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The First Part of King Henry VI (1983)

The First Part of Henry the Sixth (original title)
Following his father's early death and the loss of possessions in France, young Henry VI comes to the throne, under the protection of the Duke of Gloucester. He is unaware that there are ... See full summary »


Jane Howell


William Shakespeare (play)




Cast overview, first billed only:
John Benfield ... Basset / French Sergeant
Peter Benson ... King Henry VI
Brenda Blethyn ... Joan La Pucelle
Antony Brown ... Duke of Burgundy (as Anthony Brown)
David Burke ... Duke of Gloucester
Michael Byrne ... Duke of Alencon
Paul Chapman ... Earl of Suffolk
Ron Cook ... Third Messinger to the King / Countess' Porter
Arthur Cox ... Mayor of London / Sir John Fastolfe
David Daker ... Reignier, Duke of Anjou / Vernon
Brian Deacon ... Earl of Somerset
Tenniel Evans ... Duke of Bedford / Mortimer, Earl of March / French General
Derek Farr ... Earl of Salisbury / Sir William Lucy
Julia Foster ... Margaret, Daughter of Reignier
Derek Fuke Derek Fuke ... Talbot's Captain / Gloucester's Servant


Following his father's early death and the loss of possessions in France, young Henry VI comes to the throne, under the protection of the Duke of Gloucester. He is unaware that there are other claimants to the throne, Plantagenet of York and Somerset of Lancaster, whose factions will ultimately cause the Wars of the Roses. Ignorant of the schisms, Henry tries to unite them in the Hundred Years' War, capturing Joan of Arc, before he marries Margaret of Anjou to unite England and France. However, there is no dowry, angering the court. Margaret finds the pious Henry a dull husband and embarks upon an affair with Somerset as well as crossing Gloucester's wife Eleanor. When Gloucester is arrested for alleged treason because of Eleanor, Henry is too feeble to prevent his death or the country slipping into civil war.

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Drama | History


Did You Know?


Inspired by the notion that the political intrigues behind the Wars of the Roses often seemed like playground squabbles, Jane Howell and production designer Oliver Bayldon staged the four plays in a single set resembling a children's adventure playground. However, little attempt was made at realism. For example, Bayldon did not disguise the parquet flooring ("it stops the set from literally representing [...] it reminds us we are in a modern television studio"[158]), and in all four productions, the title of the play is displayed within the set itself (on banners in The First Part and The Second Part (where it is visible throughout the entire first scene), on a shroud in The Third Part, and written on a chalkboard by Richard himself in The Tragedy of Richard III). Many critics felt these set design choices lent the production an air of Brechtian verfremdungseffekt. See more »


Version of Richard II (1978) See more »

User Reviews

Doesn't get much better than this
22 November 2009 | by kempfamilySee all my reviews

Absolutely hooked, a real page-turner. Each scene is a gem and I really can't see how anyone could portray Henry VI better than Peter Benson. Your heart just aches for him. Brenda Blethyn is also excellent as a cunning Joan of Arc (and her accent is a Yorkshire one - not Cockney as a previous poster has claimed). The reason for this - I assume - is to portray her humble origins to an English audience. Her fight scene with Trevor Peacock's Talbot had me rolling in the aisles, " I'll chastise this high-minded strumpet!" I also like the simple set, which makes the complex story easier to follow. Better than Footballers'Wives as far as mass market entertainment goes.

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Release Date:

2 January 1983 (UK) See more »

Also Known As:

The Complete Dramatic Works of William Shakespeare: Henry VI, Part One See more »

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