The Second Part of King Henry VI
The Second Part of King Henry VI is a play written by William Shakespeare about the beginning of the long War of Roses in England. It chronicles the rise of the Duke of York, who ends the play by claiming the throne and beginning the war. This play is the second in the Shakespeare's first tetrology.
This play opens with the marriage of King Henry VI to Margaret of Anjou. She is brought from France by the Earl of Suffolk, and for it he is made a Duke. The marriage makes many of the courtiers unhappy though, because Margaret's father gives no dowry and asks for his two cities to be given him. The Lord Protector, Humphrey of Gloucester, bemoans this to the courtiers. Most of the courtiers however, such as the Cardinal of Winchester, and Dukes of Buckingham and Somerset, only seek their own gain. A most ambitious courtier is the Duke of York, who believes he is heir to the crown instead of King Henry. He allies with the Earls of Warwick and Salisbury so he might gain the crown. Margaret proves very ambitious and jealous of all who stand in her way. She is especially angered at Gloucester's wife, Eleanore. Gloucester's wife is too ambitious and uses witchcraft to learn of the future. She is found out and banished from England. Gloucester is then asked to give up title of Lord Protector, and then brought false charges against. While imprisoned he is murdered by arrangements by the Cardinal of Winchester and Duke of Suffolk. However, King Henry is convinced to banish Suffolk from the court and Winchester dies of guilt. Shortly after Gloucester's death, Jack Cade begins an anarchistic rebellion against Henry. London is put into havoc, but thanks to Lord Clifford, he is displaced out of power. However, Henry's victory is short-lived. No sooner is Cade killed, but the Duke of York claims the crown. Henry's forces are defeated at the battle of Saint Alban's. Henry's forces retreat to London.
King Henry VI: The weak and ineffective King of England. He was crowned at a very early age and has a Lord-Protector. He remains ruled by other nobles and does little to control his land, leading to rebellion against him.
Queen Margaret: The ambitious new-wife of King Henry VI. She despises King Henry's weakness and admires the Duke of Suffolk instead. She is most adamant against all in Henry's way.
Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester: The uncle and Lord-Protector to the King. He is noble, honest, but not effective. He is trounced by the nobles, who declare him a traitor. He is murdered in imprisonment.
Cardinal of Winchester: The great-uncle to the King and ambitious churchman. He tries to take Gloucester's place, but falls under guilt and dies.
Richard, Duke of York: The ambitious leader of the white-rose faction. He believes he is heir to the crown and at the end defeats Henry's forces at the Battle of Saint Alban's.
Edward & Richard: The sons to the Duke of York. They aid him in his victory at Saint Albans.
Duke of Somerset: The leader of the red-rose faction. He is strongly opposed to the Duke of York. He is loyal to King Henry, but is killed by Richard at the Battle of Saint Albans.
Duke of Suffolk: The Queen's favorite and another ambitious Lord. He arranges the murder of Gloucester, but is banished by King Henry VI. He dies by pirates, who capture him.
Duke of Buckingham: Another noble, loyal to King Henry VI.
Earls of Salisbury & Warwick: Father and son, who are allied with the Duke of York against the King. They rebel with him at the Battle of Saint Alban's.
Lord Clifford: A Lord at court, who is strongly loyal to King Henry. He is killed by the Duke of York at the Battle of Saint Alban's.
Young Clifford: Lord Clifford's young son. He swears revenge on York and his house for his father's death.
Jack Cade: The leader of a rebellion, which is destroyed. He dies at the hands of a poor esquire of Kent.
Eleanore, Duchess of Gloucester: The Duke of Gloucester's wife. She is ambitious and would take the crown from King Henry. She uses witchcraft and is found and banished.
- Great Books: Shakespeare, Vol. 1, Edited by William George Clarke and William Aldis Wright, Encyclopedia Britannica Inc., 1952, pp.33-68.
Open Source Shakespeare - Henry VI, Part 2