Act One, Scene Fives through Eight (the rest of the act)

The remaining four scenes of Act One of The First Part of Henry the Sixth are of a piece (like scenes two and three).  Again, we’re back in France, and at war.

Scene Five is a short one, and involves a French gunner being relieved at his post by his son.  The French have aimed a piece of artillery at a watchtower the English have used to spy over the French movements.  The gunner tells his son, that if he sees anything, he is to call his father immediately.  The son, seemingly in an attempt to be his own man, says after his father leaves, “I’ll never trouble you, if I may spy them” (I.v.21).

Scene Six then turns to the English up in the tower referenced in the scene before.  We finally meet Lord Talbot, the terror of the French, as well as Salisbury and two others.  Talbot recounts to Salisbury his time in captivity (before Bedford ransomed him).  It wasn’t pleasant, but it wasn’t too bad, as the French were afraid of him.  Then shots are heard, and Salisbury and Gargrave fall.  It seems the boy from Scene Five turned out to be a pretty good shot.

Talbot is pretty distraught over the loss of Salisbury, and as he bemoans his loss, a messenger comes to deliver the news that the Dauphin has been successful in gathering a “great power” (I.vi.81) because he is now teamed with Joan la Pucelle. To this, Talbot responds, “Pucelle or pucelle, dauphin or dogfish, // Your hearts I’ll stamp out with my horse’s heels” (I.vi.85-86).  And here, we see the first overt description of Joan has less than “maid”: “pucelle” not only means “a girl” but also “a slut” (Oxford English Dictionary Second Edition on CD-ROM [v. 4.0]).  The dogfish remark is also an insult: Talbot puns “dauphin” with “dolphin,” a high form a fish (I know, it’s a mammal, but we’re talking about Elizabethan perception here)… as compared to a “dogfish,” a low form of fish.  In Talbot’s anger, he rushes off to leave his position to take the fight to the French.

Scene Seven begins with Talbot pursuing and driving the Dauphin offstage.  Then Joan pursues and drives off Englishmen.  Talbot re-enters and bemoans his men, disbelieving that his men can be chased off by a woman.  Joan re-enters the stage, and after being insulted by Talbot (who calls her a witch [I.vii.6]) fights him to a draw, and Joan exits the stage with French soldiers and head into Orleans (off stage).  After another skirmish, Talbot is left to bemoan the fact that Joan has entered Orleans “In spite of (the English force) or aught (they) could do” (I.vii.37), and he ends the scene in “shame” (I.vii.39).

The eighth and final scene of the first act reunites Joan with the French nobles, who now believe her claims.  The Dauphin Charles even proclaims that he will “divide (his) crown with her” (I.viii.18), and declares that she “will be France’s saint” (I.viii.29) because of “this golden day of victory” (I.viii.31).

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