Henry VI Part 1: Act 3, Scene 2

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Outside the gates of the French city of Rouen (currently occupied by the English), Joan enters, disguised as a peasant, with soldiers. She orders the men to try to gain entrance to the city by pretending to be peasants selling corn. Once inside the city, they will signal to Charles, who will enter with his army. Joan and her men gain entrance to the city.

 
Charles, the Bastard of Orléans, Alençon, and Reignier enter with soldiers. Joan appears on the walls of the city with a torch, the signal for Charles to enter.
 
Outside the city gates, Talbot enters with Burgundy. He has heard of the French attack and blames Joan for sorcery.
 
Bedford is brought in, in a chair, as he is sick.
 
Joan, Charles, the Bastard, Alençon, and Anjou are seen on the walls of Rouen. Joan and Charles mock the English. Talbot is angry that Joan should taunt a sick old man (Bedford), and vows revenge. Talbot dares the French to come out and fight, but they refuse. Talbot vows to take the town again or die trying. He wants to place Bedford in a safe place, but Bedford insists that he wants to witness the fighting. Talbot takes his men off to prepare for battle, leaving Bedford with his attendants onstage.
 
Sir John Fastolf enters. An officer asks him where he is going, and he answers that he is fleeing to save his life, as he believes the English are about to be defeated.
 
The English force the French to retreat. Bedford dies, happy that he has seen England’s enemies overthrown. Talbot and Burgundy rejoice over their victory and Talbot comments that perhaps Joan’s familiar spirit (a reference to witchcraft, as witches were thought to employ spirits, or familiars, to help them in their work) was asleep. Talbot praises Bedford for his bravery in battle and departs to arrange his funeral.
 
Analysis
 
Fastolf’s running away bodes ill for the English cause, showing how their bravery is undermined by the cowardice of one man.
 
Talbot’s comment on Joan’s successful entry into Rouen, in which he calls her a “damned sorceress” (line 37), together with his reference to Joan’s “familiar” spirit (line 120) undermines her heroism, ascribing her military success to witchcraft.
 
Bedford’s death, following that of Salisbury, marks the departure of another English military hero. There is evidently no young, fresh English blood to replace these aged and sick great men, contributing to the idea of the nation’s decay.
 
England’s successes are underpinned by the unity that still exists at this point among its military commanders in France: Burgundy says, “What wills Lord Talbot pleaseth Burgundy” (line 128). This humble attitude, which places the interests of the state before personal ambition, is lacking among the nobles at home in England, who do little but create dissent and civil unrest.
 
 

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