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MonkeyNotes-Henry VI, Part 1 by William Shakespeare

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Act II, Scene I

Summary

The English led by Talbot attack Orleans. The French
unprepared and taken by surprise flee for safety. Charles
blames Joan for the sudden course of events but she tells him
that this has occurred because the French defense was weak.
The French noblemen blame each other for what has happened.
Joan breaks in on their recriminations and advises them to
gather their now dispersed forces. An English soldier enters
pretending to be Talbot. The French flee; leaving behind their
clothes which the soldier takes for himself.

Notes

The scene opens with a French Sergeant commanding two
sentinels to keep watch. One of them bitterly complains of
having to endure the harsh night weather while others sleep.
This sets the tone for the rest of the scene as far as the French
attitude towards duty is concerned.

The English are aware that the French, having celebrated the
whole day, are now tired, unsuspecting and thus vulnerable to a
surprise attack. Talbot rationalizes this stratagem as acceptable
by saying that it is no more than they deserve for they won
using ""deceit" and "baleful sorcery." Guided by Talbot they
storm the city from different directions and catch the French
with their guards down.

There is much satirical humor in the rest of the scene. The
French noblemen who were shown to be exultant and
victorious in the previous scene are now shown running for
safety "in their shirts." It is a very humorous picture they
present royal victors, running half undressed from their beds to
cower in safety.

Charles, incredulous at the sudden reversal of fortune turns
upon Joan and blames her for it. Joanís is the only voice of
calm reason among the French. When she suggests that the
English assault was successful only because the French guard
was weak, the French noblemen squabble like children,
blaming one another, not one of them ready to accept
responsibility for the sudden turn of events. Again Joan breaks
in pointing out the uselessness of pinpointing the blame at this
moment, She advises them on what to do next: to regroup the
scattered soldiers.

The whole scene is very ironical, with the French noblemen
unable to cope with what has happened and Joan taking charge
of the situation like a man. The irony lies not only in the fact
that she is a woman but also in that she has no military
experience unlike the French men who are veterans of many
wars. The scene ends on a note of overt humor aimed against
the French, with an English soldier pretending to be Talbot and
scaring away the French. He comments that the name of Talbot
has served him like a sword, which he uses to acquire "many
spoils." He happily collects the clothes that the frightened
French have left behind in their haste to flee.

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MonkeyNotes-Henry VI, Part 1 by William Shakespeare
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