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Henry VI (Part 2)

William Shakespeare

William Shakespeare

Summary of the plot or story
The boy King Henry returns from his victory in France with his new bride, the ambitious and domineering, Margaret of Anjou. The devious Suffolk has arranged the marriage, to the delight of Henry, but Suffolk covets the beautiful Margaret for himself, he also hopes to exert power over the monarch and Margaret.

The noble Duke of Gloucester is horrified at the treaty that Suffolk has made with the French which passes the dukedoms of Anjou and Maine to the King of Naples, Margaret's father. The King suspects nothing and Suffolk is rewarded with a Dukedom.

Politics and the struggle for power continues between the Houses of York and Lancaster. Richard Plantagenet, Duke of York, is convinced that he should sit on the throne. The Lord Protector, Gloucester is next in line to the throne, he does not seek it. The Lancastrians plot to get rid of Gloucester and enlist the help of Margaret who wants to dominate the weak King even further and views Gloucester as a hindrance. Gloucester's wife, Eleanor Cobham the Duchess of Gloucester, is used to bring about his downfall. She is arrested for sorcery and the shame forces Gloucester to resign his role as Lord Protector. The conspirators, Margaret ,Suffolk, the Duke of York and the Bishop of Winchester, are not content with his resignation, they want to be completely rid of him and arrange for his imprisonment accused of treason. A rebellion starts in Ireland and the Duke of York
ceases the opportunity for glory and heads an army to invade Ireland. This, of course, pleases Winchester and Suffolk as he is out the way. The Duke of York, looking out for his interests, arranges for a commoner called Jack Cade to stir up trouble at home whilst he is away - this would then provide him with the opportunity to return home and use the army to seize power.

Meanwhile Suffolk hires two murderers to kill Gloucester. Suffolk tells the King that Gloucester has died in his bed but the King does not believe him. The Earl of Warwick accuses Suffolk and Winchester of his murder and so brings about their downfall and deaths. Jack Cade marches with a mob on London and the Duke of Clifford turns the mob against Cade who is subsequently killed. York returns from Ireland at the head of his army but is too scared to claim the throne, instead he demands that his old enemy, the Duke of Somerset is imprisoned. The King agrees but goes back on his word which leads a furious York to make a claim for the crown. The War of the Roses between the Lancastrians and the Yorkists so begins.

Information provided about the play
William Shakespeare never published any of his plays and therefore none of the original manuscripts have survived. Eighteen unauthorised versions of his plays were, however, published during his lifetime in quarto editions by unscrupulous publishers (there were no copyright laws protecting Shakespeare and his works during the Elizabethan era). A collection of his works did not appear until 1623 ( a full seven years after Shakespeare's death on April 23, 1616) when two of his fellow actors, John Hemminges and Henry Condell, posthumously recorded his work and published 36 of Williamís plays in the First Folio. Some dates are therefore approximate other dates are substantiated by historical events, records of performances and the dates plays appeared in print.

Date first performed
It is believed that Henry VI (Part 2) was first performed between 1594 and 1595. In the Elizabethan era 
there was a huge demand for new entertainment and Henry VI (Part 2) would have been produced immediately following the completion of the play.

Date first printed
It is believed that the script was first printed in 1597. As William Shakespeare clearly did not want his work published details of the play would have therefore been noted, and often pirated without his consent, following a performance.

The setting for Henry VI (Part 2)
The setting is England

Theme of Henry VI (Part 2)
The play King Henry VI is categorised as a History

Number of words
The number of words in the script, according to the Complete Public Domain Text is 27,029 

Most important characters in Henry VI (Part 2)
The most important characters are:
King Henry VI, Queen Margaret, Duke of Gloucester and the Duke of York.

Famous Quotes / Quotations
The quotes from King Henry VI are amongst Shakespeare's most famous including 'The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers'. Details of this famous quote follows, complete with information regarding the Act and the Scene, allowing a quick reference to the section of the play that these quotations can be found in. Please click here for the full text of the script of the play.

"The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers". - (Act IV, Scene II).

"Small things make base men proud". - (Act IV, Scene I).

The series of Henry VI plays revolve around the War of the Roses which lasted from 1455 to 1485.The war was fought between two branches of the Plantagenet family, the Houses of Lancaster and York. The War of the Roses were named after the emblems of the parties, the white rose of York and the red rose of Lancaster. 
House of Lancaster
Henry IV ("Bolingbroke," son of the Duke of Lancaster), 1399-1413. 
Henry V (son of Henry IV), 1413-1422.
Henry VI (son of Henry V, deposed), 1422-1471. 
House of York:
Edward IV (son of duke of York), 1461-1483.
Edward V (son of Edward IV), 1483.
Richard III ("Crookback," brother of Edward IV) 1483-1485.

We recommend the following link to access facts, information, a biography and timeline of
King Henry VI

William Shakespeare's Main Source
The Chronicles of England, Scotland and Ireland by Raphael Holinshed

The Cast and Characters
Click the link to access a list of all the cast and characters in King Henry VI Part 2.

Full text - script of Henry VI (Part 2) play by William Shakespeare
Cast and characters in Henry VI (Part 2) play by William Shakespeare
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