.4a, TLN 946
“But in these nice sharpe Quillets of the Law”
- Quillets: verbal niceties, subtle distinctions (Taylor).
2.4a, TLN 947
“Good faith I am no wiser then a Daw”
- Daw: Jackdaw, proverbial for its stupidity (Taylor).
2.4a, TLN 950
“That any purblind eye may find it out”
- Purblind: Although Shakespeare usually uses this word to mean ‘thoroughly blind’, it probably means ‘weak-sighted’ here as in Venus and Adonis, 679. Somerset then goes one better in his reply when he argues that the truth, his truth, is so bright it would penetrate ‘a blond man’s eye’ (Taylor).
2.4a, TLN 959
- Previously the badge of the Mortimers.
2.4a, TLN 962
- Since the thirteenth century the red rose had been the badge of the House of Lancaster. The unified red and white rose became the Tudor emblem.
2.4a, TLN 998
“Hath not thy Rose a Canker, Somerset?”
- Canker: blight, disease, caused by the caterpillar that feeds on rosebuds (Taylor)
2.4a, TLN 1012
“We grace the Yeoman, by conuersing with him.”
- Yeoman: A man under the rank of gentleman who owns a small estate (OED sb. 4a). The jibe harks back to the forfeiture of Plantagenet’s lands after Richard’s father, the Earl of Cambridge, had been convicted of treason (Taylor).
2.4a, TLN 1014
“His Grandfather was Lyonel Duke of Clarence”
- Grandfather: The Duke of Clarence was actually Richard’s great-great-grandfather (Taylor).
2.4a, TLN 1016
“Spring Crestlesse Yeomen from so deepe a Root?
- Crestless: without a heraldic crest and therefore ignoble, cowardly (Taylor).
2.5a, TLN 1079
“Waxe dimme, as drawing to their Exigent”
- Waxe: grow
- Exigent: end, extremity (Taylor).
3.1a, TLN 1269
“Least it be said, Speake Sirrha when you should”
- Sirrha: Sirrah: a patronizing form of address to an inferior or a child (Taylor)
3.1a, TLN 1294
“Doe pelt so fast at once anothers Pate”
3.1a, TLN 1301-1304
“Nay, if we be forbidden Stones, wee’le fall to it with our Teeth” / “Doe what ye dare, we are as resolute”
- Nay…resolute: One servingman speaks unruly in prose, the other steadfast verse; the difference is a subtle distinction of character (Watkins, Philological Quarterly).
3.1a, TLN 1313
“To be disgraced by an Inke-horne Mate”
- Inke-horne mate: scribbling fellow. Ink horn = portable container for ink (Taylor).
3.1a, TLN 1331
“You see what Mischiefe, and what Murther too”
- Murther = murder (archaic) (OED, n.1).
3.1a, TLN 1365
“And I will see what Physick the Tauerne affords.”
- Physick: medicine; in reference to alcohol (Taylor). He is going to find a 'cure' for his condition in the pub.
3.1b, TLN 1387
“And in reguerdon of that dutie done”
- Reguerdon: reward (Taylor).
3.1b, TLN 1388
“I gyrt thee with the valiant Sword of Yorke”
- Gyrt = gird: to invest or endue with attributes, especially (after biblical phrase) with strength, power (OED).
3.2b, TLN 1445
“Here enterd Pucell, and her Practisants”
- Practisants = conspirators (OED).
3.2c, TLN 1476
“’Twas full of Darnell: doe you like the taste?”
- Darnel: a weed—wild rye grass—with narcotic properties (OED, n.1).
3.2c, TLN 1504
“Seignior hang: base Muleters of France”
- Muleters = muleteers: peasant mule drivers (Taylor).
3.2c, TLN 1529
“And will be partner of your weale or woe”
- Weale: happiness (OED, sb.2)
3.2c, TLN 1532
“That stout Pendragon, in his Litter sick”
- Pendragon: Uther Pendragon, King Arthur’s father, who, sick and in a litter, led his army against the Saxons and defeated them (Bullough, 79-80).
3.2d, TLN 1569
“Now, where’s the Bastards baues, and Charles his glikes?”
- Glikes = gleeks: Charles’s taunts (Taylor).
3.2d, TLN 1579
“But see his Exequies fulfill’d in Roan.”
- Exequies fulfill’d: funeral rights performed (Taylor).
3.2d, TLN 1580
“A brauer Souldier neuer couched Launce”
- Couched launce (lance): lowered a spear to the position of attack (OED, v.7).
3.3a, TLN 1621
“Now in the Rereward comes the Duke and his:”
- Rereward/reaward: rearguard (Taylor)
4.1a, TLN 1755
“My gracious Souerigne, as I rode from Calice”
- Calice = Calais (Taylor).
4.1b, TLN 1863
“Such factious aemulations shall arise?”
- Factious aemulations/emulations: divisive rivalries (Taylor).
4.1b, TLN 1902
“Let me be Vmper in this doubtfull strife:”
- Vmper: umpire, or arbitrator (Taylor).
4.2a, TLN 1951
“Leane Famine, quartering Steele, and climbing Fire”
- Leane Famine: War, like sleep, attracts Shakespeare’s use of personification throughout his career (Taylor).
- Quartering: dismembering (Taylor).
4.2a, TLN 1963
“Shall lay your stately, and ayre-brauing Towers”
- Ayre-brauing = air-braving: very high (Taylor).
4.2a, TLN 1997-8
“A little Heard of Englands timorous Deere,/ Maz’d with a yelping kennel of French Curres”
- A little…curs: This is a vivid contrast to Talbot’s triumphant production of the English army (or its representatives) when the Countess of Auvergne believes she has him captured; then they were ‘his substance, sinews, arms, and strength (Taylor).
4.2a, TLN 2000
“Not Rascall-like to fall down with a pinch”
- Rascal-like: (a) like an inferior deer (b) like a scoundrel.
- Pinch: ‘slight nip (of hounds) (Taylor).
4.3a, TLN 2020
“Swearing that you with-hold his leuied hoast”
- Leuied hoast = levied horse: F’s ‘host’ makes sense, but it is specifically cavalry that Somerset has been asked to contribute to the battle (Taylor).
4.4b, TLN 2223
“Then talke no more of flight, it is no boot”
- Boot: use (Oxford). Compare 'tis bootless to exclaim' (Richard III: meaning 'there's no point in complaining').
4.5a, TLN 2246
“My Icarus, my Blossome, in his pride.”
- Icarus: In Greek mythology, the son of the mythical inventor, Daedalus. He was warned by his father not to fly too close to the sun when the two were escaping from Crete with the wings Daedalus had contrived. But Icarus flew too high, the heat of the sun melted the wax which held the wings together, and he fell to his death in the Icarian Sea, called so after him (Taylor). This reference to Icarus presents the blood of the battle as the sea in which Icarus/John drowns, and so transforms the story from a tale of rash accident to one of heroic resolve (Burns).
4.6a, TLN 2278
“See where he lyes inherced in the armes”
- Inherced = inhearsed: contained as in a coffin (Oxford).
4.6a, TLN 2279
“Of the most bloody Nursser of his harmes”
- Bloody…harmes: Talbot, himself covered in blood and critically wounded, seems to be nursing his dead son’s wounds. But ‘his harms’ could also = the wounds doled out by Talbot’s son ‘raging wood’ among the French, so that Burgundy could be thinking of Talbot as his son’s instructor (‘nurser’) in warfare (Taylor).
4.6a, TLN 2281
“Whose life was Englands glory, Gallia’s wonder”
- Gallia’s: France’s, referring to Gaul regions in Western Europe, present-day France (Taylor).
4.6a, TLN 2294
“But where’s the great Alcides of the field?”
- Alcides: Hercules (Taylor).
4.6a, TLN 2310
“Stinking and fly-blown lye sheer at our feete”
- Flyblown: crawling with maggots (a minor instance of Shakespeare’s carefree handling of the time: the putrefaction process has been greatly accelerated as Talbot has only just been killed) (Taylor).
5.1a, TLN 2391
“Now Winchester will not submit, I trow”
- Trow: Belief; faith, trust (OED, n.1).
5.2a, TLN 2423
“Let Henry fret, and all the world repine”
- Repine: complain (Taylor).
5.3a, TLN 2427
“Now helpe ye charming Spelles and Periapts”
- Periapts: Written charms, inscribed on a bandage and wrapped around a part of the body which they were deemed to protect (Burns).
5.4a, TLN 2495
“Yet if this seruile vsage once offend”
- Seruile vsage = servile usage: slave-like treatment (Taylor).
5.5a, TLN 2653
“God knows, thou art a collop of my flesh”
- Collop: A bit of meat, hence a piece of the Shepherd’s flesh; used of offspring (OED 3b)
5.5c, TLN 2784
“Shall I for lucre of the rest vn-vanquisht,/ Detract so much from that prerogatiue,/ As to be call’d but Viceroy of the whole?”
- Shall…whole: Shall I, in order to gain possession of those territories I haven’t already vanquished, give up being lawful king of half of France in order to be the subordinate ruler of all of France? (Taylor).