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Henry VI, Part 1

by William Shakespeare, Thomas Nashe

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Henry VI (1)

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1,0282318,844 (3.42)93
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)

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Showing 1-5 of 22 (next | show all)
Great play. I am not one who loves all Shakespeare (especially the histories) but this one is very accessible. The language isn't too arcane plus it involves historical events that many will recognize (Joan of Arc, the War of the Roses, the 100 Years War etc.)

Read as part of my Kindle edition of "The Complete Works of Shakespeare" ( )
  leslie.98 | Jun 27, 2023 |
Considering that I took a whole class on Joan of Arc in film and literature, you would think I would remember that she was routing the English out of France during the reign of Henry VI… Apparently not! After the death of Henry V, who made strategic alliances and major military victories to take occupation of France, we see the unstable rule of his son, Henry VI, begin to crumble England’s foundation. Shakespeare (and his apparent co-authors) take advantage of the realistic instability in England during this time period, focusing in this first of the trilogy of Henry VI plays on the loss of French territories. A lot of the pre-Tudor plays focus specifically on dissension, whether it be war itself, feuding nobles, or courtly machinations, and this play has a bit of everything. As Henry VI comes of age the nobles who hold regency and true control of the court begin an almost inevitable bickering, a typical result of the system which pits noble families against one another to gain more power and riches. This specific eda of English history isn’t one which I’m particularly invested in, so some of the finer points of this play and linguistic sparring are a bit obtuse without further historical research, but we see the emergence of the York bid for the crown as well as Henry’s ill-advised alliance with France via Margaret of Anjou take hold of the narrative. Offsetting the rumblings at court, the nobles are also engaged in an ongoing battle in France, which they are beginning to lose due to the introduction of Joan of Arc into the narrative to rally the Frenchmen. Joan’s character features heavily throughout the story, and I feel almost like Shakespeare could have written a whole history play about her as a stand-alone, but considering the anti-French rhetoric of Shakespeare’s time it was enough to see her wage battle, spar linguistically, and then meet her fate for heresy at the stake. The play ends shortly after Joan’s death, as Henry makes his alliance with France through marriage, but we are left very much without a real ending and little in the way of satisfaction. The final speeches made by Lords Suffolk and Gloucester make it clear that Henry’s (and England’s) woes have not yet been solved, and further action must play out in subsequent drama. Without the dual story of Joan of Arc, I don’t think that this play is particularly well done in terms of heightening the realistic court drama of the time period, and without the further two story arcs can’t have been much of a success for audiences. ( )
  JaimieRiella | Jul 11, 2022 |
This is the play noted for a couple of things: It's one of the earliest, if not the earliest play in the First Folio and; It lacks "dramatic unity" (lots of scenes and very episodic) and has an abundance of anachronisms— and the worse off for it all— so much so that its authorship has been questioned since 1735! Nonetheless, it's still Canon and in the play itself there are a few highlights: the scene set in the Inns of Court wherein red and white roses are picked to denote sides in "The War of the Roses"; the scene in which Talbot and his son are surrounded and fight together and; the incredible slander against Joan of Arc. While of course she would be the villain from the English point-of-view, the viciousness of the attacks against her are nonetheless surprising. She is basically reduced to a lying witch and whore in the play, reflecting contemporary thought. True, she would not be made a saint until 1920 but still, one can see why late-twentieth and twenty-first stages don't really groove on this play so much: The timelines have been telescoped so much that long-dead people at that time are fighting on the court and on the battlefield, people not of age are speaking as adults and; just a general jumble of events out of order. And too, that aforementioned slander against Joan of Arc now seems so transparently propaganda, it's pretty cringeworthy. ( )
  Tanya-dogearedcopy | May 22, 2022 |
The more I read these history plays, the more I enjoy them. As I read them and research some of the actual history behind them, they make more sense and have a continuity.

This play, in particular, had a can't-set-it-down quality to it. I had to see what was going on with Talbot, who would win the battle? What were the dastardly deeds that would work against him? Will the boy king be able to survive his "mentors?" Even though I know the answers from history, I don't know how William Shakespeare interpreted the history, so the tension of the read is still there. ( )
  MrsLee | May 12, 2022 |
This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: Henry VI, Part 1
Author: William Shakespeare
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
Genre: Play
Pages: 249
Words: 72K


From Wikipedia

The play begins with the funeral of Henry V, who has died unexpectedly in his prime. As his brothers, the Dukes of Bedford and Gloucester, and his uncle, the Duke of Exeter, lament his passing and express doubt as to whether his son (the as yet uncrowned heir apparent Henry VI) is capable of running the country in such tumultuous times, word arrives of military setbacks in France. A rebellion, led by the Dauphin Charles, is gaining momentum, and several major towns have already been lost. Additionally, Lord Talbot, Constable of France, has been captured. Realising a critical time is at hand, Bedford immediately prepares himself to head to France and take command of the army, Gloucester remains in charge in England, and Exeter sets out to prepare young Henry for his forthcoming coronation.

Meanwhile, in Orléans, the English army is laying siege to Charles' forces. Inside the city, the Bastard of Orléans approaches Charles and tells him of a young woman who claims to have seen visions and knows how to defeat the English. Charles summons the woman, Joan la Pucelle (i.e. Joan of Arc). To test her resolve, he challenges her to single combat. Upon her victory, he immediately places her in command of the army. Outside the city, the newly arrived Bedford negotiates the release of Talbot, but immediately, Joan launches an attack. The French forces win, forcing the English back, but Talbot and Bedford engineer a sneak attack on the city, and gain a foothold within the walls, causing the French leaders to flee.

Back in England, a petty quarrel between Richard Plantagenet and the Duke of Somerset has expanded to involve the whole court. Richard and Somerset ask their fellow nobles to pledge allegiance to one of them, and as such the lords select either red or white roses to indicate the side they are on. Richard then goes to see his uncle, Edmund Mortimer, imprisoned in the Tower of London. Mortimer tells Richard the history of their family's conflict with the king's family—how they helped Henry Bolingbroke seize power from Richard II, but were then shoved into the background; and how Henry V had Richard's father (Richard of Conisburgh) executed and his family stripped of all its lands and monies. Mortimer also tells Richard that he himself is the rightful heir to the throne, and that when he dies, Richard will be the true heir, not Henry. Amazed at these revelations, Richard determines to attain his birthright, and vows to have his family's dukedom restored. After Mortimer dies, Richard presents his petition to the recently crowned Henry, who agrees to reinstate the Plantagenet's title, making Richard 3rd Duke of York. Henry then leaves for France, accompanied by Gloucester, Exeter, Winchester, Richard and Somerset.

In France, within a matter of hours, the French retake and then lose the city of Rouen. After the battle, Bedford dies, and Talbot assumes direct command of the army. The Dauphin is horrified at the loss of Rouen, but Joan tells him not to worry. She then persuades the powerful Duke of Burgundy, who had been fighting for the English, to switch sides, and join the French. Meanwhile, Henry arrives in Paris and upon learning of Burgundy's betrayal, he sends Talbot to speak with him. Henry then pleads for Richard and Somerset to put aside their conflict, and, unaware of the implications of his actions, he chooses a red rose, symbolically aligning himself with Somerset and alienating Richard. Prior to returning to England, in an effort to secure peace between Somerset and Richard, Henry places Richard in command of the infantry and Somerset in command of the cavalry. Meanwhile, Talbot approaches Bordeaux, but the French army swings around and traps him. Talbot sends word for reinforcements, but the conflict between Richard and Somerset leads them to second guess one another, and neither of them send any, both blaming the other for the mix-up. The English army is subsequently destroyed, and both Talbot and his son are killed.

After the battle, Joan's visions desert her, and she is captured by Richard and burned at the stake. At the same time, urged on by Pope Eugenius IV and the Holy Roman Emperor, Sigismund, Henry sues for peace. The French listen to the English terms, under which Charles is to be a viceroy to Henry and reluctantly agree, but only with the intention of breaking their oath at a later date and expelling the English from France. Meanwhile, the Earl of Suffolk has captured a young French princess, Margaret of Anjou, whom he intends to marry to Henry in order that he can dominate the king through her. Travelling back to England, he attempts to persuade Henry to marry Margaret. Gloucester advises Henry against the marriage, as Margaret's family is not rich and the marriage would not be advantageous to his position as king. But Henry is taken in by Suffolk's description of Margaret's beauty, and he agrees to the proposal. Suffolk then heads back to France to bring Margaret to England as Gloucester worryingly ponders what the future may hold.

My Thoughts:


While not exactly how things start, it does start with Henry V's untimely death, while the French are rebelling. So Henry VI has to take over and nobles are squabbling and fighting and betraying and in general it's a right mess!

This was about 70% longer than Henry V and it is only Part 1 (I believe there are 3 parts). Ol' Shakes really let himself go here. In other plays he'll dismiss a whole battle or 2 years with a simple line or two. Not here though. We get the down and dirty on the whole shebang, to the point where I just wanted it to be over. Everyone is a horrible person to boot.

I did wonder what happened to the Queen Mother. She's french and this whole English/French thing is a pretty big deal. Then throw in the damned Roman Catholic Church (and as an SDA I mean that damned literally) and my goodness, this was horrible.

So why the 3stars? Because it is still Shakespeare, you dunderhead! My goodness, bunch of barbarians out there. Show some class. Or I'll pound yer head in for ya!

★★★☆☆ ( )
  BookstoogeLT | Mar 18, 2022 |
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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

References to this work on external resources.

Wikipedia in English (1)

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.

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Penguin Australia

2 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 0140714650, 014101749X


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