Read King Henry VI, Part 2 by William Shakespeare Andrew S. Cairncross Online


In their lively and engaging edition of this sometimes neglected early play, Cox and Rasmussen make a strong claim for it as a remarkable work, revealing a confidence and sureness that very few earlier plays can rival. They show how the young Shakespeare, working closely from his chronicle sources, nevertheless freely shaped his complex material to make it both theatricallIn their lively and engaging edition of this sometimes neglected early play, Cox and Rasmussen make a strong claim for it as a remarkable work, revealing a confidence and sureness that very few earlier plays can rival. They show how the young Shakespeare, working closely from his chronicle sources, nevertheless freely shaped his complex material to make it both theatrically effective and poetically innovative. The resulting work creates, in Queen Margaret, one of Shakespeare's strongest female roles and is the source of the popular view of Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick as `kingmaker'. Focusing on the history of the play both in terms of both performance and criticism, the editors open it to a wide and challenging variety of interpretative and editorial paradigms....

Title : King Henry VI, Part 2
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780415026857
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 252 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

King Henry VI, Part 2 Reviews

  • Barry Pierce
    2019-04-17 15:56

    There's a whole act in which some random Irish guy literally invades London, calls himself the mayor, and is then accidentally beheaded in a garden.

  • Darwin8u
    2019-04-15 21:47

    "Burn all the records of the realm. My mouth shall be the Parliament of England."- Shakespeare, Henry VI, Part 2, Act IV.7So, I liked Part 2 of Henry VI a lot better than Part 1. It still isn't Hamlet, but it is complicated, funny, twisted in parts. One of my favorite aspects of the play are the scenes with Queen Margaret and Suffolk. No. They aren't great people, but they are a great couple. Their parting is amazing and poetic. My other favorite part is, well, anything with Jack Cade/Sir John Mortimer (how can you not love a guy who knights himself?). He is one of those great populists in literature and history, belonging on the shelf next to Huey Long and Donald Trump. Dammit. I'm trying to avoid Trump by reading the classics and I come across Cade and the Butcher and all their anti-intellectual followers. Burn the accountants and kill all the lawyers. We march on Washington D.C. boys.There were also several nice lines, specifically:―“The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers.”―"Let them obey that knows not how to rule.”―"Could I come near your beauty with my nails,I could set my ten commandments in your face.”―"My shame will not be shifted with my sheet --"―"A staff is quickly found to beat a dog."―"So he be dead; for that is good conceitWhich mates him first that first intends deceit."―"For where thou art, there is the world itself,With every several pleasure in the world;And where thou art not, desolation."―"If I depart from thee, I cannot live.And in thy sight to die, what were it elseBut like a pleasant slumber in thy lap?"―"This way fall I to death."―"Because my book preferred me to the king,And seeing ignorance is the curse of God,Knowledge the wing wherewith we fly to heaven."

  • BillKerwin
    2019-03-20 23:02

    Not quite as good as Henry VI, Part I--perhaps because by its very nature it possesses no beginning and no end. The first four acts, halfway between the political disputes of the "uncles" and the factional and dynastic struggles of the Wars of the Roses, are necessarily episodic and often seem formless. Shakespeare is learning his craft here, and he often over-relies on lengthy monologues and soliloquys to reveal character and motivation. There are good scenes here, often involving commoners and commonsense observations --Gloucester's debunking of a bogus miracle, Warwick's forensic analysis of Gloster's corpse, Jack Cade's ignorant vitality--but these virtues are overshadowed by the shallow, vituperative rhetoric. Then, in Act Five, the Wars between York and Lancaster begin in earnest, and--with the arrival of the hunchbacked Gloster and his enemy Young Clifford--the verse takes on a new subtlety and intensity. This change is exciting--almost as if the genius of Shakespeare had first taken charge, right here, in the last act of this old play.

  • Edward
    2019-04-14 19:05

    General IntroductionThe Chronology of Shakespeare's WorksIntroductionThe Play in PerformanceFurther Reading--Henry VI, Part IIAn Account of the TextGenealogical TablesCommentary

  • Bradley
    2019-03-20 16:48

    This is a very uneven play, unfortunately. The first half attempts, mostly unsuccessfully, to justify and ramp up the enmity between the Lancaster line in Suffolk and the rage of York. It's mostly just scheming and jealousy and the blame game. York wanted to have his blood tied to the King while Suffolk (at least in the play, if not in actual fact, history,) was smitten with Queen Margaret, whom he unwisely pushed off to his king instead of just making her his own, with huge overtones of Lancelot and Gwennie.And then Suffolk dies in sweet tune to the prophesy that the play begins with, and then the action and the interest picks up, turning a frankly boring escapade into a pretty awesome end.So, yeah, I call the first half of this play weak. Weak, I say. The second half, the parts where Jack Cade, care of York and his scheming and his soon forthcoming full attempt upon the Throne of England, brings all the blood and pillage and a truly immense amount of book burning upon the stage, with ignorant masses calling for the downfall of whatever bogeyman they can conjure out of smoke or just the smoke from Jack Cade's arse. Mind you, this is strictly historical, although he wasn't quite as villainous as portrayed here. I think Cade honestly wanted a populist rebellion, but when he let slip his control of the masses and let them pillage and rape and steal after being successful against the king's mismanaged forces, he lost all the honor he might have won in the day.In the play, instead, we're treated to something quire gruesome with a number of heads on poles.After that bit wrapped up, though, it was York's turn, bringing his army into Kent after it had been softened by Cade, and after a few reversals, he manages to win and see the king flee off to London and sets himself up as another king of England.The action and the story and the cliffhanger is quite delicious, assuming you hadn't fallen asleep during the first parts of the play. Alas. The broad outlines of what happened in history is pretty on target, but some motivations are ramped up or made from whole cloth to make the play more exciting. Can I blame it? Not really.Warwick doesn't really feel as important in the play as he always felt in my readings of history, either. Or perhaps that's just because he really hasn't come into his own until Part 3. ;)But as a side note, one thing I found rather delicious was the youthful and smartass future King Richard III being all valorous and quick of foot and mind amongst all his older brothers and his father. Hey look, it's a the young man who'll grow up to be a wretched monster! lol. Well, that's Shakespeare. History is full of supporters and detractors of Richard of York and where does the truth really lie?I just wish this play had been more even in quality. Sigh.

  • Trish
    2019-03-31 18:12

    My goodness, what did I just read?! Will, buddy, no. Just no.This second part about King Henry VI starts with him getting married to Margaret of Anjou (who, by the way, was penniless but he wanted her nevertheless). In Shakespeare's play, she's the lover of Suffolk (not true but the rumour was spread in order to defame her since the English had a problem with a French queen). Gloucester is the Lancaster's counterpart in parliament and thus to the queen, but through Suffolk Gloucester's wife is led to witchcraft, then arrested and exiled which is a scandal for her husband (diminishing his power). Looong story short: there is lots and LOTS of intrigue at court, even more than in the previous part, only this time including a queen that refuses to be an adornment but gets very heavily involved in politics, culminating in Suffolk killing Gloucester (through assassins, historically not accurate but so much more effective in a play). Oh and in the play, Richard of York voices his claim on the throne at this point already, at least to some who swear him loyalty (also not true).Seriously, this first half or so of the play was just hurtful!Then however we get pirates! And for once I didn't care that much that it wasn't true because it was exciting. Harhar! ;PYork is sent to Ireland (supposedly to end a revolt but actually to be out of the way), but instructs an agent, Cade, to stage a rebellion - the rebellion really took place but it's highly unlikely that York had anything to do with it, he just wanted to benefit from it. The parts about the rebellion were wonderfully awash with blood and terror and I enjoyed it quite a bit. I mean, Shakespeare didn't have to change much here since Cade went from hero of the common folk to thieving and dishonourable betrayer all on his own which made him lose.And then, suddenly, shit really hits the fan when York returns with an army. And this is where York would become unpopular with me if I didn't know the true historical facts because he declares himself another King of England in the play (after causing Henry VI to flee). The truth is that he never did that - instead he repeatedly (to the point of stupidity) kept silent about his claim and swore loyalty to the weakling king, pointing out that his grievance was with the king's "advisers". At a certain point York promises to stop his campaign if his chief rival, Somerset, is imprisoned but he is betrayed (historically inaccurate again, it was not so much a planned betrayal as a string of unlucky coincidences coupled with Henry VI's weakness again) and thus declares his claim on the throne officially (not true at this point in time), prompting again a who-will-choose-which-rose scene. However, thank goodness, all this build-up ends in a nice battle at St. Albans where Somerset is finally killed (he was like a cockroach, I sooo wanted him to finally die already) and Margaret flees with the king and the son of the now dead Somerset (it's just one damned Somerset after another, I swear)!This was so hard to get through and I was very much tempted to just skim and skip to the better bits (I had been told they were there). But I persevered and the second half (actually a bit less) really was much better, having taken up considerably in pace. Still, just like the first part, this just couldn't convince me. Maybe it really has something to do with the fact that these two parts were written so early in Shakespeare's career and he yet had to hone his skill. I don't know. Regarded as one work, they really are important for the overview but the execution is somewhat lacking unfortunately.

  • Ahmad Sharabiani
    2019-04-09 18:01

    King Henry VI, Part 2 (Wars of the Roses #6), William Shakespeare

  • David Sarkies
    2019-04-06 19:56

    The civil war begins10 August 2012 The reason it took me so long to read this play was because after I read it the first time I felt that I had to go back and read it again to at least do it justice. As we all know Shakespeare is not the easiest author to read and moreso, being a playwright, it is a lot more difficult. Plays are not the easiest forms of literature to read because they are designed to be acted, which is a shame because a lot of plays that I would like to see, which includes Shakespeare and Bernard Shaw among others, are simply not performed. This play is an example of one that generally is not performed, though I do understand that the BBC did produce pretty much all of them for television (though I must admit that I was not all that thrilled with the early BBC productions). The play begins sometime after the conclusion of the first play, but has a rather odd ending. It sounds to me like the Queen saying to the King, 'come, let us go'. As such it did not come across as much of a cliff hanger, though it is very clear that by the end of the play the War of the Roses had begun. In essence this play is the beginning of the War of the Roses rather than background as the first play was, which leads me to accept that this play (and the following) were written prior to the first. There is quite a lot in this play and once again it seems that Shakespeare may have overextended himself, which is probably why the play was split into two. We also need to remember that this was when he was still starting out as a playwright, however it is also believed that it was not so much Shakespeare's handywork, but a collaboration of a group of people from which Shakespeare simply ended up taking all the credit (which is not surprising since he has come down as one of England's, and indeed history's, greatest playwrights). The first part of this play has a lot of political intrigue. Henry marries Margaret but is still under the regency of Gloucester who does not want to let go of the regency (much to the queen's annoyance). It comes across clearly that Henry is not a strong king, and he knows that, and I guess that is where his fatal flaw lies. The weakness of the king, and the tenuousness of his claim to the throne, is what leads England on the path of civil war. It is clear that there is a lot of anger towards Henry at him giving up English territories to France (which were technically rightfully France's in the first place). However, there is a discussion about his rightful claim to the throne and this dispute goes back to the reign of Richard II who was removed by Henry Bollingbroke (who went on to become Henry IV). As such York, who is a descendant of Richard II, believes that he is the rightful heir to the throne and seeing that the current king is weak he begins to make his move. In this first part we also see a movement to get rid of Gloucester, who is actually quite a capable and influential regent, though we note that he willingly gives up his position in favour of the king. It is not the king that actually wants him to give it up but rather the queen, who is obviously annoyed that she is not married to the absolute ruler of the kingdom. It is also interesting that she has connections with Suffolk, who appears to be on the side of the Yorkists, though it is also clear that if the Yorkists were to win, then she would no longer to queen (apparently). The way they remove Gloucester involves entrapping his wife with a group of occultists who summon a spirit to give them a glimpse of the future. This in a way echoes what will happen in Macbeth as the spirit promises her rulership, but in such a vague way that it is not clear what happens. Not surprisingly the spirit turns out quite deceitful, and Gloucester's wife is caught and executed for witchcraft, but that also goes to undermine Gloucester's position as he is arrested and exiled due to his wife's connections with necromancy. Needless to say he does not survive. The second part of this play has the Yorkists sent off to crush a rebellion in Ireland, but before they go they begin another rebellion in England. A man named John Cade raises an army of commoners and successfully marches on London. This is clearly the Yorkists testing to waters to see whether the population will rally around the king. In essence Cade is a scapegoat because if he succeeds, then the Yorkists will no doubt move in, remove him, and build on his success. However if he fails (which ends up happening as the population, at the last opportunity, turn and rally around the king) then the Yorkists are forwardend. I want to finish off by pointing out that this play has another of Shakespeare's relatively unknown, and rather amusing lines: first of all we must kill all of the lawyers. Much of the Cade scenes (which comprise all of act 4) are rather comical, but that is because we are seeing a lot of commoners here, who were generally seen as an ignorant and bumbling lot. However killing the lawyers during a rebellion is not surprising because they, through their fine sounding arguments, can cause a lot of problems for the new government. So, obviously, they need to be removed. Further, this rebellion echoes modern politics as while modern politics are no where near as violent as this period, when there is an attempted takeover there is always that act of testing the water. However, unlike those days, a failed coup (as happened with Paul Keating) can result in the person moving to the back bench, licking his wounds, and preparing for the next assault at the leadership.

  • João Fernandes
    2019-03-19 16:51

    I've just found out Salvador Dali did illustrations for many Shakespearian plays, and it's blowing my mind. This is his take on Henry VI:These are not Henry's arms. This is England's coat of arms, while Henry's would also have the coat of arms of France in half the shield. And this describes this entire play's king.Childish, poorly drawn. Like a feeble shield that receives blow after blow, becoming deformed and weakened.This is Henry VI. A feeble-minded, kind king who has lost France and whose England is slowly but surely being deformed by multiple blows from within. Henry VI Part 2 deals with the fast destruction of the Lancaster power base, in the death of Gloucester, and the rise of the York faction, now armed and sworn to take the crown.The best character development in the whole play is apathetic Henry banishing Suffolk: not only does it show some resolve on Henry's part for once but it puts an end to the cringeworthy viper romance between Suffolk and Queen Margaret.I also have to point out how symbolic the whole Cade affair is. Cade, a lowborn Kentish man, is used as a market tester for the Yorkist claim by pretending to have the same lineage as Richard of York. This "claim to the crown" not only is accepted by the people but Cade actually manages to conquer London. And in this we see two great points:- An ignorant man in power is a dangerous thing (murdering innocents and planning on destroying parliament)-The people's fickleness in their allegiance. They turn on Cade the first chance they get, then go back to supporting him only to run away to Henry's party again all in less than a minute. Highly symbolic of the crown and popular support passing between Lancaster and York like a ping pong ball in the years to come.All in all a good play, hopefully Part 3 will be better than the other two!

  • Laura
    2019-04-19 22:08

    From BBC One:After the Battle of St Albans, Plantagenet and the Yorkists ride to London to claim the throne. Henry negotiates to keep the crown for his lifetime but agrees to disinherit his son Prince Edward.Margaret is outraged and attacks Plantagenet at his house, slaughtering the duke and his youngest son Edmund. Elder brothers Edward, George and Richard escape and swear to avenge the murders and destruction of their house.The Yorkists are victorious at the Battle of Towton and Plantagenet's eldest son is crowned Edward IV. Henry VI is imprisoned in the tower and Margaret escapes to France with her son Prince Edward.Warwick travels to the French court to find Edward a bride. Word arrives that Edward is already betrothed to Elizabeth Woodville. Humiliated, Warwick switches sides and joins the House of Lancaster. Together with Margaret and the French king, Warwick forms an alliance to place Henry back on the throne.George, Edward IV's brother, also joins with Warwick after failing to secure a good marriage or advance at court, but returns to the Yorkist cause moments before the Battle of Tewkesbury. The Lancastrians are defeated and Warwick is killed.In the aftermath of battle, Richard slays Prince Edward in front of a distraught Margaret. Richard returns to London and murders the former King Henry in his cell. The court of Edward IV congregates for the christening of a new heir to the throne. The Yorkist dynasty seems secure.

  • Jaksen
    2019-04-03 14:57

    First off, there is so much to this play it's hard to remember it all, but it's a doozey.There are nobles who hate other nobles, who snipe, bait and target each other. Some end up with their heads cut off for no real discernible reason. A really good guy is strangled in his bed. And the bishop, Winchester, who's okay but not a great guy, he's poisoned. The noble who sold out England and gave back to two huge territories to France, and also brought back Margaret of Anjou, a French princess, for King Henry VI to wed, AND who is having an affair with her, ends up with his head cut off by pirates. Later we see poor Queen Meg carting his head around. She's a bit upset.There's also witchcraft and conjuring by Eleanor, the wife of the good Duke of Gloucester. (He's the guy who gets strangled in bed.) On top of ALL THIS, there's Richard of York plotting to be king and standing around watching all this nonsense go down. He's also abetting it and laughing at it and enjoying it all because every time a noble guy dies - who might be Richard's enemy - it's one more bowling pin tipped over in Richard's plans to bowl a strike - and be king!(I looked up the genealogy charts for this time, all the descendants of King Alfred the Great who ruled back in 800-something. Both Richard of York and Henry VI descend from him and both have a pretty equal claim to the throne. It all depends on how you look at things.)Meanwhile King Henry VI is a nice enough guy but he prays too much and is sort of too good. He forgives ANYBODY who is nice, really. He also believes ANYBODY who pledges their allegiance and says to the king, hey, sorry I screwed up, can we be friends again? Henry is a real doormat, but this also works two ways because...If someone comes along and says Ho, there king, you need to arrest - fill-in-the-blank - because he's been heard to say or do something that isn't all that loyal, well then, Henry will believe this! He'll have 'fill-in-the-blank' taken away just on someone's say so! But then he'll whine a bit about how he feels that 'fill-in-the-blank' is really good and how he doubts himself and boy, is Henry a first class waffler. I wanted to slap him from here, 400 years after all this was written.There is another 'meanwhile' going on, and that's trouble among the commoners. They're all riled up and mirror what's happening with the nobility. They love the king; they hate the king. They love Richard, who's supposed to be king - if you're a white rose-leaning Yorkist - and they distrust almost everyone who is learned or can read and write. (They actually kill a guy because he's 'learned.' This is the play with the famous line, 'First, kill all the lawyers.') John Cade is their leader and he's a first-class moron who kills anyone he just does ... not ... like. By the way, this is an ongoing theme throughout history: fear and hatred of those who aren't necessarily richer than you are, but SMARTER than you are. If it were me, I'd be going around saying nope, nope, have no idea what a noun is, or a verb. Is that a name? Does Noun own the winery and Verb's his comely daughter?Seriously, there is a passage where they curse anyone who knows what a noun or verb is. I am NOT kidding.Well amidst all this turmoil a country needs a strong leader. One who can say, hey you nobles, knock it off, or hey, let's have a tournament and let the country folk burn off some steam. Also one who'll say nope, France, you cannot have Maine and Anjou back, it sets poor precedent. As well as a king who won't restore a man's titles and estates at the drop of a hat. (Henry actually does this in Henry VI Part 1, but it has repercussions through to this play.) This really shows Henry's inherent waffling because who restores someone who, 1. had a dad for a traitor, and 2. some of your best advisers are telling you WATCH OUT FOR HIM? This is an entire play of arguing and backbiting. Betrayal and conspiracy. Beheadings and armed masses running around. Throw in some witchcraft, a tiny bit of humor, a spineless ruler, two women who are as bad as any deceitful man, and this is a play that must have had the crowds cheering. Masterful. Loved it.

  • Laurel Hicks
    2019-04-13 15:12

    I love the Henry VI plays, especially with wacky, wicked Queen Margaret running through them. Poor Henry! I'm very fond of him, the man who would not be king:Was ever king that joy’d an earthly throneAnd could command no more content than I?No sooner was I crept out of my cradleBut I was made a king, at nine months old.Was never subject long’d to be a kingAs I do long and wish to be a subject.

  • Melora
    2019-04-16 14:59

    A step up from Henry VI Pt 1. This has all the rip-roaring action and, unlike Pt 1, this one has some entertaining characters. None of them are lovable or, even, truly memorable, but Margaret's sleazy manipulations of her sweet but dim husband, and Suffolk's lust and outrageous arrogance are pretty funny, and York's crafty ambition makes a nice foil for Henry's placid limpness. Richard is shaping up nicely, and I look forward to seeing more also of Warwick and Young Clifford in Part 3. The play's ending would be impossibly abrupt and unsatisfying if I were not planning to go immediately on to Pt. 3, but that was the case in Pt 1 as well. 3 1/2 stars, rounded up to 4.*I should note that I am actually reading this in the Modern Library Edition,Henry VI: Parts I, II, and III, which has really excellent footnotes and directions. I decided to note my response to each play separately to allow for individual ratings._____________________________Okay, update after the second time through. I read this first in June 2016. Rereading as part of the "Read all of Shakespeare in 2017" project I've signed on for, and this one, as with Part 1, is even better on a second reading. I would like to revise my previous review by saying that I was wrong in saying that none of the characters are memorable. Don't know what I was thinking there, but Richard is certainly a memorable character, though his role in Part 2 is minimal, but so are Margaret, Suffolk, Gloucester, and Henry VI himself. Before reading, I read the relevant chapter in Margaret Garber's Shakespeare After All, which I am finding marvelously helpful. I appreciated the historical background and pointers to places where Shakespeare departed from history, and also the guidance as to themes, parallelisms, etc. Henry, with his very plausible, if unfortunate, combination of courage, dignity, decency, and gullibility, is intriguing. If only his instincts were a little better (okay, a lot better) when it came to who to trust among his advisers he really might have been an okay sort of king. And poor old Gloucester -- let down by his king and his nutty wife. Henry's abandonment of him (in order to go off and have a good cry) really was his low moment. Thanks to Garber's commentary, this time I better appreciated the passion, warped and misguided as it was, between Margaret and Suffolk. They really deserved each other, and it was too bad that Suffolk had to saddle Henry (and England) with Margaret instead of somehow marrying her himself. The slimy demagogue, Cade, and his mob of mindlessly destructive peasants form a fine parallel to the greed and madness of the court. Part 2 necessarily has an unfinished feel (what with the "And Now for the Intermission" ending), but that's okay because I'll soon be on to Part 3!

  • Trevor
    2019-03-20 14:49

    As bad a play as Part One is – this is great. This really is one of the best plays in the sequence. It quite literally has everything. Revolt, rebellion, the loss of France, a Lady MacBeth (but playing to a MacBeth that cannot be tempted by vaulting ambition – and then again maybe two Lady MacBeths for good measure), a good kinsman killed by traitors and depriving the King of advice, a good King suddenly under the sway of a group of very bad advisors, a Queen in love with someone other than the King and the Tea Party. Well, when I say, The Tea Party, I mean the Fifteenth Century equivalent – the kinds of people who make countries ungovernable and are likely to burn books and people in the streets. Shakespeare’s dislike of anarchy is brought well and truly to the fore in this play.Honestly, I don’t want to spoil this for you – but this is a must see play. The only problem is that I can’t remember it ever being performed – And the simple reason is because who is going to see the middle play of a three part series of plays? But look – this really is mind-blowing. It is quite a long play, but even so it just races along at a breath-taking speed and there are so many characters that make you want to shout at them and so many who come to a bad end – mostly of their own cause, but tragically not at times too – this is worth whatever pains are asked of you to see it, even those in sitting through part one. Part one does help this play to make sense, I guess, but this one shines where that one limped along.If this play has a central theme it is that nature loathes a vacuum. Poor old Henry VI – he would have made a good priest, but he makes a dreadful Monarch.

  • Livy
    2019-04-02 21:52

    The only things I knew about this play going in were 1) "First thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers!" and going hand in hand with this, 2) it's very, very bloody. As things turn out, as far as bloodiness goes it's not that bad - just a lot of heads on poles and many puns related to heads on poles. The sheer bloody-mindedness of the entire cast becomes a bit wearying after a while, but that's probably the point. I found myself struck by the relationship between Margaret and Henry, such as it is, and wish there were more of it - his persistent biblical quotations and her outrageous passions make for a very odd couple, and yet I believed Margaret when she said that though she might grieve for Suffolk, she would die for Henry. Jack Cade in Act 4 was a breath of fresh air. The Arden commentator compared his usage to that of Talbot in Henry VI Part 1, but I think in his humor, vivacity and delight in anarchy, he has more in common with Jean Pucell. From a structural standpoint it seemed a little eccentric to limit Cade's appearance to Act 4, but I liked that we watch his rebellion rise and fall like a flash storm, as a kind of precursor to York's more devastating uprising in Act 5 Scene 1. How electrifying was the moment when York denied Henry as the true king; it might have been a bit contrived (why oh why is Margaret just sauntering along with Somerset if Henry gave orders to confine him to the Tower?) but the sheer dramatic force of the scene excuses the contrivances, having Henry knight Iden only to be knocked low himself.The poetry isn't exemplary but I found it brisk and readable, like a good thriller should be.

  • Jim
    2019-04-03 20:06

    Shakespeare's first or second play, depending on whom one believes, and possibly a collaboration with Christopher Marlowe, depending on whom one believes, is given the superb Arden Shakespeare treatment, with essays regarding the text, history, and provenance of the play, as well as the superb notation of words and lines of text for which the Arden series is famous. Henry VI Part II continues the saga of the War of the Roses, with flimsy Henry faced with blatant opposition from the pretender to the throne, the Duke of York, and surreptitious opposition from within his own house. This is the play containing the famous line, "The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers." Shakespeare's skill with poetry and prose is quite evident in this early work. Not as rich or as famous as many of his other plays, Henry VI Part II is nonetheless an interesting and intriguing work.

  • Ben
    2019-03-28 22:54

    What stronger breastplate than a heart untainted!Thrice is he arm'd that hath his quarrel just,And he but naked, though lock'd up in steel,Whose conscience with injustice is corrupted.In this second part of Henry VI's story, we see the bricks of the English realm begin to fall and crumble into wasted building blocks.It seems that any bold citizen would dip their hands into the bloody cauldron filled with the jewels of English power. From lowly laborer to noble duke, conspiracy and revolt surround Henry VI. Every character played a role in this seditious plot by either promoting it or by aligning themselves with the honorable and noble few who would suffer only an untainted heart as consolation.I enjoyed Shakespeare's loud and sometimes bombastic language in this second part. I imagined villainous players bellowing their words in passionate dynamics and dramatic conviction. It contrasted the tone of Henry VI who, I admit, frustrates me a bit. Despite the tumult and revolt happening all around him, he does not take control of the situation or exhibit any ability to bring down an iron fist. It seems he stands only as a flat symbol of his position while the other characters portray personality, ambition, honor, malice and other aspects of humanity. Henry VI might have made a better priest than king and York and others see this as an opportunity to overthrow such a king.I also appreciated Shakespeare's presentation of justice in this second part. It would seem that justice does not save the blameless but it assuredly avenges them. Henry VI and Gloucester, and even Lord Say, have faith that the law will protect their untainted hearts, that no man can attack the righteous because of their blameless character. Of course, this proves far from a reality. Are we to lose our own faith in justice - the virtuous falling to the discontented? Why would anyone, then, adopt virtue?Yet while the loyal fall, the villains suffer the resulting justice - not directly by the hand of Henry VI but seemingly by natural course. While the honorable remain so remembered in the annals of history, the villains lose life and name as well. Perhaps justice acts as an avenger rather than a protector. And if this theme carries into the third part, I anticipate Henry VI's demise and an even more horrible fate for his opponent.

  • Suzannah
    2019-04-19 17:09

    Whew. This was a BIG play!

  • Bruce
    2019-04-04 14:52

    Aptly first named “The First Part of the Contention of the Two Famous Houses of York and Lancaster,” this play chronicles part of the Wars of the Roses in England, the time during which political instability and civil unrest weakened the kingdom which was ineffectively ruled by the hapless Henry VI. Having lost part of his holdings in France that had been won by his father, Henry V, Henry VI gave up more territory as part of the settlement at the time of his marriage to Margaret of Anjou. It is hard to imagine a more ineffectual monarch than the pious, simpering, pusillanimous King Henry, or a more vile, malignant and unscrupulous queen than Margaret. But most of the characters in this play are deeply flawed and overweaningly ambitious. An exception may be Gloucester, but then he is murdered in Act III. When rulers are influenced primarily by their own self-interest, the country suffers badly, and that is true no less today than in 15th century England. The way out of such a dilemma is not clear and would seem to require a stronger central ruler and a more selfless supporting cast. After an uprising of the common people, led by Jack Cade, is put down, Richard Duke of York, the father of the future Richard III, openly rebels against Henry VI, and the play ends with Henry and his court in retreat back to London, laying the foundation for future events as described in the following play, 3 Henry VI.

  • Emily
    2019-03-22 15:57

    "The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers," says the butcher in Cade's rebellion, in the most familiar line of this play. The rebellion, erupting in the fourth act, is probably the most surprising and standout aspect: some of Cade's men envision a purge of intellectuals and bureaucrats that would be right at home in the worst corners of the 20th century. Cade believes himself to be king if he can only create enough chaos and destruction. His topsy-turvy aspirations form a contrast to the weak but well-meaning Henry VI and his ambitious rival York, three potential kings in one overstuffed play (the fourth act has ten scenes). There were a few moments when I was reminded of how transparently the Stark-Lannister rivalry in Game of Thrones is based on the Wars of the Roses. There's certainly a lot less titillating nudity and oh-no-they-DIDN'T violence in Shakespeare! But there's also more witchcraft here than I would have expected in a history play, same as in the first part, as well as some overt royal adulterous conspiracy, which makes the kinship of these works a little closer than I would have guessed.

  • Clara Biesel
    2019-04-14 22:49

    I got goosebumps rereading it. So much good stuff in this play. If you're reading it for the first time, try and think of each scene as its own little drama. There's lots of stories as a part of the whole, but it all beats as one heart.

  • Morgan
    2019-03-22 14:46

    I now know what "smock" (4.7.134) means.

  • Akemi G
    2019-03-26 17:02

    This is a crowdpleaser. Witchcraft (even today, people like books/shows on paranormal topics), political machinations (including "reform" movement led by a commoner), forbidden love, pilates, finished with action-filled battle scenes. Richard (Duke of York) is cunning. Theoretically, he is more qualified to be the king than Henry VI; however, challenging the current king is a treason. He works through this dilemma by patiently building his network (his wife Cecily is the sister of Salisbury, Richard Neville) and by strategically removing his roadblock (he teams up with his foes to condemn Humphrey, king's uncle). So his son Richard (the future Richard III) took after him very much. As in his other historical plays, Shakespeare liberally fictionalizes history--he either didn't know the facts or didn't care. For instance, Richard (from here, Richard refers to the future Richard III and York refers to his father) was only two years old when the first battle of St Albans took place in May 1455, but who cares. Shakespeare makes him deliver some mean, well-worded lines and gets him work hard in the battle. (York's eldest son, the future Edward IV, shows up but doesn't do much; George is completely ignored). The theoretical protagonist, Henry VI, is like a living ghost compared to York, the antagonist. Henry is pious, kind, and no leader material. Compared to him, Richard II, who seemed ineffective and indecisive, seems reliable. Henry cannot spare his uncle; which contrasts Thomas Woodstock's death in Richard II (Woodstock's death is only discussed in the play, and it is hinted that Richard II ordered his uncle's death; coincidentally, both Woodstock and Humphrey were Duke of Gloucester). Also, Henry doesn't win his wife's love and respect, while Richard II is loved by his queen. . . . on to Part 3. Cannot wait to read what Richard has to say.

  • Perry Whitford
    2019-04-04 23:00

    'Ah, gracious lord, these days are dangerous.Virtue is chok'd with foul ambition'Duke of Gloucester, Act III, Scene 1Poor Henry VI! Nobody thinks much of him, most everyone wants his crown. Even his new queen, the beautiful but dowriless Margaret of Anjou laments how 'his mind is bent to holiness' and pines for a real man, someone more like the Duke of Suffolk.When it comes to kings, nice guys come last. That's pretty much what Henry VI is. A saint amongst sinners. A sheep amongst wolves - an image which occurs more than once, alongside deer hunting, bear bating, chickens and kites.The Duke of York, Richard Plantagenet, is his worst adversary, although he hounds the king by proxy, fooling his rivals to remove Henry's one true friend, the Duke of Gloucester, then using the buffoonish rebel Jack Cade to start a peasant's revolt.All told, by Act IV the King doesn't think much of his position:'Like to a ship that, having scap'd a tempest,Is straightway calm'd and boarded with a pirate'Jack Cade marches on London, mocked by his minions for his light fingers and bad breath, keen to behead anyone who can read or write, speak French, or drink their pints by the half ('I will make it felony to drink small beer').I sympathise with his third point. I'm not completely against his second either.Some pretty crazy things happen in this play, more in keeping with scenes out of Ancient Greek theatre. When Margaret's lover, Lord Suffolk, has his head cut off, she carries it around for the final two Acts! During Cade's rebellion, two officials are beheaded, their mouths made to kiss as they are walked around London on poles! Somehow, the meek Henry lives to fight another day.

  • Monique
    2019-03-19 19:51

    Finished it in one sitting.Woo 3 books in 24 hours go me.Anyway this was brilliant, much much better than Part 1. It was hilarious at some points and I loved the awful humour Shakespeare presented.But seriously, if I ever had the opportunity to meet Shakespeare I would hold this play up to him and be like "ffs mate" and then cackle because John Cade made this whole play and he was in it for like 7 pages (in my edition).

  • Matthew
    2019-04-08 17:55

    Many of Shakespeare's English history plays are unusual in that they are the only plays in Shakespeare's canon that do not end in the restoration of order (another exception is Troilus and Cressida).Admittedly, they belong to a play cycle that will eventually culminate in the restoration of order. Also many of the plays end with some kind of completion of the events portrayed. Hence Richard II ends with Bolingbroke ascending to the crown that he will hold onto until his death. Henry IV Part 1 ends with the vanquishing of the king's most dangerous enemies. Henry IV Part 2 ends with the king's death and a new king offering promise for the future.However, the Henry VI plays offer no such easy resolution. It is true that they end with a decisive event, but there are so many loose ends that the plays do not feel complete by themselves.For this reason, Henry VI Part 2 is possibly the hardest play to review. It is taking up the threads left at the end of Part 1 and leaving many more unresolved issues that will carry on into Part 3.At the end of Part 1, England was losing much of France, the Cardinal of Winchester was at loggerheads with the Protector, the Duke of Gloucester, Richard of York was feuding with the Duke of Somerset whilst nursing ambitions for a crown that he thought was rightly his and the Duke of Suffolk was arranging to marry the king to Margaret of Anjou in the hope that his intimacy with Margaret would give him secret powers to the throne.These are the loose ends that Shakespeare takes up. Firstly, there is no longer the division between scenes in England and France. We are told in just a few brief sentences that France is now lost and this area of exploration is closed forever.Instead, Shakespeare concentrates on the many divisions at home that are tearing England apart. A large part of the first half is spent on the attempts led by Winchester to unseat Gloucester from his Protectorship. Gloucester's enemies succeed in this. His wife is banished for getting involved with witchcraft. Gloucester is arrested and the Cardinal has him assassinated.However, these plans soon turn sour for the plotters. Soon after, the Cardinal dies, tormented by his guilty conscience. As for Suffolk's plans to use the event to gain more power over the king and queen, these fail too. In a rare moment of good sense, the king banishes him, and he is killed by pirates.This now sets the scene for York's grab for power, setting in chain a whole new series of events. Firstly, he seeks to undermine the kingdom by inciting the rebellious Jack Cade to lead the rabble against the state while claiming to be a member of the Mortimer family and heir to the throne. Cade and his followers prove immensely destructive, but the mob soon turns against him and he flees, only to be killed by a Kentish gentleman.This finally leads York to begin his bid for power. In battle, he kills off a number of his enemies, including Somerset and ascends to the throne while Henry and his followers flee to London.As you can see, the play is somewhat varied in its focus and this represents its main weakness. It is long and full of incident, but there is no great artistic unity to hold it together. In the first play, we are left with many intrigues that are unresolved. The second play resolves most of them, but they are over by Act 3 or Act 4. Similarly, the next big event, Jack Cade's revolt, dominates all of Act 4 and then disappears again.However, there is much to enjoy in watching the events unfold. Shakespeare keeps a certain objectivity. He passes no comment on the rightness of York's claim to the throne or the accusations against Somerset. However, we can safely say that he identifies Winchester and Suffolk as villains.The most interesting part of the play is Act 4 where Jack Cade leads his followers against the state. Shakespeare is certainly no democrat, and Cade is firmly perceived as an enemy to all that is good. He is feckless, bloodthirsty and ignorant, sending men to their deaths for having too much learning. Whatever the solution to England's problems, it will not come from the common man.Similarly, in scenes that anticipate later plays like Julius Caesar and Coriolanus, the ordinary people are seen as fickle and untrustworthy. Even Cade expresses exasperation when he realises that they can be swayed from one side to the other by a good speech, and his rebellion fails when his own followers turn against him.It is worth adding an aside here about the language that Shakespeare uses for his characters, and it is strictly based on position in society, reflecting Shakespeare's belief in the existing order. Hence it is usually only royalty and aristocracy who speak in blank verse whilst the lower members of society speak in prose, often vulgar.The implication here is clear. Only the most noble and elevated language (and by extension the most noble and elevated thoughts, ideas and actions) belong to the ruling classes. This is not to say that Shakespeare hates the common man. His plays are full of servants, criminals, tavern keepers and the like who speak in a crude but lively manner that keeps us amused. It is just that Shakespeare preserves a sense that the natural hierarchy in society must be maintained.Overall, in spite of its lack of focus and convoluted crowding of events, Henry VI Part 2 is an entertaining work that contains much of interest. The introduction of York's sons, the future Edward IV and Richard III, also help to set the scene for the final two plays in this cycle.

  • Stacy
    2019-04-03 22:55

    If you have ever struggled understanding Shakespeare you must try audio versions. I've been listening to Arkangel's version of all of Shakespeare's works on Audible and I have yet to be disappointed. I can't speak highly enough of the performance on audio. It's as if you are transported back in time, and for this particular book you're afraid for your life! It has made me extremely grateful for living at this time in the world!

  • Diana Long
    2019-03-21 19:59

    I listened to the Arkangel audio of the play along with reading the text from the Delphi Complete Works of William Shakespeare. Thought to be Shakespeare's first play it is undoubtedly a highly emotional play with plenty of action and despairing moments. A very ambitious play and highly entertaining.

  • Chelsea
    2019-04-05 17:01

    Much better than part 1. (Phew) Now I’m actually looking forward to part 3. John Cade was an interesting character.

  • Carter B
    2019-04-18 15:08

    The original game of thrones: insatiable ambition, multi-layered lies, rampant murder. Life is simpler as a peasant.