Study Guide

Henry VI Part 1 Gender

By William Shakespeare

Gender

In Henry VI, Part 1, it is considered kind of doubtful for a woman to lead an army or fight in a battle. That's not to say women didn't get to do anything—after all, Queen Elizabeth is running England when this play is written—but societal attitudes were different. Joan behaves in what her time period would consider a masculine way, kicking butt on the battlefield just like Talbot. This, of course, contrasts with Henry VI, who doesn't show too much Arnold Schwarzenegger macho. They are sort of opposites in this way, each falling short of their gender expectations. Go team.

Questions About Gender

  1. Is Joan more masculine than Henry VI, by the standards of the play? If so, where does that leave Henry? Use the text to support your claim.
  2. Are the French nobles threatened by the fact a woman is leading them in battle, and doing better than they could? How can you tell?
  3. Why are the English so insistent on seeing Joan as a sexually loose woman?
  4. How does Joan use the idea of the Virgin Mary to challenge gender stereotypes?

Chew on This

Joan is the most masculine character in the play.

In Henry, Shakespeare challenges the assumption that men have to be great on the battlefield.

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