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Henry VI, Part 1

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Henry VI, Part 1

Fight till the last gasp.
Act 1, scene 2, line 130

She's beautiful, and therefore to be wooed;
She is a woman, therefore to be won.

Act 5, scene 3, lines 78–79

Henry VI, Part 1 is an uncompromising celebration of early English nationalism that contrasts the English with the French, portrayed here as effeminate and scheming.

A boy king, Henry VI, is on the English throne, and the indomitable Talbot leads the English cause in France. Joan La Pucelle (Joan of Arc), who becomes captain of the French, claims to be chosen by the Virgin Mary to liberate France. The English, however, consider her a sensual witch.

Many of the English nobility remain, quarreling, at home. Once in France, some seek permission to fight each other there. Talbot and his son cannot prevail; the English defeat themselves by preying on each other.

Henry VI, Part 1 may have been staged in 1592, when a play named Harey the vj was performed several times. It was printed in the 1623 First Folio. Sources include Edward Hall's Union of the Two Noble and Illustre Families of Lancaster and York.

Adapted from the Folger Library Shakespeare edition, edited by Barbara A. Mowat and Paul Werstine. © 2008 Folger Shakespeare Library


Further reading
Stuart Hampton-Reeves and Carol Chillington Rutter. The Henry VI Plays. Shakespeare in Performance series. New York: Palgrave, 2006.

Jean E. Howard and Phyllis Rackin. Engendering a Nation: A Feminist Account of Shakespeare’s English Histories. New York: Routledge, 1997.

Nina S. Levine. Women's Matters: Politics, Gender, and Nation in Shakespeare's Early History Plays. Newark: University of Delaware Press, 1998.

John Julius Norwich. Shakespeare’s Kings: The Great Plays and the History of England in the Middle Ages, 1337-1485. New York: Scribner, 1999.

Thomas Pendleton, ed. Henry VI: Critical Essays. New York: Routledge, 2001.

Peter Saccio. Shakespeare's English Kings: History, Chronicle, and Drama. 2nd edition. New York: Oxford University Press, 2000.
H. Cook after E.H. Corbould. Joan of Arc fighting the English (Henry VI Part 1). Engraving, 1837

Alexandre Bida. The death of Lord Talbot and his son, John (Henry VI Part 1 act 4, scene 7). Watercolor, 19th century

Inside the Collection

Henry VI, Part 1: Folios from the Collection

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