Henry VI, parts, I, II, AND III - Sylvan Barnet, Lawrence V. Ryan, William Shakespeare The trilogy begins with the death of Henry V, progresses into the War of the Roses and serves as the backstory to Richard III. Part One gets criticized for its amateurish qualities and is questioned as even being authentic Shakespeare. Of course, it seems like there is always someone, somewhere, that questions whether any of Shakespeare’s work are Shakespeare‘s or whether there was even a Shakespeare. I’ll leave that for playwrights and historians to hash out.

In terms of just entertainment, the three plays build into a bloody, treacherous crescendo that entices the reader to delve into Richard III. The death of nobility begins with Lord Talbot in Part One as he is left to stand alone against the French. Spiraling further down, court politics devolve into the murder of the less honorable, but steadfastly dutiful, Duke Humphery of Gloucester in Part Two. Finally, in Part Three, the death of the usurper Richard Plantaganent, Duke of York, and the weak-willed, though good natured, Henry VI bring us to the cusp of depravity represented in the physical and moral deformity of Richard.

Despite lacking moments of poetic brilliance in comparison to other, more popular, works, Henry VI still draws in the reader. Shakespeare plays out a tragic and dishonorable fall of grace from England’s triumphant days under Henry V.