Additionally, as Gary Taylor points out, Henslowe tended to identify sequels, but not first parts, to which he referred by the general title. Nashe praises a play that features Lord Talbot: "How would it have joyed brave Talbot the terror of the French , to think that after he had lain two hundred years in his tomb, he should triumph again on the stage, and have his bones new embalmed with the tears of ten thousand spectators at least , who in the tragedian that represents his person imagine they behold him fresh bleeding.
If Nashe's comment is accepted as evidence that the play seen by Henslowe was 1 Henry VI , to have been on stage as a new play in March , it must have been written in There is a separate question concerning the date of composition, however. This theory was first suggested by E. Chambers in and revised by John Dover Wilson in The theory is that The Contention and True Tragedy were originally conceived as a two-part play, and due to their success, a prequel was created. Obviously, the title of The Contention , where it is referred to as The First Part is a large part of this theory, but various critics have offered further pieces of evidence to suggest 1 Henry VI was not the first play written in the trilogy.
McKerrow , for example, argues that "if 2 Henry VI was originally written to continue the first part, it seems utterly incomprehensible that it should contain no allusion to the prowess of Talbot. Eliot Slater comes to the same conclusion in his statistical examination of the vocabulary of all three Henry VI plays, where he argues that 1 Henry VI was written either immediately before or immediately after 3 Henry VI , hence it must have been written last.
One argument against this theory is that 1 Henry VI is the weakest of the trilogy, and therefore, logic would suggest it was written first. This argument suggests that Shakespeare could only have created such a weak play if it was his first attempt to turn his chronicle sources into drama. Emrys Jones is one notable critic who supports this view. As such, all of the play's problems can be attributed to its co-authors rather than Shakespeare himself, who may have had a relatively limited hand in its composition.
In this sense, the fact that 1 Henry VI is the weakest of the trilogy has nothing to do with when it may have been written, but instead concerns only how it was written. As this implies, there is no critical consensus on this issue. Samuel Johnson , writing in his edition of The Plays of William Shakespeare , pre-empted the debate and argued that the plays were written in sequence: "It is apparent that [ 2 Henry VI ] begins where the former ends, and continues the series of transactions, of which it presupposes the first part already written.
This is a sufficient proof that the second and third parts were not written without dependence on the first. Tillyard , for example, writing in , believes the plays were written in order, as does Andrew S. Cairncross in his editions of all three plays for the 2nd series of the Arden Shakespeare , and Honigmann also agrees, in his "early start" theory of which argues that Shakespeare's first play was Titus Andronicus , which Honigmann posits was written in Ultimately, the question of the order of composition remains unanswered, and the only thing that critics can agree on is that all three plays in whatever order were written by early at the latest.
The text of the play was not published until the First Folio , under the title The first part of Henry the Sixt. When it came to be called Part 1 is unclear, although most critics tend to assume it was the invention of the First Folio editors, John Heminges and Henry Condell , as there are no references to the play under the title Part 1 , or any derivative thereof, prior to Some critics argue that the Henry VI trilogy were the first plays based on recent English history, and, as such, they deserve an elevated position in the canon and a more central role in Shakespearean criticism.
According to F. Wilson, for example, "There is no certain evidence that any dramatist before the defeat of the Spanish Armada in dared to put upon the public stage a play based upon English history [ Paola Pugliatti however argues that the case may be somewhere between Wilson and Taylor's argument: "Shakespeare may not have been the first to bring English history before the audience of a public playhouse, but he was certainly the first to treat it in the manner of a mature historian rather than in the manner of a worshipper of historical, political and religious myth.
Another issue often discussed amongst critics is the quality of the play. Along with 3 Henry VI , 1 Henry VI has traditionally been seen as one of Shakespeare's weakest works, with critics often citing the amount of violence as indicative of Shakespeare's artistic immaturity and inability to handle his chronicle sources, especially when compared to the more nuanced and far less violent second historical tetralogy Richard II , 1 Henry IV , 2 Henry IV and Henry V.
For example, critics such as E. Tillyard,  Irving Ribner  and A. Rossiter  have all claimed that the play violates neoclassical precepts of drama , which dictate that violence and battle should never be shown mimetically on stage, but should always be reported diegetically in dialogue. This view was based on traditional notions of the distinction between high and low art, a distinction based partly upon Philip Sidney 's An Apology for Poetry Based on the work of Horace , Sidney criticised Thomas Norton and Thomas Sackville 's Gorboduc for showing too many battles and being too violent when it would have been more artistic to verbally represent such scenes.
The belief was that any play that showed violence was crude, appealing only to the ignorant masses, and was therefore low art.
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On the other hand, any play that elevated itself above such direct representation of violence and instead relied on the writer's ability to verbalise and his skill for diegesis, was considered artistically superior and, therefore, high art. Writing in , Ben Jonson commented in The Masque of Blackness that showing battles on stage was only "for the vulgar, who are better delighted with that which pleaseth the eye, than contenteth the ear. On the other hand, however, writers like Thomas Heywood and Thomas Nashe praised battle scenes in general as often being intrinsic to the play and not simply vulgar distractions for the illiterate.
In Piers Penniless , Nashe praised the didactic element of drama that depicted battle and martial action, arguing that such plays were a good way of teaching both history and military tactics to the masses; in such plays "our forefather's valiant acts that have lain long buried in rusty brass and worm-eaten books are revived. Questions of originality and quality, however, are not the only critical disagreement 1 Henry VI has provoked.
Numerous other issues divide critics, not the least of which concerns the authorship of the play. A number of Shakespeare's early plays have been examined for signs of co-authorship The Taming of the Shrew , The Contention [i. The belief that Shakespeare may have written very little of 1 Henry VI first came from Edmond Malone in his edition of Shakespeare's plays, which included A Dissertation on the Three Parts of King Henry VI , in which he argued that the large number of classical allusions in the play was more characteristic of Nashe, Peele, or Greene than of early Shakespeare.
Malone also argued that the language itself indicated someone other than Shakespeare. This view was dominant until , when Peter Alexander challenged it. In , E. Tillyard argued that Shakespeare most likely wrote the entire play; in , John Dover Wilson claimed Shakespeare wrote little of it.
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In perhaps the most exhaustive analysis of the debate, the article, "Shakespeare and Others: The Authorship of Henry the Sixth, Part One ", Gary Taylor suggests that approximately Taylor argues that Nashe almost certainly wrote all of Act 1, but he attributes to Shakespeare 2. Taylor also suggests that the Temple Garden scene 2. Scenes 4. Roger Warren, for instance, argues that these scenes are written in a language "so banal they must be non-Shakespearean. Other than Taylor, however, several other critics also disagree with Warren's assessment of the quality of the language, arguing that the passages are more complex and accomplished than has hitherto been allowed for.
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Michael Taylor, for example, argues that "the rhyming dialogue between the Talbots — often stichomythic — shapes a kind of noble flyting match, a competition as to who can out- oblige the other. In this sense, his failure to use couplets elsewhere in a tragic passage  can thus be attributed to an aesthetic choice on his part, rather than offered as evidence of co-authorship.
Other scenes in the play have also been identified as offering possible evidence of co-authorship. For example, the opening lines of Act 1, Scene 2 have been argued to show clear evidence of Nashe's hand. Some critics believe that this statement is paraphrased in Nashe's later pamphlet Have with You to Saffron-Walden , which contains the line, "You are as ignorant as the astronomers are in the true movings of Mars, which to this day, they never could attain to.
Shakespeare and Marlowe, for example, often paraphrased each another's plays. The word 'Golias', Sheehan argues, is unusual insofar as all bibles in Shakespeare's day spelt the name 'Goliath'; it was only in much older editions of the Bible that it was spelt 'Golias'. Sheehan concludes that the use of the arcane spelling is more indicative of Nashe, who was prone to using older spellings of certain words, than Shakespeare, who was less likely to do so. However, evidence of Shakespeare's authorship has also been found within the play.
A similar point is made by Lawrence V. Ryan, who suggests that the play fits so well into Shakespeare's overall style, with an intricate integration of form and content, that it was most likely written by him alone. Another aspect of the debate is the actual likelihood of Shakespeare collaborating at all. Some critics, such as Hattaway and Cairncross, argue that it is unlikely that a young, up-and-coming dramatist trying to make a name for himself would have collaborated with other authors so early in his career. On the other hand, Michael Taylor suggests "it is not difficult to construct an imaginary scenario that has a harassed author calling on friends and colleagues to help him construct an unexpectedly commissioned piece in a hurry.
Another argument that challenges the co-authorship idea is that the basic theory of co-authorship was originally hypothesised in the 18th and 19th centuries due to a distaste for the treatment of Joan. Critics were uncomfortable attributing such a harsh depiction to Shakespeare, so they embraced the co-authorship theory to 'clear his name', suggesting that he could not have been responsible for the merciless characterization. As with the question of the order in which the trilogy was written, twentieth century editors and scholars remain staunchly divided on the question of authorship.
Edward Burns, for example, in his edition of the play for the Arden Shakespeare 3rd series, suggests that it is highly unlikely that Shakespeare wrote alone, and, throughout his introduction and commentary, he refers to the writer not as Shakespeare but as 'the dramatists'. He also suggests that the play should be more properly called Harry VI, by Shakespeare, Nashe and others. Cairncross, editor of the play for the Arden Shakespeare 2nd series in , ascribes the entire play to Shakespeare, as does Lawrence V.
In his edition of the play, Dover Wilson, on the other hand, argued that the play was almost entirely written by others, and that Shakespeare actually had little to do with its composition. Speaking during a radio presentation of The Contention and True Tragedy, which he produced, Dover Wilson argued that he had not included 1 Henry VI because it is a "patchwork in which Shakespeare collaborated with inferior dramatists.
On the other hand, Michael Taylor believes that Shakespeare almost certainly wrote the entire play, as does J. Tobin, who, in his essay in Henry VI: Critical Essays , argues the similarities to Nashe do not reveal the hand of Nashe at work in the composition of the play, but instead reveal Shakespeare imitating Nashe.
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Vincent has re-examined the question in light of recent research into the Elizabethan theatre, concluding that 1 Henry VI is Shakespeare's partial revision of a play by Nashe Act 1 and an unknown playwright Acts 2—5 and that it was the original, non-Shakespearean, play that was first performed on 3 March Shakespeare's work in the play, which was most likely composed in , can be found in Act 2 scene 4 and Act 4 scenes 2—5 and the first 32 lines of scene 7. The very functioning of language itself is literally a theme in the play, with particular emphasis placed on its ability to represent by means of signs semiosis , the power of language to sway, the aggressive potential of language, the failure of language to adequately describe reality and the manipulation of language so as to hide the truth.
Like Charles, Auvergne has been astonished with the 'high terms' bestowed on Talbot, and now she wishes to see if the report and the reality conflate. Later, she uses language to persuade Burgundy to join with the Dauphin against the English. Here, language is shown to be so powerful as to act on Burgundy the same way Nature itself would act, to the point where he is unsure if he has been persuaded by a natural occurrence or by Joan's words.
Language is thus presented as capable of transforming ideology. As Joan finishes her speech, Burgundy again attests to the power of her language, "I am vanquish'd.
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Later, something similar happens with Henry, who agrees to marry Margaret merely because of Suffolk's description of her. Here, again, the power of language is shown to be so strong as to be confused with a natural phenomenon. Language can also be employed aggressively. For example, after the death of Salisbury, when Talbot first hears about Joan, he contemptuously refers to her and Charles as "Puzel or pussel, dolphin or dogfish " 1.