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Henry VI, Part 1 by William Shakespeare

Henry VI, Part 1

by William Shakespeare, Thomas Nashe

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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The text of Henry VI, Part I is easier to interpret than that of most other Shakespearean plays I’ve read. There seems to be academic contention about how many lines of Part I are due to Shakespeare, so it’s tempting to claim the language is easy because William didn’t write very much of it.

Be that as it may, Part I is rather dull. Welcome exceptions to the dullness, when excitement fills the stage, include when the nobles are plucking the white and red roses and whenever Joan la Pucelle appears. Joan of Arc must have been quite a historical figure to witness, not that we could count on impartial witness coinciding well with the Joan presented in this play. Concerning her, Part I would have benefited from changes of attitude on the part of the playwright(s). What an interesting play we then could have had.

The next Henry VI, called Part II, is, in contrast to Part I, a rouser. ( )
  dypaloh | Nov 11, 2017 |
Henry VI, Part I is the first of three plays about that king's troubled reign, which along with Richard III form Shakespeare's First Tetrology. This first volume describes the beginning of Henry's reign, starting with his father's early death, and focuses on both the physical war in France and the political war at home. We also get to meet Joan of Arc, who is either a divine maiden or a demonic witch. Either way, she gets some good results against the English and is helped by internal infighting amongst leaders of the opposite camp. This is the play with the famous rose-picking scene, although I think I enjoyed the death of the Talbots ("Stay, go, do what you will, the like do I; / For live I will not, if my father die.") the best. It may not be Shakespeare's greatest history play, but it is certainly worth reading. ( )
  inge87 | Apr 3, 2017 |
Shakespeare’s histories have always felt less accessible to me than his other work. But I realized the other day that it’s probably because I’m not that familiar with the people involved. What is the musical “Hamilton” if not our version of Shakespeare's histories? It’s a theatrical show based on our own country’s history. Shakespeare's histories are not as easy for us to understand because we they are covering a time period that we don’t always learn about. But during Shakespeare's time everyone knew who those dukes and kings were, just as we know names like George Washington and Abraham Lincoln.

Anyway, all of that to say that these three plays worked much better for me than some of the other histories of his I've tackled and I think it’s because I finally made that connection. It was also incredibly helpful to me to watch the Hollow Crown series before reading the plays. It covers all three of these plays although it's called Henry VI Part one and two, it's really a combination of parts 1, 2 and 3.They are so well done and watching those first helped me picture a face with a name while reading the place, which helped me keep all the characters straight.

These plays are part of the eight plays that make up the War of the Roses. Henry VI Part 1 includes the original scene where the characters pick a white or red rose to declare their allegiance. From there it’s a constant stream of battle and betrayal as they all fight for the thrown. Poor King Henry VI is thrust into his role as monarch when he’s only a baby. The death of his father meant a life time watching others attempt to steal his throne. Almost everyone in the plays comes to a bloody end by the final curtain.

A few thoughts:
Margaret was such a bad ass. She was conniving, but she was strong where her husband, King Henry VI, was weak. I have to admire her and she certainly has some of the best lines.
We meet the infamous Richard in these plays. I'd read and seen Richard III before, so reading these gave me a better understanding of his character's background. He’s a delicious villain and one that I loved getting to know.

“Why, I can smile and murder whiles I smile,
And cry 'content' to that which grieves my heart,
And wet my cheeks with artificial tears,
And frame my face for all occasions”

BOTTOM LINE: I ended up loving them. I was surprised by how hooked I got on the War of the Roses drama, but it’s like a soap opera. It’s amazing to see how power seems to corrupt all the touch it. Even those who are not driven with a desire for power are often the easiest to steal power from, because they aren’t as vicious as others. I would definitely read part 1, 2, and 3 back-to-back because they work better as one continuous story. I also highly recommend watching the Hollow Crown series first, but just dive into the plays and enjoy them!

“Suspicion always haunts the guilty mind.”

“For where thou art, there is the world itself,
With every several pleasure in the world,
And where thou art not, desolation.”

“Unbidden guests are often welcomest when they are gone.” ( )
  bookworm12 | Jan 16, 2017 |
This play dramatizes the conflict between England and France from the death of King Henry V up to the beginning of the War of the Roses. I'm not going to go into any more plot detail than that because the whole thing gets rather convoluted. This is only the second of Shakespeare's history plays that I've read (the first being Julius Caesar, which I loved), and I really liked it. ( )
  AmandaL. | Jan 16, 2016 |
Simply awful. Very much had the feel of being thrown together which, appropriately enough, seems to have been the case. An afterthought prequel to Parts II and III. The caricature of Joan of Arc was outrageous. Even if one believed she was a lunatic, it was a bit over the top. ( )
  AliceAnna | Oct 19, 2014 |
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» Add other authors (36 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Shakespeare, Williamprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Nashe, Thomasmain authorall editionsconfirmed
Brissaud, PierreIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Brooke, C. F. TuckerEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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First words
Hung be the heavens with black, yield day to night!

Comets, importing change of times and states,

Brandish your crystal tresses in the sky,

And with them scourge the bad revolting stars

That have consented unto Henry's death!

King Henry the Fifth, too famous to live long!

England ne'er lost a king of so much worth.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0140714650, Paperback)

"I feel that I have spent half my career with one or another Pelican Shakespeare in my back pocket. Convenience, however, is the least important aspect of the new Pelican Shakespeare series. Here is an elegant and clear text for either the study or the rehearsal room, notes where you need them and the distinguished scholarship of the general editors, Stephen Orgel and A. R. Braunmuller who understand that these are plays for performance as well as great texts for contemplation." (Patrick Stewart)

The distinguished Pelican Shakespeare series, which has sold more than four million copies, is now completely revised and repackaged.

Each volume features:
* Authoritative, reliable texts
* High quality introductions and notes
* New, more readable trade trim size
* An essay on the theatrical world of Shakespeare and essays on Shakespeare's life and the selection of texts

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:24:50 -0400)

(see all 8 descriptions)

A fresh look at a play usually regarded as the first component of a three-part historical epic, this edition argues that Henry VI Part 1 is a 'prequel', a freestanding piece that returns for ironic and dramatic effect to a story already familiar to its audience. The play's ingenious use of stage space is closely analysed, as is its manipulation of a series of setpiece combats to give a coherent syntax of action. Discussion of the dramatic structure created by the opposing figures of Talbot and Jeanne la Pucelle, and exploration of the critical controversies surrounding the figure of Jeanne, lead to a reflection on the nature of the history play as genre in the 1590s.… (more)

» see all 6 descriptions

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Penguin Australia

2 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 0140714650, 014101749X

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