Henry VI, Part 1 | Study Guide

William Shakespeare

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Henry VI, Part 1 | Characters

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Character Description
King Henry VI King Henry VI assumes the English throne after the death of his father, Henry V. He struggles to control his noblemen in the drawn-out conflict with France. Read More
Talbot Lord Talbot is the heroic commander of the English forces in France. Read More
Gloucester Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester, is the Lord Protector of England, the man responsible for overseeing the realm until Henry VI reaches adulthood. Read More
Winchester The Bishop of Winchester is the king's great-uncle and adviser; he plans to exploit his high rank within the Church to amass power and wealth. Read More
Somerset The Duke of Somerset is a member of the House of Lancaster and the main rival to Richard Plantagenet; his quarrel with Plantagenet undermines the English campaign in France and later escalates into the Wars of the Roses. Read More
Richard Plantagenet Richard Plantagenet is the son of the Earl of Cambridge, legally barred from his inheritance because his father was declared a traitor; he is later restored to his birthright and given the further title of Duke of York. Read More
Joan la Pucelle Joan la Pucelle is better known as Joan of Arc, la Pucelle ("the Maiden"). She is brash and obnoxious in the play but has a kind of noble humanity that makes her character memorable. Read More
Alanson The Duke of Alanson (Alençon) is a French nobleman who gives advice and military aid to his countryman, the Dauphin.
Basset Basset is a lower-ranking follower of the Duke of Somerset; he engages in a brief but violent quarrel with Vernon, who serves the Duke of York.
Bastard The Bastard of Orleance (Orléans) is a high-ranking French nobleman and cousin to Charles the Dauphin; he introduces Joan la Pucelle to Charles, hoping she will lift the siege from his city.
Bedford The elderly Duke of Bedford is Regent of France and a once-great warrior; he dies onstage after witnessing the English victory at Roan (Rouen).
Boy The Boy is the son of the Master Gunner of Orleance (Orléans); acting on his father's orders, he fatally shoots the Earl of Salisbury.
Burgundy The Duke of Burgundy is a French nobleman collaborating with the English; he later abandons the English cause and joins the Dauphin.
Captains Captains of the French and English armies appear in military scenes throughout the play; most do not speak, but one (in Act 3) upbraids Sir John Fastolf for his cowardice.
Charles the Dauphin Charles, the Dauphin of France, is the leader of the French army and (in the eyes of the English) the pretender to the French throne.
Countess The Countess of Auvergne invites Lord Talbot to her castle in the hope of capturing him there; she gives up the attempt when she realizes Talbot has brought his entire army along.
Exeter The Duke of Exeter, great-uncle to King Henry, is part of the "old guard" from the days of Henry V; he fears England's future will be marred by civil war.
Fastolf Sir John Fastolf is a cowardly knight who leaves Talbot to be captured at the Battle of Patay; he is later stripped of his knighthood and banished by the king.
Fiends The nonspeaking Fiends are summoned by la Pucelle in a final attempt to save France from defeat; they refuse to help her, and she is captured soon afterward.
Gargrave Sir Thomas Gargrave, an advisor to the English at Orléans, is killed by cannon fire in the single scene in which he appears.
General The General commands the French forces at Bordeaux; when Talbot comes to besiege the city, he scoffs at the Englishman's threats.
Glansdale Sir William Glansdale is an English knight who serves as a military advisor during the siege of Orléans.
Governor of Paris The Governor of Paris appears at King Henry's coronation, where he pledges obedience to the new king.
Lawyer The Lawyer, a minor character, pledges himself to Richard Plantagenet's faction in the Temple Garden quarrel.
Lucy Sir William Lucy is a military officer sent to bring reinforcements to the besieged Talbot; he is disgusted by the nobles' refusal to cooperate.
Margaret Margaret of Anjou is the daughter of Reignier and the eventual bride of King Henry; her marriage to the king is engineered by Suffolk, who becomes her lover in Part 2.
Master Gunner The Master Gunner of Orleance (Orléans) spies for a chance to shoot down the Englishmen besieging his city; he leaves the stage before he can accomplish the deed.
Mayor of London The Mayor of London is responsible for maintaining peace and order within his city; in Act 1 he breaks up a street brawl between servants of Gloucester and Winchester.
Messenger A Messenger appears in the opening scene to inform the English of their recent losses in France; in later acts messengers keep the English and French noblemen (and the audience) apprised of developments in the war.
Second Messenger The Second Messenger brings further bad news to the English court in Act 1, Scene 1.
Third Messenger The Third Messenger appears just once, in the opening scene; he brings the worst news of all: Talbot has been captured by the French.
Mortimer Edmund Mortimer, Earl of March, is the dispossessed uncle of Richard Plantagenet; he was imprisoned long ago for asserting his claim to the English throne.
Officer Of the many officers in Henry VI, Part 1 only one has a speaking part; in Act 1, Scene 3 he reads the proclamation that breaks up the fight between Gloucester's and Winchester's servants.
Porter The Porter assists the Countess of Auvergne in her attempt to capture Lord Talbot.
Reignier Reignier (René) is the Duke of Anjou and Maine, the king of Naples, and an important military aide to the Dauphin; in Act 5 he consents to the betrothal of his daughter Margaret to King Henry.
Salisbury The Earl of Salisbury is commander of the English forces at Orléans while Talbot is imprisoned; he dies early on in the play, felled by French cannon fire.
Scout A French Scout appears in Act 5 to inform his commanders of an imminent battle with the English.
Sentinels Two Sentinels stand guard over the walls of Orleance (Orléans) but are ambushed by English forces.
Sergeant The Sergeant oversees the defenses of Orleance (Orléans) but is caught off guard by an English ambush.
Servingmen Servingmen with occasional speaking parts form the entourages of Gloucester and Winchester; their frequent brawling is an extension of the conflict between their patrons.
Shepherd The Shepherd, father to Joan la Pucelle, appears only once in the play; as Joan is being led to the stake the Shepherd bemoans the bad end to which his daughter has come.
Soldiers Soldiers appear throughout the play on both the English side and the French, generally without speaking roles.
Suffolk William de la Pole, Earl of Suffolk, is a minor character until Act 5, when he captures Margaret of Anjou and convinces Henry to make her his queen; he reveals his treasonous plans in the final soliloquy of the play.
John Talbot John Talbot is the son of Lord Talbot and joins him in battle at the siege of Bordeaux; he survives only two scenes before being killed by the French.
Vernon Vernon is one of Richard Plantagenet's supporters in the Temple Garden dispute; he later quarrels with Basset about the merits of their respective leaders.
Warders Two Warders guard the Tower of London. Acting on Winchester's orders, they deny Gloucester admission to the Tower.
Warwick The Earl of Warwick is an English nobleman who sides with Richard Plantagenet in his quarrel with Somerset; he later helps Plantagenet to regain his ancestral titles.
Watch Watchmen populate several scenes in Henry VI, Part 1; they speak only once, when they are duped into admitting Joan la Pucelle into Roan (Rouen).
Woodville Woodville is the lieutenant of the Tower of London; he appears in only a single scene, where he denies Gloucester entry to the Tower.
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