Review: Henry VI (Part One)

Posted 20 February, 2015 by Lianne in Books / 2 Comments

Henry VI (Part 1)
By: William Shakespeare
Format/Source: Audiobook by LibriVox

After the death of Henry V, the French revolt and threaten to reclaim their country from English rule. Guided by his Lord Protector, the young King Henry VI journeys to Paris to reaffirm his rule over France. But while Joan of Arc battles the British abroad, discontent is also breeding at home, between the two ancient Houses of York and Lancaster.

This play is the start of the second history tetralogy, and a continuation from events in Henry V (review). This second tetralogy in the Herniad ended up bumped up in my to-read list in anticipation for the second cycle of The Hollow Crown (my excitement cannot be contained, the cast sounds amazing, as was the first cycle :)). As I mentioned in my Twelfth Night review, I was sick some time ago and wasn’t able to read anything, so I ended up listening to some of Shakespeare’s plays instead.

On the plus side, I’m glad I listened to this play instead of reading it because I think it helped me understand the story a bit more because otherwise this play wasn’t terribly interesting, character drama-wise or otherwise. It definitely feels like a prologue to the general upheaval that we know as the War of the Roses, with Henry VI’s court beginning to split between the Lancasters and Yorkists. Do you need to know your medieval English history to read this? Yes and no, I guess. In my case, it sort of helped because the story left my mind to wander at times, and the cast is quite large.

So yeah, the story does fall dull after the Second Act, the Fifth Act becoming more an issue of the marriage contact. The play does show the English-French conflict from both sides, including the role that St. Joan of Arc played in events. I think the Second Act was the strongest in my opinion as the combat lines between the Lancasters and the Yorkists begin to form; pretty intense stuff.

By the end of the play, I can see why the three Henry VI plays were truncated to two episodes for the upcoming sequel. It was all right, and I’m glad I listened to it, but I am looking forward moreso to the next plays and how the court conflict plays out.

Rating: ★★½☆☆

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2 Responses to “Review: Henry VI (Part One)”

  1. Oh you’ve just reminded me that I need to watch The Hollow Crown! I’ve had it on dvd for an age but haven’t quite got there yet (I feel like I’m constantly saying that about everything! Books, shows, movies *sigh*)

    I must admit I have not read much Shakespeare, just what we had to do in high school. Much Ado About Nothing (which I loved soooo much!) and Romeo and Juliet (which I didn’t love as much lol) I’ve never thought to listen to plays on audio, that makes a lot of sense though. I’m sorry this one wasn’t amazing, hopefully the next one is!

    • Haha, same here really xD I’m forever saying I need to get around to this and that and they’re sitting there looking balefully at me xP

      I enjoyed the other two installments to this play more than this one; I see why it was the way it was, to explore the situation before the civil war begins, but it could’ve been condensed or something =/ That’s awesome that you read Much Ado About Nothing at school! Twelfth Night was the comedy we studied 🙂 (and The Merchant of Venice, but I don’t categorise it with Twelfth Night, Much Ado About Nothing, etc. It seems a little darker/more serious to be grouped with them). Seems like Romeo and Juliet is the staple Shakespeare study!

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