Henry VI, Part 1 Act 2 Scenes 1-3

Losing the siege of Orléans marked the turn in the war. The English slowly began losing territory and the Battle of Patay in particular wounded the English pride because the great Talbot was captured, breaking the myth of his and English invincibility. That battle also opened the road to Rheims, where Charles would officially become king. “In the play, however, in the place of all this is built up an outright falsification in the interest of English vanity.” (Isaac Asimov, Asimov’s guide to Shakespeare, page 539)

Scene 1 

Key People, Words, and Phrases

Caroused: drank hard

Quittance: retaliate

Flinty Bulwarks: stone walls

Summary

Talbot welcomes Bedford and Burgundy, and explains that the French have been drinking and feasting all day, so it was the perfect time for a surprise attack. The surprise attack is perfectly justified because the French are cheaters with their witchcraft and such. They comment on Joan’s ability as a soldier and hope that the she-devil does not last long. They plan to scale the walls at three separate points. Before ascending, Talbot swears his allegiance to Salibury and Henry and promises to win the day for them.

The French are caught completely by surprise. They jump over the walls in their pajamas and flee into the darkness. In the commotion, the French dukes, Charles, and Joan all start squabbling. Charles immediately starts yelling at Joan for not preparing for this attack. Joan accurately points out that she can’t do everything and maybe if the guards weren’t so terrible, the English wouldn’t have made it this far. With that, they all start blaming each other for everything until Joan, again accurately, points out that all this fighting is completely useless.

They hear someone shout that Talbot is coming and they shamefully flee. Of course, Talbot wasn’t actually coming. It was just a cheeky soldier using the great Talbot’s name to strike fear in the hearts of the enemy.

The English never had Orléans, so they never took it back. However, actual history is of little importance here.

Scene 2

Summary

Immediately following the fictitious Enlish victory, Talbot pledges to have Salisbury buried in the church after he is marched through the square, so that the French may forever their defeat. In reality, Salisbury was buried back in England.

Talbot wonders after the fate of the Dauphin. Bedford explains that they hopped over the wall during the commotion. Burgundy explains that he started them as the Dauphin and Joan fled…arm in arm…like lovers…wink, wink.

Finally, a messenger enters with an invitation for Talbot to visit the Countess of Auvergne. There’s a little bit of wink-wink nudge-nudge from Bedford and Burgundy about the invitation. Obviously, this could lead to a little love-making. Everyone ignores the fact that Auvergne is 150 miles south of Orléans and Talbot accepts the invitation. Before exiting he whispers to his captain…

Scene 3

Before Talbot arrives, the Countess unveils her great plan to kill Talbot. She compares herself to Tomyris, a tribal queen who massacred the body of a great Persian commander. When he arrives, the Countess mocks how small he is. Talbot turns to leave, like most dinner guests would if they were immediately mocked upon entering. Still, the Countess seems surprised that he’s leaving and asks why. Talbot slyly responds that he is going to get proof that he is who he says he is. The Countess reveals to Talbot that he is a prisoner. I assume in some sort of Scooby Doo villain voice. She also reveals that she knew it was him all along because his portrait hangs in her home. This is curious since she wants to kill him.

He laughs at the silly French lady because she doesn’t hold the real Talbot. She presses him to explain because he’s pretty clearly right there and he calls in his army. He clearly arranged for this in his whispers and explains that his army is the real source behind the myth. The countess immediately apologizes for her rudeness. Talbot graciously forgives her as long as she feeds his army. She agrees because she is so honored to have him in her home and definitely not because an army just invaded her home.

Discussion questions:

  1. Act out some of the funnier parts of these scenes. The French fleeing in their pajamas, the cheeky soldier, Bedford and Burgundy alluding to sex, and the Countess immediately changing her mind.
  2. Identify all the ways the French look silly and/or the English look awesome.
  3. Research the story of Saint George.

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