Henry VI, Act III scenes 2-4

Back to France for more of those war shenanigans!

Key words, phrases, and people

Paysans, pauvres gens de France: peasants, poor men of France

Darnel: a plant, thought to be damaging to the eyes

Pendragon: Uther Pendragon, who was King Arthur’s father

Gleeks: scoffs

Amort: dejected, dispirited

Extirped: to remove completely

Prejudice: injure

Scene 2 summary

Joan of Arc and her comrades come up with a sneaky scheme to take Rouen from the English because they obviously can’t take it with superior fighting skills. They decide to disguise themselves as peasant merchants to sneak into the city and then, when the time is right, Joan will light a fire in the tower. This will signal the forces outside to take the city. The trick succeeds.

The English – Talbot, Burgundy, and a dying Bedford- come face to face with Joan. She taunts them about corn. When Bedford quips back, she taunts his old age, which is frankly just rude for a saint. Talbots’s points out that she’s rude and challenges her and the French to a proper battle. They, of course, refuse because they’re French.

Once the French depart the scene, the English prepare to retake Rouen. They suggest that Bedford sits the battle out since he’s dying and all, but he refuses. He, like Uther Pendragon, will inspire the men with his presence. John Fastolfe randomly shows up, so he can run away again. The English are victorious and Bedford dies happy.

Talbot puts experienced officers in charge, so he can go to Paris and see the king crowned. The scene concludes with an epitaph to Bedford.

Scene 3 summary

Despite their quick and humiliating loss at Rouen, no one blames Joan. Apparently, one fail can’t shake their trust. We’re just going to pretend Orleans didn’t happen. Joan comes up with a plan to persuade Burgundy to the French side.

The opportunity comes quickly since he happens to be marching by behind Talbot. First, Joan appeals to his conscience and points out the suffering of France. He comments in an aside that she may be bewitching him, which she probably was on account of being a witch.  Then she points out that the English let his enemy go without a ransom (sort of true) and he switches sides.

Even Joan comments on how easy it was to get him to switch sides.

Scene 4 summary

Henry is getting his official French coronation in Paris. Talbot enters and lists all of his amazing accomplishments. The King comments on how fondly his father spoke of Lord Talbot, which would make his memory amazing since he was a baby. He makes Talbot the Earl of Shrewsbury.

The scene concludes with a short, angry exchange between Vernon and Basset. Their characters represent the continuation of the War of the Roses. Vernon hits Basset, so Basset says he’s telling, so Vernon says not if he tells first and they both run off to the King.

Discussion Questions and Activities

  1. Make a timeline or map of the actual battles fought in France to get an idea of the true history behind these events.
  2. How is Joan portrayed in these and other scenes? What about the French in general? How does this reflect what the English thought of them?
  3. What arguments would you use to get Burgundy to switch sides?
  4. Act out the exchange between Vernon and Basset. Does it remind you of arguments you have had with your siblings?

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