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Henry VI Part 1
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The Merriam-Webster Encyclopedia of Literature
(in full Henry VI, Part 1; Henry VI, Part 2; and Henry VI, Part 3) Three-part history play by William Shakespeare, performed in 1589-92. Part 1 was published in the First Folio of 1623; Part 2 appeared in quarto in 1594 and was printed from revised fair copies in the First Folio; and Part 3 appeared in quarto in 1595 and was printed from revised fair copies in the First Folio. The second and third parts of Henry VI were originally performed as The Contention, a two-part chronicle dramatizing the events of the so-called War of the Roses, the struggle between the York and Lancaster families for the English throne. In Part 2 the power struggle swirls around the ineffective King Henry VI, until gradually the Duke of York emerges as contender for the throne. The high moments of Part 3 include the murder of the Duke of York by the Lancastrians and, in the final scene, the murder of King Henry by Richard, York's son and the future Richard III. Part 1, about the early part of the reign of Henry VI, concerns events preceding the opening of Part 2; whether it was a first effort at a historical play, written before The Contention, or a supplement to it that was written subsequently, it is less inspired. With this first sequence of history plays (ending with Richard III), Shakespeare's initial patriotic celebration of English valor against the French was soon superseded by a mature, disillusioned understanding of the world of politics, culminating in the devastating portrayal of Richard III.
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