Study Guide

Henry VI Part 1 Society and Class

By William Shakespeare

Society and Class

Society and class are a big deal in Henry VI, Part 1. The aristocracy is a little like a high school clique—hard to get into and filled with rivals. To be fair, lots of the members are pretty good at what they do. Talbot is definitely brave, loyal, and seriously impressive on the battlefield, for instance, but there's also some major exclusion going on. Take Joan for example: If it weren't for her claim of supernatural powers, it would be hard for her to get the attention of the French court since she's not only a woman, but the child of a lowly shepherd. Ugh.

Questions About Society and Class

  1. How does Joan's military success affect the way the French see her peasant origins?
  2. If Henry's family didn't rightfully inherit the throne, are they just regular aristocrats and not kings? Or is it worse yet? Should they be tried for treason, like York's family was?
  3. Why does Joan herself deny her peasant origins at the end?

Chew on This

The French nobility is willing to accept Joan as one of their own because of her military strength—with enough power, anyone can become nobility in this play.

The French nobility never fully accepts Joan as one of their own—they may keep her around, but she never fully belongs.

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