Talbot's Death as Passion Play in Shakespeare's 1 Henry VI

John A. Warrick


This article examines the death of John Talbot in Shakespeare’s 1 Henry VI against late medieval passion plays. It argues that Shakespeare adapted common features of medieval pageants, and particularly those representing Christ’s crucifixion, harrowing of hell, and resurrection, to enhance the tragic impact of his secular history play. Finally, it theorizes Talbot’s secular martyrdom in relation to developments unique to the reformation of saintly devotion and the imitatio Christi in Elizabethan England.


Shakespeare; 1 Henry VI; English history play; passion play; harrowing of hell; saint play

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.12745/et.19.1.2607

John A. Warrick
University of Southern Mississippi
United States

John A. Warrick (john.warrick@usm.edu) is chair and associate professor of theatre history in the department of Theatre at the University of Southern Mississippi, where he also serves as managing director for the Southern Arena Theatre.