When did Shakespeare write Henry VI Part I? And where did he get his inspiration?
Henry VI Part I is generally thought to be a collaborative work between William Shakespeare and another writer, assumed to be Thomas Nashe, although other writers may have been involved.
While today the three plays of Henry VI form a trilogy, Henry VI Part I was actually likely to have been a prequel, written later than the other two plays, following their success.
Phillip Henslowe's diary notes that a play called 'Harey Vi' was performed on 3 March 1592 at the Rose Theatre in Southwark, and Nashe's pamphlet Pierce Penniless (1592) mentions the Talbot scenes. The only text of the play is in the First Folio of 1623.
Most modern scholars lean to the view that the plays which the Folio calls the second and third parts of Henry the Sixth were originally a two-part ‘Wars of the Roses’ drama and that this play was a collaborative ‘prequel’, perhaps co-authored with Thomas Nashe, that was written later to cash in on their success.
A few sources seem to have been used for Henry VI Part I. The main source about the York and Lancaster divide seems to be taken from Edward Hall's The Union of the Two Noble and Illustre Famelies of Lancastre and Yorke (1598) and the Joan of Arc storyline draws upon Holinshed's Chronicles (1587).
The scenes most likely to be Shakespeare’s – the Temple garden and Talbot with his son – seem to be pure dramatic invention, with no source in the chronicles.