Act II starts off with Orleans changing hands again when Talbot takes advantage of the French celebrating their victory and runs them off while half-naked. Charles, ever the chivalrous and beneficent Dauphin, immediately blames Joan for treachery. She in turn blames another nobleman and the finger-pointing goes on for a while before a soldier shouting Talbot’s name scares them away.
In victory, Talbot is invited to visit the Countess of Auvergne at her castle. Suspecting ye olde hanky-panky in the offing, the other noblemen decline to tag along and Talbot goes alone, after whispering some instructions to his Captain. When Talbot arrives at the Countess’ castle, she immediately makes fun of him, saying he is too ordinary to be the big scary knight who kills all the French people. Talbot makes to leave, but the Countess, wily political schemer that she is, springs her trap! She tells Talbot in no uncertain terms that he is to stand still for her, because she is taking him prisoner, so be a good guy and let us tie you up. I can imagine the gasps of astonishment from the audience in 1592 as Talbot is surely done for here. However, our hero has a trick up his sleeve: he says no! In fact, he calls in his Captain and army and tells the Countess all is forgiven if she just puts him up in style for a bit. I have to say, I hope the political drama gets amped up a bit later on in the Henriad, because this was a pretty ridiculous scene.
Meanwhile, in London, Richard Plantagenet and the Earl of Somerset burst into a garden followed by their attendants, continuing an argument of unknown origin. Speech gets heated, insults are leveled and the two men agree to a vote. If more people choose a white rose, they agree with Richard Plantagenet, and if they agree with Somerset, they will choose a red rose. Everyone chooses white. Somerset proves himself a rather ungracious loser by refusing to concede and telling Plantagenet he isn’t even a nobleman because the elder Plantagenet was executed by Henry V for treason. This appears to sting a bit. Somerset leaves in a huff and Warwick says he believes this argument is going to ultimately cost thousands of lives.
Richard then goes to the Tower of London to visit his dying uncle Edmund, who tells him that yes, his father was executed for treason, but only because Edmund is the true king and Henry was a usurper. Now, when Edmund is dead, Richard will be next in line, so you know, maybe you want to do something with that information. Now, this is what I’m talking about with political intrigue. We have a struggle for succession here, with a young nobleman believing he is the true heir to the throne and a baby actually claiming said throne. Not to mention the fact that the previous scene set up the famous
Battle of the Flowers War of the Roses between the houses of York and Lancaster. Things are heating up, my friends!