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Henry VI, Part one.
Composed in 1592 in five acts,this is among the earliest
of Shakespeares plays, and one of three about the Wars of the Roses,
between the rival followers of the Dukes of Lancaster and the Dukes of
In this work he tried to show that the
sufferings of Henry VI’s reign led from the rebellion
of Henry’s grandfather, Henry IV , against Richard II., since
usurpation was an evil precedent that others were tempted to follow. He
used the chronicles of Edward Hall and Raphael
Holinshed as his sources, showing how the House of Tudor
had brought England peace instead of civil war.
When Henry V died in 1422
aged 42, he had reached a higher pinnacle of fame and power than any
other English monarch ,and might have become King of France as well.
Unfortunately his son Henry VI was only eight months
old, and a Council of State ruled. John, Duke of Bedford,
one of Henry V’s brothers, was made regent in France,
but was not successful militarily. Another brother, Duke
Humphrey, was in charge in England, but began feuding with his brother,
the Bishop of Winchester, Henry Beaufort.
In France Lord Talbot took
command when Duke John was killed, but was driven back from Orleans by
the French under Joan of Arc.
In London the Earl of Somerset quarelled with
Richard Plantaganet, of the House of York., who plucked a white
rose and asked all who agreed with him to wear one. Somerset asked his
followers to wear a red rose, and so the Wars of the Roses began.
The young king tried to reconcile the
two sides, but foolishly took a red rose himself, which was his right
as head of the Lancastrian branch of the royal family, but not likely
to promote reconciliation between the quarrelling nobles
Earl Talbot and his son died in France, and Joan was
captured and executerd by the English. Margaret of Anjou was captured
by the Earl of Suffolk and brought to England, to marry Henry VI.