So, you know how in the last couple of posts in this series, I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how much i was enjoying the histories after all my hand wringing about how bored I am by battle scenes. Well, that fear caught up with me in Henry VI, Part I. Apparently, according to the excellent introduction in the Royal Shakespeare Company edition I bought at Book People, it was written after parts two and three, which were very popular as a sort of prequel. And as with many pieces of art created to capitalize on the popularity of a compelling story, it falls short.
I confess, again, that much of my trouble following this could come from my own ignorance of the history, but part of the point of these plays was supposed to be to teach people (an extremely biased version of) that history. And mostly I kept wanting to yell at all of young Henry’s advisers to get over themselves and beat the French. Then again, maybe that’s what I was supposed to be doing. I know we’re headed into the War of the Roses now, but I think I prefer the version based mostly on witchcraft from The White Queen.
Now for the real confession – I somehow didn’t know that Joan of Arc was involved with a war with England. I was very surprised when she showed up on the character list for this play. Somehow I went all my life just knowing that she said she talked to God and got burned at the stake for it. I knew she wore armor but I never gave a second thought as to why. That being said, the way that Shakespeare belittles her and nearly constantly implies she was sleeping with the Dauphin and all of his knights was pretty gross, even if some of the wordplay was pretty good.
Also, I’m interested to see where he takes the characters of Margaret of Anjou and this Suffolk person. I’m sure I should know more about them, but again the long dead monarchs of England are pretty much only interesting to me when they are being played by pretty RADA grads on PBS. But I guess the fact that I’m intrigued means he did a good job of writing a cliffhanger to this first installment. On to the next I suppose…