Auvergne. Court of the Countess’s castle.
(Countess of Auvergne; Porter; Messenger of the Countess; Lord Talbot; Talbot’s Soldiers)
The Countess of Auvergne makes sure that her porter has made the proper arrangements to execute her plan, and is excited at the prospect of how much fame she is about to gain. Talbot enters, and she is surprised to find that he is not really all that impressive in person. Talbot begins to leave, promising to prove that he is indeed Talbot, but she has locked the doors and crows that he is her prisoner. Talbot bursts out laughing. The Countess is confused as Talbot claims she has only captured his shadow, but understands when he blows his horn and his soldiers burst in and capture her. Talbot points out that however terrible his name is to the French, he is still nothing without his men. The lady is impressed and apologizes, and Talbot courteously tells her to think nothing of it, only asking for some refreshments for his men. (85 lines)
Enter Countess of Auvergne and her Porter.
Porter, remember what I gave in charge,
And when you have done so, bring the keys to me.
Madam, I will.
The plot is laid. If all things fall out right,
I shall as famous be by this exploit
As Scythian Tomyris by Cyrus’ death.
Great is the rumor of this dreadful knight,
And his achievements of no less account;
Fain would mine eyes be witness with mine ears
To give their censure of these rare reports.
Enter Messenger of the Countess and Talbot.
According as your ladyship desir’d,
By message crav’d, so is Lord Talbot come.
And he is welcome. What? Is this the man?
Madam, it is.
Is this the scourge of France?
Is this the Talbot, so much fear’d abroad
That with his name the mothers still their babes?
I see report is fabulous and false.
I thought I should have seen some Hercules,
A second Hector, for his grim aspect
And large proportion of his strong-knit limbs.
Alas, this is a child, a silly dwarf!
It cannot be this weak and writhled shrimp
Should strike such terror to his enemies.
Madam, I have been bold to trouble you;
But since your ladyship is not at leisure,
I’ll sort some other time to visit you.
What means he now? Go ask him whither he goes.
Stay, my Lord Talbot, for my lady craves
To know the cause of your abrupt departure.
Marry, for that she’s in a wrong belief,
I go to certify her Talbot’s here.
Enter Porter with keys.
If thou be he, then art thou prisoner.
Prisoner? To whom?
To me, blood-thirsty lord;
And for that cause I train’d thee to my house.
Long time thy shadow hath been thrall to me,
For in my gallery thy picture hangs;
But now the substance shall endure the like,
And I will chain these legs and arms of thine,
That hast by tyranny these many years
Wasted our country, slain our citizens,
And sent our sons and husbands captivate.
Ha, ha, ha!
Laughest thou, wretch? Thy mirth shall turn to moan.
I laugh to see your ladyship so fond
To think that you have aught but Talbot’s shadow
Whereon to practice your severity.
Why? Art not thou the man?
I am indeed.
Then have I substance too.
No, no, I am but shadow of myself.
You are deceiv’d, my substance is not here;
For what you see is but the smallest part
And least proportion of humanity.
I tell you, madam, were the whole frame here,
It is of such a spacious lofty pitch,
Your roof were not sufficient to contain’t.
This is a riddling merchant for the nonce:
He will be here, and yet he is not here.
How can these contrarieties agree?
That will I show you presently.
Winds his horn. Drums strike up; a peal of ordinance.
Enter Talbot’s Soldiers.
How say you, madam? Are you now persuaded
That Talbot is but shadow of himself?
These are his substance, sinews, arms, and strength,
With which he yoketh your rebellious necks,
Razeth your cities, and subverts your towns,
And in a moment makes them desolate.
Victorious Talbot, pardon my abuse.
I find thou art no less than fame hath bruited,
And more than may be gathered by thy shape.
Let my presumption not provoke thy wrath,
For I am sorry that with reverence
I did not entertain thee as thou art.
Be not dismay’d, fair lady, nor misconster
The mind of Talbot, as you did mistake
The outward composition of his body.
What you have done hath not offended me;
Nor other satisfaction do I crave,
But only, with your patience, that we may
Taste of your wine and see what cates you have,
For soldiers’ stomachs always serve them well.
With all my heart, and think me honored
To feast so great a warrior in my house.