Following the death of Henry V, celebrated for having united England and subjugated France, divisions appear at the highest levels – first between those around the infant Henry VI, later between the two great factions in English politics: the houses of Lancaster and York. Only the young Lord Talbot, locked in combat with the bewitching and enigmatic Joan of Arc, seems capable of redeeming a divided and dishonoured kingdom.
The plays which make up Shakespeare's Henry VI create a world without ideology; a savage time, when the heroes are not kings, but formidable women, such as Joan of Arc, or rebels, such as Jack Cade.
Bold characterisation, black comedy, rhetorical power and, in the personality of Henry VI, touching pathos combine in Shakespeare's powerful rendering of a country racked by civil war.
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