Thursday, January 20, 2011


Jeanne d'Arc
A far more glorious star thy soul will make
Than Julius Caesar or bright
(Henry VI, 1.1.60)

Glory is like a circle in the water,
Which never ceaseth to enlarge itself
Till by broad spreading it disperse to nought.
With Henry's death the English circle ends;
Dispersed are the glories it included.
Now am I like that proud insulting ship
Which Caesar and his fortune bare at once.


Although keeping track of the characters in this play might strike you as a noble exploit worthy of glory, these Medieval English monarchs and their kinsmen were made of sterner stuff. They were after some serious power and glory, with the chief aim being to KEEP FRANCE under English rule! Unfortunately for all those Dukes, Joan of Arc is working towards exactly the opposite goal, so we are headed for a showdown....

However, though on different sides of the battlefield, Joan and the English both highly value glory. The first quote above -  A far more glorious star thy soul will make/Than Julius Caesar or bright - is spoken about the late Henry V, and is striking for its comparison of Henry with Caesar, one of the most famous military conquerors the world has known (like Henry, he subdued France). We also have a gorgeous image of Henry's soul somehow transforming into a blazing beacon light in a high firmament, to be seen forever as a reflection his greatness.

The second quote, spoken again about Henry V, but from an enemy of England -  Joan of Arc - also references Caesar, but this time the French are favored - she's comparing Caesar to herself! However, rather than looking at fame as a fixed and burning star, Joan talks about the transitory nature of glory - like trying to write on water, the impression even great individuals make during their lives will not last.

Glory is like a circle in the water,
Which never ceaseth to enlarge itself
Till by broad spreading it disperse to nought.

Despite the ravages of time and tide, despite the current of life that runs on and out of sight, in the world of Henry VI, glory in this life and in this time is worth fighting for. Even if blood flows like water and glory fades as fast away, "This quarrel will drink blood another day."


  1. Joan la Pucelle- 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,
    See, see the pining malady of France;
    Behold the wounds, the most unnatural wounds, Which thou thyself hast given her woful breast.
    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:
    Return thee therefore with a flood of tears,
    And wash away thy country's stained spots.

    -A very moving plead for the Duke of Burgundy but the question that comes to mind does she really mean what she says or is she employing a more subtle form of warfare? Personally like to believe both but think its more for the war cause it did sound like he was a thorn in his own country. Feel free to correct me or share. Just really liked the reconcilation in this scene.

  2. Wonderful, beautiful speech - "look on fertile France." Thanks for posting it. It seems clear to me that Joan is sincere in her love for her country and believes that recruiting Burgundy to the cause is a means to her desired end. However, it could also be argued that Joan's rhetoric in this instance is part of her witchcraft - Burgundy wonders if "she hath bewitch'd me with her words."

    On the other hand, Joan's witchcraft can be read as an example of her desperate commitment to the French cause. So, I don't think it's unreasonable to read this speech as sincere.