1 Henry VI: Gloucester castigates Winchester

From William Shakespeare’s Henry VI, part 1 (III: 1):

GLOUCESTER (to Bishop of Winchester):

Presumptuous priest! this place commands my patience,
Or thou shouldst find thou hast dishonour’d me.
Think not, although in writing I preferr’d
The manner of thy vile outrageous crimes,
That therefore I have forged, or am not able
Verbatim to rehearse the method of my pen:
No, prelate; such is thy audacious wickedness,
Thy lewd, pestiferous and dissentious pranks,
As very infants prattle of thy pride.
Thou art a most pernicious usurer,
Forward by nature, enemy to peace;
Lascivious, wanton, more than well beseems
A man of thy profession and degree;
And for thy treachery, what’s more manifest?
In that thou laid’st a trap to take my life,
As well at London bridge as at the Tower.
Beside, I fear me, if thy thoughts were sifted,
The king, thy sovereign, is not quite exempt
From envious malice of thy swelling heart.

1 Henry VI: lavish tongue

From William Shakespeare’s Henry VI, part 1 (II: 5):


This day, in argument upon a case,
Some words there grew ‘twixt Somerset and me;
Among which terms he used his lavish tongue
And did upbraid me with my father’s death.

lavish tongue: unrestrained expression or language, a standard Elizabethan dramatic cliche

1 Henry VI: pursuivants

From William Shakespeare’s Henry VI, part 1 (II: 5):


And these grey locks, the pursuivants of death,
Nestor-like aged in an age of care,
Argue the end of Edmund Mortimer.

pursuivants: 1. An officer in the British Colleges of Heralds who ranks below a herald.

2. A follower or attendant.

[Middle English pursevant, attendant, from Old French poursuivant, from present participle of poursuivre, to follow, from Vulgar Latin *prōsequere. See pursue.]

(Mortimer’s grey hair is the herald of death)

1 Henry VI: quillets

From William Shakespeare’s Henry VI, part 1 (II: 4):


Between two hawks, which flies the higher pitch;
Between two dogs, which hath the deeper mouth;
Between two blades, which bears the better temper:
Between two horses, which doth bear him best;
Between two girls, which hath the merriest eye;
I have perhaps some shallow spirit of judgement;
But in these nice sharp quillets of the law,
Good faith, I am no wiser than a daw.

quillets: Subtilty; nicety; quibble; fine or subtle distinctions

1 Henry VI: bruited

From William Shakespeare’s Henry VI, part 1 (II: 3):


Victorious Talbot! pardon my abuse:
I find thou art no less than fame hath bruited
And more than may be gather’d by thy shape.

bruited: A din; a clamor; proclaim with noise, announce loudly

[From Middle English, noise, from Old French, past participle of bruire, to roar, from Vulgar Latin *brūgīre (blend of Latin rūgīre and Vulgar Latin *bragere, to bray, of Celtic origin).]

1 Henry VI: subverts

From William Shakespeare’s Henry VI, part 1 (II: 3):


These are his substance, sinews, arms and strength,
With which he yoketh your rebellious necks,
Razeth your cities and subverts your towns
And in a moment makes them desolate.

subverts: To bring about the downfall of: bring down, overthrow, overturn, topple, tumble, unhorse.

1 Henry VI: captivate

From William Shakespeare’s Henry VI, part 1 (II: 3):


But now the substance shall endure the like,
And I will chain these legs and arms of thine,
That hast by tyranny these many years
Wasted our country, slain our citizens
And sent our sons and husbands captivate.

captivate: past participle of captured, made prisoner

1 Henry VI: servitor

From William Shakespeare’s Henry VI, part 1 (II: 1):

First Sentinel:

Thus are poor servitors,
When others sleep upon their quiet beds,
Constrain’d to watch in darkness, rain and cold.

servitor: One that performs the duties of a servant to another; an attendant; in this case, soldiers.

[Middle English servitour, from Anglo-Norman, from Latin servītor, from servīre, to serve.]

1 Henry VI: an urn … rich-jewel’d of Darius

From William Shakespeare’s Henry VI, part 1 (I: 6):


‘Tis Joan, not we, by whom the day is won;
For which I will divide my crown with her,
And all the priests and friars in my realm
Shall in procession sing her endless praise.
A statelier pyramis to her I’ll rear
Than Rhodope’s or Memphis’ ever was:
In memory of her when she is dead,
Her ashes, in an urn more precious
Than the rich-jewel’d of Darius,
Transported shall be at high festivals
Before the kings and queens of France.

an urn … rich-jewel’d of Darius: George Puttenham’s The Arte of English Poesie I: 8 (In What Reputation Poesie and Poets Were in Old Time with Princes and Otherwise Generally, and How They Be Now Contemptible and for What Causes): For the respects aforesaid in all former ages and in the most civil countries and commonwealths, good Poets and Poesie were highly esteemed and much favored of the greatest Princes. For proof whereof we read how much Amyntas king of Macedonia made of the Tragical Poet Euripides. And the Athenians of Sophocles. In what price the noble poems of Homer were holden with Alexander the great, in so much as every night they were laid under his pillow, and by day were carried in the rich jewel coffer of Darius lately before vanquished by him in battle.

1 Henry VI: Astraea

From William Shakespeare’s Henry VI, part 1 (I: 6):


Divinest creature, Astraea’s daughter,
How shall I honour thee for this success?

Astraea: in Greek religion and mythology, goddess of justice; daughter of Zeus and Themis. Because of the wickedness of man, she withdrew from the earth at the end of the Golden Age and was placed among the stars as the constellation Virgo.

1 Henry VI: an example of euphuism

From William Shakespeare’s Henry VI, part 1 (I: 5):


My thoughts are whirled like a potter’s wheel;
I know not where I am, nor what I do;
A witch, by fear, not force, like Hannibal,
Drives back our troops and conquers as she lists:
So bees with smoke and doves with noisome stench
Are from their hives and houses driven away.

They call’d us for our fierceness English dogs;
Now, like to whelps, we crying run away.

euphuism: in English literature, a highly elaborate and artificial style that derived from the Euphues (1578) of John Lyly and that flourished in England in the 1580s. It was characterized by extensive use of simile and illustration, balanced construction, alliteration, and antithesis. Euphuism played an important role in English literary history by demonstrating the capabilities of English prose. The term has come to mean an artificial, precious, high-flown style of writing.

1 Henry VI: espials

From William Shakespeare’s Henry VI, part 1 (I: 4):

Master Gunner:

The prince’s espials have informed me
How the English, in the suburbs close intrench’d,
Wont, through a secret grate of iron bars
In yonder tower, to overpeer the city,
And thence discover how with most advantage
They may vex us with shot, or with assault.

espials: spies; the act of noting, observing, or taking into account

1 Henry VI: sirrah

From William Shakespeare’s Henry VI, part 1 (I: 4):

Enter, on the walls, a Master Gunner and his Boy


Sirrah, thou know’st how Orleans is besieged,
And how the English have the suburbs won.

sirrah: a contemptuous term of address to an inferior man or boy; often used in anger