Henry VI Part 1

by: William Shakespeare

Act II, Scenes i-iii

The Countess asks Talbot to forgive her actions, since she misunderstood his power. Talbot says he is not offended and asks that his soldiers may dine at her home.


Talbot comes back from defeat to win against the French again. We see Charles's first instance of doubt with regard to Joan's power, but she correctly suggests he blames everything, successes and failures both, on her, when she is not directing the whole effort. Yet Charles's response shows how quick the French fall to doubting Joan after her initial successes.

The Countess of Auvergne plots to imprison Talbot and, thus, free the French from his tyranny, and it seems that Talbot might have fallen prey to the lures of a woman. Yet she has underestimated his power, and he has not come unprepared. Talbot demonstrates to her how incorrect she is to think of him merely as the body of Talbot, a single man, when he actually represents the collective body of his army. Talbot's connection to his army is total; he is the part that stands for the whole, and the army is the whole that makes this individual man a fearsome giant.

Talbot's methods of military leadership are the last remnants of an outmoded, feudal chivalry. Even in Henry V's court, the king claimed his brotherhood with even the lowliest soldier, but increasingly the nobles began to hold themselves aloof from their soldiers, and class-based hierarchy held strong influence. Talbot alone, a hero of an earlier time, still maintains a symbiotic relationship with his soldiers, who will fight to the death for him, and vice versa. But in Shakespeare's world, those who are remainders of an earlier day, no matter how honorable and brave, will be left behind; they cannot survive. Talbot too will fall in this new time of political infighting, in which the nobles aspire to more than the well-being of their nation and seek personal power above all.

More Help

From the SparkNotes Blog