Henry VI, Part I

Type: 
History
First Performed: 
1591-1592
First Printed: 
1623
"

And I have heard it said, unbidden guests
Are often welcomest when they are gone.

"

This play begins with young Henry VI ascending to the throne in England after the death of his father, King Henry V. Meanwhile, parts of the kingdom (York and Somerset) are growing unsettled and Charles, the Dauphin of France, is planning a rebellion. Inspired by Joan of Arc, the French attack the legendary English warrior Talbot in Orleans; after an initial defeat, Talbot manages to retake Orleans from the French.

The seeds of the War of the Roses are planted when Richard Plantagenet and the Duke of Somerset disagree over which royal lineage should rightfully inherit the throne and adopt white and red roses, respectively, as emblems of their factions.

Battles between the French and English continue, led by Charles and his ally Joan of Arc. Henry VI's uncle, the Duke of Bedford, and Talbot are both killed in battle. Talbot's death is caused by the schism within the English forces of York and Somerset, whose own enmity leaves Talbot lacking reinforcements.

Following this tragedy, an uneasy peace is realized between Richard and Somerset, who proceed to capture Joan of Arc and burn her as a witch. A politically astute marriage, designed to promote peace between France and England, is orchestrated between Henry VI and a French Lord's daughter. However, the Earl of Suffolk attempts to make his own match for Henry VI, introducing the King to Margaret of Anjou. The Earl of Suffolk is interested in seeing Margaret as the Queen of England, so that he might exert more control over Henry VI. To win Margaret's family's favor, he cedes land back to France that was won in fierce battle by England. These actions set the stage for Henry VI, Part II.