Places: Henry VI, Part I

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

First published: 1598

First produced: c. 1592

Type of work: Drama

Type of plot: Historical

Time of work: 1422-1444

Asterisk denotes entries on real places.

Places Discussed*Orleans

*Orleans. Henry VI, Part ICity on the Loire River in north-central France. Historically the English laid siege to Orleans in 1428 but were repelled by the heroic Joan of Arc, marking the turning point in the Hundred Years’ Wars. In presenting Orleans onstage, William Shakespeare sacrifices historical accuracy to Elizabethan prejudice by having Lord John Talbot retake the city from Joan (known in the play as Joan de Pucelle). At Orleans, English valor wins over French duplicity, reminding the audience of past English glory and giving them a stirring battle scene that made this play popular with Elizabethan-era audiences.

*Temple Garden

*Temple Garden. Garden adjoining the Inns of Court in London. Gardens traditionally symbolize peace and harmony, serving as models for orderly governments. However, in this invented scene Shakespeare subverts that tradition by making the Temple Garden the starting point for the Wars of the Roses. In the heat of a quarrel, Richard Plantagenet (later the duke of York) plucks a white rose from a bush; his enemy, the duke of Somerset, then plucks a red rose. Their partisans do likewise to make the roses serve as emblems of their animosity. These personal signs, the white rose of York and the red rose of Lancaster, become the fighting symbols that define the Wars of the Roses.

*Bordeaux

*Bordeaux (Bor-DOH). Capital city of Gascony in France. In contrast to the English triumph at Orleans, Bordeaux is the scene of England’s defeat and disgrace. Talbot, his forces surrounded by a French army, sends for reinforcements. However, the feuding English commanders, Somerset and York, ignore his pleas in order to spite each other. Talbot and his son die at Bordeaux, and with them dies English dominion in France. Shakespeare suggests that discord among the English leaders, “the vulture of sedition,” is more to blame for Talbot’s death and England’s defeat than the French are.

BibliographyBerry, Edward I. “1 Henry VI: Chivalry and Ceremony.” In Patterns of Decay: Shakespeare’s Early Histories. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1975. Addresses some of the issues raised by earlier critics. Concludes that the play needs to be read in sequence, not alone.Bevington, David. “The First Part of King Henry the Sixth.” In William Shakespeare: The Complete Works, edited by Alfred Harbage. Rev. ed. New York: Viking Press, 1969. Examines the functions of the characters. Considers multiple authorship theories and date of composition.Blanpied, John W. Time and the Artist in Shakespeare’s English Histories. Newark: University of Delaware Press, 1983. Examines how the playwright transforms historical material into drama. Contains a chapter on Henry VI, Part I that sees the play as flawed and immature, but one from which Shakespeare learned about his craft.Saccio, Peter. Shakespeare’s English Kings: History, Chronicle, and Drama. New York: Oxford University Press, 1977. Contains a section on the play recounting Shakespeare’s sources. Includes genealogical charts and maps.Tillyard, E. M. W. Shakespeare’s History Plays. London: Chatto & Windus, 1944. Argues against multiple authorship theories, claiming the structure of the play shows clear signs of Shakespeare’s style.
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