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Henry VI was a historical play written by Shakespeare. He wrote several but the main thrust of the play and what should be taken from the play is that history is the result of human choices and actions. Things don’t just happen. War, death, destruction and history occur because people make certain decisions. Another theme of the play is that a higher power watches and judges our actions and rewards or punishes accordingly. Not everyone believes this theory, but during Shakespeare’s era the “Church” was very powerful and the population bought into the idea. By focusing on this theory, the violence of the 15th century came as punishment for Britain's illegal dethroning of Richard II. In “Henry VI” many events were a result of human decisions and conflicts between people and countries. However, there is also a great deal of weight on the side of “higher powers at work, particularly in Talbot's apparently inevitable fall and in the belief that Joan of Arc’s ability to hear the voice of God.” The French truly did believe that their fight against England was a Holy war.
The reader can be affected through analysis and thought on the basic themes introduced through the reading and dissection of the play.
Perhaps one of the reasons to write the Henry VI plays, plus the other plays in the group of history plays concerning the Plantagenets was that the Tudors replaced the Plantagenets on the English throne. What better way to curry favor from Queen Elizabeth than to show the previous kings to be constantly involved with wars, whether against France or civil wars within England itself. Under the Tudors there was peace especially after the defeat of the Armada.
The part of recent English history that Shakespeare tells with the story of Henry VI is the horror of war both at home and abroad. The peace with France forged by his father (Henry V), is broken and the Hundred Years War erupts anew. England had no great hero once Henry V died and France's army was being lead by Joan of Arc.
Henry VI is nothing like his warrior father. What Henry V won, his son lost. On the home front, Henry had to fight the War of the Roses which ended only shortly before Shakespeare was born.
Shakespeare abhorred war. He can and does glorify it to an extent in Henry V but particularly in the Henry VI plays he gives us a grim picture.
The affects of war on human beings doesn't change whether it is the War of the Roses or a contemporary war. People die. Soldiers as well as civilians die. Families suffer and are torn apart by war. Shakespeare knew this. Just like we know men and women who fought in Viet Nam, Shakespeare knew men who fought in the War of the Roses.
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