Up until now I've only read King Lear and since I don't want to save all that royalty for the end, I thought it was time to work through some of them. I picked the First Part of King Henry the Sixth because it was his very first play as far as experts can ascertain (though interestingly many people say Shakespeare was only one of a handful of playwrights that worked on it).
As Shakespeare's first, it obviously gets more than its fair share of scrutiny but it's hard not to compare it to his later greats. Personally, it wasn't my favourite (i.e., Othello) but it wasn't my least favourite either (i.e., King Lear). What's your favourite? Least favourite?
My biggest disappointment was the lack of a central character. The title suggests that it would be King Henry VI, but he really doesn't play a major role in this part at all. I found the most interesting character of all to be Joan La Pucelle (i.e., Joan of Arc). She's presented of course with English eyes (this is a very patriotic piece with no apologies to the French at all) and it's interesting to see her as a conniving witch whore. Especially wickedly funny is the scene of her at the stake. After forsaking her shepherd father and claiming to have come from nobler lineage than that, she schemes for her life by suggesting she's bearing a child, altering her story to suggest various fathers- none of which help her case. Unfortunately she's just not in enough scenes. (And lest it sound like I'm cruel for laughing at the death of a very real historical person, I'm laughing more at the written treatment of her. Plus, with all the animosity between the English and the French, I doubt the truth about her character will ever be known.)
The play feels like one-third of a play actually. If it wasn't for the book's layout clearly dividing the three parts (and the fact that each part can be purchased separately), I'd probably have read all three parts together. Actually, I'm making excuses: I'm just not in the mood to read the rest right now and I'm just using the separation of parts as an excuse. Perhaps King Henry will play a more crucial, interesting role in the parts to come. Perhaps the War of the Roses will play out more. I'll