As with almost all of the history plays, Shakespeare relied upon Holinshed’s Chronicles (second edition, 1587) as the primary source for Henry VI, Part I. Although Shakespeare chose to disregard the true chronology of the events of Henry’s reign, he does take these events from Holinshed’s text and, at times, copies Holinshed’s narrative almost verbatim. A good example is Shakespeare’s portrayal of Joan of Arc in Act I of the play. Notice the similarities between the Joan of Arc in Henry VI, part I, and the following excerpt from Holinshed’s Chronicles:
In time of this siege at Orleance…was carried a yoong wench of an eighteene years old, called Ione Are, by name of hir father ( a sorie sheepheard) Iames of Are, and Isabell hir mother; brought up poorlie in their trade of keeping cattell … Of favour she was counted likesome, of person stronglie made and manlie, of courage great, hardie, and stout withall: an vnderstander of counsels though she were not at them; great semblance of chastitie both of bodie and behauiour.
When Shakespeare wanted to elaborate on events barely mentioned in Holinshed, he consulted Edward Hall’s The Union of the two noble and illustre famelies of Lancastre and Yorke, written in 1550. Hall’s report of the battle at Castillon is far more detailed and entertaining, and Shakespeare found it worthy of emulation. Another source, albeit a very minor one, is Robert Fabyan’s The New Chronicle of England and of France, written in 1516. Some of the events in the play (Scene I, Act III), is similar to the events in Fabyan’s work.