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The play tells the story of the English loss of France, but the
dramatic narrative is analytic rather than historical. It shows
how France was lost. The first part of Henry VI is not a
complete narrative but a dramatized demonstration of the
forces at work in the years concerned. It is a history play and
belongs to the genre of drama known as chronicle plays.
It opens with a brilliant symbolic pageant of Englandís nobility
falling into dissension even around the coffin of Henry V. The
first Act also seen the introduction of Joan in the action and her
revitalizing effect on the French. The main focus of Act II is
the formation of the two factions, one headed by Somerset, the
other by York. Act III sees the tide of fortune turning in
Franceís favor as Burgundy joins their ranks. In Act IV, Talbot
loses his life and with him dies the dream of the English
conquest of France. Act V focuses on the ignoble treaty that
leads to peace between the two nations and Henry VIís
decision to marry Margaret of Anjou.
The play lacks coherence in its general effect. The presence of
a dominating intention is not very clearly marked. The two
important Themes: dying English chivalry and the loss of
France are conveyed through an episodic, pageant-like
conception of drama, which is not very coherent in its effect.
These two aspects are more closely and meaningfully
interwoven in the development of the action than is
Some parts of the play have an anecdotal kind drama in which
incidents are presented in turn for the sake of immediate
dramatic effect rather than for their contribution to a total
pattern. An example is the incident of the French countess.
Although it serves to show Talbotís shrewdness it has no effect
on later action. It is a historical play and its central theme is
England itself. By its very nature a historical play is difficult to
make into one unity. And this should be kept in mind while
analyzing the plot structure of this play.
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