David Bruce: William Shakespeare’s 1 Henry VI: A Retelling in Prose — Act 1, Scenes 5-6

— 1.5 —

The battle began. Lord Talbot fought Charles the Dauphin and drove him back. Joan la Pucelle fought some English soldiers and drove them back.

Lord Talbot said to himself, “Where is my strength, my valor, and my force? Our English troops retreat, and I cannot stop them. A woman clad in armor chases them.”

Joan la Pucelle approached him.

Lord Talbot said to himself, “Here, here she comes.”

He then said to Joan la Pucelle, “I’ll have a bout with thee. Devil or devil’s dam, I’ll conjure thee. Blood will I draw on thee, for you are a witch, and without delay I will give your soul to him — the Devil — whom you serve.”

People in this culture believed that if you drew blood from a witch, you could gain control over her.

“Come, come,” Joan la Pucelle said. “It is only I who must disgrace thee.”

They fought.

“Heavens, can you suffer Hell so to prevail?” Lord Talbot said in a brief break from fighting. “My breast I’ll burst with the straining of my courage and I’ll crack my arms asunder, but I willchastise this high-minded strumpet.”

They fought again.

“Talbot, farewell,” Joan la Pucelle said. “Your hour to die has not yet come. I must go and provide Orleans with provisions immediately.”

She and her soldiers prepared to go into the town.

She then said to Lord Talbot, “Attack me, if you can; I scorn your strength. Go, go, cheer up your famished men who are dying of hunger. Help the Earl of Salisbury to make his testament. This day is ours, as many more shall be.”

She and the French soldiers exited.

Lord Talbot said to himself, “My thoughts are whirled like a potter’s wheel. I don’t know where I am, nor what I am doing. A witch, using fear, not force, like Hannibal, drives back our troops and conquers as she wishes. Similarly, bees with smoke and doves with noisome stench are driven away from their hives and houses. The French called us for our fierceness English dogs. Now, like puppies, we run away, crying.”

Hannibal was a Carthaginian General who crossed the Alps and entered Roman territory, where he terrorized the Romans while roaming up and down the Roman territory at will.

A military trumpet sounded.

Lord Talbot said, “Hark, countrymen! Either renew the fight, or tear the lions out of England’s coat. Renounce your soil, give sheep in lions’ stead: Sheep run not half as treacherously from the wolf, or horse or oxen from the leopard, as you fly from your often-subdued slaves.”

To flee the enemy can be treacherous. Not only is the battle lost, but great loss of life can occur during an unorganized retreat. Lord Talbot was saying that the English soldiers needed to regroup and fight well, or they might as well replace the lions in the English flag with sheep.

A military trumpet sounded and a short fight took place.

Lord Talbot said, “A victory for us will not be. Retire into your trenches. You all consented to the Earl of Salisbury’s death, for none of you would strike a stroke with your swords in his revenge. Joan la Pucelle has entered Orleans, in spite of us or anything that we could do. I wish that I would die with the Earl of Salisbury! The shame of his death will make me hide my head.”

— 1.6 —

On the wall of Orleans stood Joan la Pucelle, Charles the Dauphin, Reignier, the Duke of Alençon, and some soldiers.

Joan la Pucelle said, “Advance our waving battle flags on the wall; we have rescued Orleans from the English. Thus Joan la Pucelle has performed what she gave her word she would do.”

Charles the Dauphin said to her, “Divinest creature, Astraea’s daughter, how shall I honor thee for this success?”

Astraea is a mythological Greek goddess of justice. When she left Earth, the Iron Age began. When she returns to Earth, a new Golden Age will begin.

He continued, “Thy promises are like Adonis’ gardens that bloomed one day and gave fruit the next day.”

Adonis was a figure in various ancient Greek mystery religions; the plants in his garden grew quickly.

Charles the Dauphin then said, “France, triumph in your glorious prophetess! The town of Orleans has been recovered. A more blessed event never befell our state.”

Reignier said, “Why not order the bells to be rung aloud throughout the town? Dauphin, command the citizens to make bonfires and feast and banquet in the open streets to celebrate the joy that God has given us.”

The Duke of Alençon said, “All France will be replete and satisfied with mirth and joy when they shall hear how we have played the roles of men and fought bravely.”

“It is by Joan, not we, that the day is won,” Charles the Dauphin said. “Because of this victory, I will divide my crown with her, and all the priests and friars in my realm shall in procession sing her endless praise. A statelier pyramid to her I’ll rear than Rhodope’s pyramid at Memphis ever was.”

Rhodope was a 6th-century B.C.E. Greek courtesan who became very wealthy from her profession and was said to have built a pyramid at Memphis, Egypt. She was also said to have eventually married the King of Egypt.

Charles the Dauphin continued, “In memory of her when she is dead, her ashes, in an urn more precious than the richly jeweled coffer of Darius, shall be transported at high festivals before the Kings and Queens of France.”

When Alexander the Great conquered the city of Gaza, among the spoils was a richly jeweled coffer that had belonged to the Persian King Darius, who had unsuccessfully tried to conquer Greece but was defeated in 490 B.C.E. in the Battle of Marathon. Alexander used the coffer to carry his most precious possession: the epic poems of Homer.

Charles the Dauphin continued, “No longer on Saint Denis, the patron saint of France, will we cry, but Joan la Pucelle shall be France’s saint. Come in, and let us banquet royally, after this golden day of victory.”


Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved


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