Henry VI, Part I, William Shakespeare

So I took a break from Harry Potter last night – just cause that I was getting really emotional – and went ahead and read Henry VI, Part I. It begins at the funeral of Henry V. Everyone is very worried because there’s still wars going on with the French, and they don’t know how they’re going to do without stalwart Henry V there to guide them. They have lots of fights with the French. They kick off the Wars of the Roses and argue over who should be King, and Joan of Arc is a total witchy bitch. And yeah, that’s pretty much everything that happens in Henry VI, Part I.

This play’s definitely not as smooth as the later ones, particularly when they were getting exposition out of the way, which was relatively often, cause, hey, it’s a history play! Not to mention there was a definite bias in terms of English v. French, which was only to be expected, I suppose. I like it when the Dauphin challenges Joan of Arc to a duel to see whether she’s good enough to lead their armies. She wins, of course, and then he’s all, “Wanna have sex?” and she’s all, “Maybe later.” The French are just totally ridiculous – Joan less than the rest of them, I thought at first, but that was before I got to the bit where she summoned her familiars to help her in battle. Plus there’s not a ton of plot, just a lot of avenging and battles and alarums, but it’s not terribly cohesive, with all the people just rushing about willy-nilly, and the character development leaves something – well, everything – to be desired. I had an incredibly hard time keeping all the characters straight, also, but that could just have to do with my poor knowledge of early English history. Also, and I know this is because there is a sequel in the works, the end comes very abruptly and leaves some things unresolved, like the Wars of the Roses business, and the issue of Suffolk’s wanting to control the king.

But still, in spite of its faults, this play does very little to hinder my fan-girl love for Shakespeare – and the whole point of this project, really, was to make myself aware enough of Shakespeare’s oeuvre that when I get to heaven I can talk to Shakespeare relatively knowledgeably about it so he will think I am cool and not sneer at me. I mean, we’ll be in heaven, so presumably Shakespeare wouldn’t sneer at me anyway, but I don’t want him to just talk to me out of pity! I want us to be cloud-sitting buddies! Because Shakespeare kicks so much ass, and he was just some nobody nothing from Stratford and he is the GREATEST WRITER OF ALL TIME EVER. The man’s practically on par with the Bible. Damn, the man could toss out some one-liners.

We mourn in black: why mourn we not in blood?

And when Salisbury gets his eye put out and dies, I love what his companion says, maybe because I wish someone had said something similarly comforting to Xander when he had his little run-in with Evil Mal:

Yet livest thou, Salisbury? Though thy speech doth fail,
One eye thou hast, to look to heaven for grace;
The sun with one eye vieweth all the world.
Heaven, be thou gracious to none alive,
If Salisbury wants mercy at thy hands!
Bear hence his body; I will help to bury it.

And as for insults:

No, prelate; such is thy audacious wickedness,
Thy lewd, pestiferous and dissentious pranks,
As very infants prattle of thy pride.
Thou art a most pernicious usurer,
Forward by nature, enemy to peace;
Lascivious, wanton, more than well beseems
A man of thy profession and degree.

Do not irritate Shakespeare. He knows a whole bunch of words to call you bad names with, and will use them. On the other hand, of course, you have this:

O, were mine eyeballs into bullets turn’d,
That I in rage might shoot them at your faces!

Oh my God, every time I read that it makes me laugh until my eyes tear up. It reminds me of that scene in Empire Records where Joe asks Warren how old he is, and Warren says “Old enough to kick your butt through your skull and spatter your brains on the wall,” and Joe says, “Yeah, he’s a juvenile.” Shakespeare is Warren. When I got to this bit I was unable to continue because I kept wanting to read that line again. Is he sure that’s what he wants? I mean is Joan of Arc really so much of a wicked strumpet witch that he wants to SHOOT HIS EYEBALLS AT HER FACE?

Thanks a lot, Henry VI, Part I. Now when I get to heaven and I want to make friends with Shakespeare, I won’t be able to think of anything but that time he had one of his characters express a wish to shoot bullets out of his skull. And he’ll be all, I was in my twenties, okay? And I’ll be all, Sure, dude. And then we’ll be off on the wrong foot.

One thought on “Henry VI, Part I, William Shakespeare

  1. Pingback: Review: Henry VI, Part 3, William Shakespeare « Jenny's Books

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