Study Guide

Henry VI Part 1 Memory and the Past

By William Shakespeare

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Memory and the Past

Remember back in the old days, when there was no homework, the streets ran with gold, and it was sunny every day? Yeah, we don't either. Were there ever any old days where everything was perfect? Of course not. But sometimes there were old days when your kingdom was more kick-butt, and the English aristocracy is having some serious and not-entirely-misplaced nostalgia in Henry VI, Part 1. Whatever his flaws (and there were some), Henry V was a strong leader who managed to unite his people and win battles.

Here's the catch, though: In remembering Henry V, the English are in danger of thinking so much about the past they fail to succeed in the present.

Questions About Memory and the Past

  1. Would Henry VI be freer to define his own path if his father hadn't been quite so awesome on the battlefield?
  2. What paths forward are available to the English nobles?
  3. Do the English actually need the lands in France? Or are they clinging to them because they represent an idealized version of the past?
  4. Is memory of the past ever a positive force? Use example to support your answer.

Chew on This

The English should just let the French keep their lands, and concentrate on building a bright future in England.

Kings can never escape the nation's past.

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