Henry VI Parts 1, 2, and 3

Monday, January 16, 2017

Henry VI Part 1, 2, and 3
By William Shakespeare 

Shakespeare’s histories have always felt less accessible to me than his other work. But I realized the other day that it’s probably because I’m not that familiar with the people involved. What is the musical “Hamilton” if not our version of Shakespeare's histories? It’s a theatrical show based on our own country’s history. Shakespeare's histories are not as easy for us to understand because we they are covering a time period that we don’t always learn about. But during Shakespeare's time everyone knew who those dukes and kings were, just as we know names like George Washington and Abraham Lincoln.

Anyway, all of that to say that these three plays worked much better for me than some of the other histories of his I've tackled and I think it’s because I finally made that connection. It was also incredibly helpful to me to watch the Hollow Crown series before reading the plays. It covers all three of these plays although it's called Henry VI Part one and two, it's really a combination of parts 1, 2 and 3.They are so well done and watching those first helped me picture a face with a name while reading the place, which helped me keep all the characters straight.

These plays are part of the eight plays that make up the War of the Roses. Henry VI Part 1 includes the original scene where the characters pick a white or red rose to declare their allegiance. From there it’s a constant stream of battle and betrayal as they all fight for the thrown. Poor King Henry VI is thrust into his role as monarch when he’s only a baby. The death of his father meant a life time watching others attempt to steal his throne. Almost everyone in the plays comes to a bloody end by the final curtain. 

A few thoughts:
Margaret was such a bad ass. She was conniving, but she was strong where her husband, King Henry VI, was weak. I have to admire her and she certainly has some of the best lines. 

We meet the infamous Richard in these plays. I'd read and seen Richard III before, so reading these gave me a better understanding of his character's background. He’s a delicious villain and one that I loved getting to know.
“Why, I can smile and murder whiles I smile,
And cry 'content' to that which grieves my heart,
And wet my cheeks with artificial tears,
And frame my face for all occasions”

BOTTOM LINE: I ended up loving them. I was surprised by how hooked I got on the War of the Roses drama, but it’s like a soap opera. It’s amazing to see how power seems to corrupt all the touch it. Even those who are not driven with a desire for power are often the easiest to steal power from, because they aren’t as vicious as others. I would definitely read part 1, 2, and 3 back-to-back because they work better as one continuous story. I also highly recommend watching the Hollow Crown series first, but just dive into the plays and enjoy them! 

“Suspicion always haunts the guilty mind.”

“For where thou art, there is the world itself,
With every several pleasure in the world,
And where thou art not, desolation.”

“Unbidden guests are often welcomest when they are gone.”


Julie @ Smiling Shelves said...

Your connection of Hamilton to Shakespeare's histories is perfect. A nation's history retold in a way that "common" people can understand. I remember reading Henry V in college, but I don't think I've read any of the Henry VI plays. I should do something about that! :)

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Julie - Once I made that connection it just clicked for me!