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MonkeyNotes-Henry VI, Part 1 by William Shakespeare

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Character Analysis

Henry VI

Henry VI has to be considered as a major character since the
play is named after him. Although his part in the play is not
very big, it is nonetheless very significant. The portrait drawn
of Henry VI is never flattering. Although he plays a prominent
part in the play it is not in his nature to play a dominating role.
Henry’s intentions are always good but he is powerless to do
anything good. As an infant, when the play opens, he shows his
helplessness before his discordant nobles in the very first scene
in which he appears. As the fortunes of the quarreling factions
ebb and flow, he is humiliated again and again. Peace loving
but unable to keep the peace, he is a monarch who must
helplessly watch while he losses everything.

The play balances pathos against irony. Henry is a marginal
and ineffective figure, but a few of his utterance point beyond
weakness and incapacity to a deeper truth which few of those
around him show any sign of grasping. It is clear when he says,
"O, think upon the conquest of my father/ my tender years, and
let us not forgo/that for a trifle that was bought with blood!

When Gloucester urges him to marry the daughter of Earl of
Armagnac, Henry shows all the right attitudes. He protests that
he is young and studious, at better ease with his books than in
"Wanton dalliance." But he will do as his counselors advise
and as his responsibilities call him, "I shall be content with any
choices, / Tends to God’s glory and my country’s weal." But
Suffolk’s account of Margaret’s charms is so beguiling that the
virtuous Henry feels the sting of brutish desire, "I am sick with
working of my thoughts," and it is in vain that Gloucester
reminds him of his earlier pledge to Armagnac’s daughter. This
shows that the young King, for all his occasional wisdom, is
but a youth possessed with an adolescent’s heart and fancy. He
turns a deaf ear to all the practical reasons against marriage to
Margaret of Anjou and allows Suffolk to persuade him to do
what he already desires to do.

Henry is a young man with the fatal flaw of weakness in his
character that holds within it the seeds of his destruction. This
is exemplified in his ineffective influence over his nobles and
his capitulation to his capricious fancy regarding Margaret.

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MonkeyNotes-Henry VI, Part 1 by William Shakespeare

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