… is the central character, our protagonist?

As we noted yesterday, the structure of this particular history (The First Part of Henry the Sixth) is quite episodic (as we move through the canon, we’ll see if this is standard for all histories), and one that allows for the lack of a central figure (and again, we’ll see how this compares to the other histories… but having read Henry V, 1 Henry IV, and both Richards, I know that those histories can and do have strong protagonists (though that character may not always be the title character).

and here I’m using the concept of the protagonist as one who is working FOR something, while his nemesis, the antagonist is actively working against him (though necessarily for the same thing)… and I most certainly do not want to fall into the trap of the whole good guy/bad guy discussion: tricky Dick is most certainly the main character of Richard III, and to call that guy anything but a villain would be foolhardy (and, yes, I know, Dick got a raw deal from ol’ Will Shakespeare, a deal that makes the hit job done on Joan la Pucelle in this play look like a love pat… but I’m just talking about the idea of main character here, not historical fact)… and though Richard is one cruel bastard, because of his charm and his effectiveness, there is a certain begrudging admiration that the audience holds for him

I think we can safely rule out young King Henry as our protagonist for a couple of reasons: 1) he doesn’t appear until at least one-third of the way through the play; and 2) it’s unclear exactly what he is working toward.

So, Henry: out.

Talbot?  Possibly, though unlikely… he is working toward an English defeat of the French, but he mainly talks about it (see Monday’s entry), and he certainly doesn’t achieve it… and he’s gone by the time Act Five rolls around.

and… yes, I know; a protagonist doesn’t have to achieve his goal to be the protagonist

Gloucester? Does he have a goal?  Maybe (protect the king?). Though he’s a character from the first scene to the last, this pick feels really unsatisfying.

Plantagenet? Does he have a goal?  Maybe (regain his Yorkist titles?). But like Henry, he misses much of the first third of the play.

Joan?  Goal: Check (defeat the English… and achieved).  A character in all acts of the play.  So, she’s our protagonist?  Uh, no… don’t think so.  Unlike Richard, there’s not admiration (begrudging or not) that the audience — particularly Shakespeare’s audience — holds for her.

So, we’re left with no protagonist.

is this why the play is so unsatisfying?

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