Study Guide

Henry VI Part 1 Act 2, Scene 3

By William Shakespeare

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Act 2, Scene 3

Read the full text of Henry VI Part 1 Act 2 Scene 3 with a side-by-side translation HERE.

  • The next scene starts with the Countess of Auvergne, who's talking smack to her Porter. She says she's laid a plot, and that what she'll do next will make her as famous as Tomyris.
  • Who's Tomyris? A new teen pop star? Hardly. Tomyris may not be famous now, but lots of Renaissance viewers would have known she was not to be messed with. Cyrus, ancient Emperor of Persia and major bad news for his enemies, tried to date her, but what he really wanted was her kingdom. It's a long story, but after she declined to go out with him and he still wanted her kingdom, they decided their armies would join battle.
  • When Cyrus indirectly caused the death of Tomyris's son by trickery, she was angry. Hard to blame her there. Her armies fought Cyrus and killed him on the battlefield, and Tomyris plunged his head into a wineskin filled with human blood. Just in case it isn't clear from the story, that's a pretty major insult to the corpse of an emperor. Yep, not to be messed with, that lady.
  • So anyway, back to our tale: It sure sounds like this scene is going to shape up into a horror story. Is Talbot about to be killed and insulted in gruesome fashion by a ferocious female warrior?
  • Well, not right away. The Countess starts off their meeting with a skeptical, "What? Is this the man?" (2.3.13). She's unimpressed with his physique. She was expecting someone like Hercules or Hector, and what she sees instead is a "weak and writhled shrimp" (2.3.23).
  • This might be an insult, but it's hardly deadly. Talbot replies mildly that if the Countess is busy he'll come back some other time.
  • The Countess informs him that he's now a prisoner in her house—Talbot is surprised—then she concludes with some thundering rhetoric about how she'll chain his legs and arms for all the evils he's done against the French.
  • Talbot replies, "Ha, ha, ha" (2.3.44). So much for the speech…
  • Talbot says that basically his men are the reason he's so powerful, and the Countess can't stop them just by locking him up; he shows her his soldiers to prove the point.
  • The Countess apologizes, says Talbot is everything his fame suggests, and asks him not to take offense.
  • Talbot says he's not offended, and any chance of getting some dinner? He calls her "fair lady," which suggests that he's still wanting to be chivalrous.
  • The Countess says she'll be honored to feast so great a warrior, and that's that.
  • So, no horror film here. The Countess starts off by threatening to be the bold female warrior who destroys an emperor, but she winds up in a very conventional role for an aristocratic woman: accepting a warrior's chivalrous compliments and hosting a feast.

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