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

3.65 of 5 stars 3.65  ·  rating details  ·  2,278 ratings  ·  126 reviews
Each edition includes:
Freshly edited text based on the best early printed version of the play Full explanatory notes conveniently placed on pages facing the text of the play Scene-by-scene plot summaries A key to famous lines and phrases An introduction to reading Shakespeare's language An essay by an outstanding scholar providing a modern perspective on the play Illustra
Paperback, 384 pages
Published September 30th 2008 by Simon & Schuster (first published 1623)
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Bill  Kerwin

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
David Sarkies
Jul 03, 2015 David Sarkies rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: History Buffs and Shakespeare lovers
Recommended to David by: I've always wanted to read this
Shelves: historical
The civil war begins
10 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 Shake
João Fernandes
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 E
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 i ...more
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 surroun
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 ...more
"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 th ...more
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
Perry Whitford
The second part of Henry VI starts exactly where the first part ended, with the King at war on three fronts. Rumour, in the guise of a porter, introduces us to the confusion abroad in England at that time:

'Rumour is a pipe
Blown by surmises, jealousies, conjectures;
And of so easy and so plain a stop,
That the blunt monster with uncounted heads,
The still-discordant wavering multitude,
Can play upon it.'

Ill rumour wafted from the fog of war can be fatal to a monarch, but it can serve them well too.
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 en
Yes, there are way too many Dukes in this play, and they are not sufficiently differentiated. Reading this, you get the feeling it's like one of those old "Masterpiece Theatre" miniseries, and you really wish that Alistair Cooke were around to give you some tidy and well-spoken background info. Not to mention the fact that the central character Henry VI probably should never have been king in the first place. Given Queen Elizabeth's political sensitivity in the 1590s, Shakespeare had to be caref ...more
I remember this play the least clearly of the "Henry VI" trilogy. It is less memorably tedious than "1 Henry VI," but not as strong as "3 Henry VI," and survives in the memory mostly for its wealth of idiosyncrasies, which are plausibly the result of either Shakespeare's inexperience or his early experimentalism. Like the other "Henry VI" plays (but more so), this reads best as dark comedy. King Henry VI himself, barely present in the preceding play, is the eye of the storm in this one, a ludicr ...more
Ammar Malas
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 ...more
Shakespeare's English history plays portray kings who are heroic, as in Henry V, or weak, as in the Henry VI trilogy or Richard II or just plain bad, as in Richard III. Henry VI, Part 2 is a continuation of the sad reign of the Lancastrian king, who attained the throne at the age of 9 months with the Duke of Gloucester, his uncle, as Lord Protector.

In the beginning, we see Henry's betrothal to Margaret of Anjou. Instead of receiving a dowry, he gives the King of France Maine and Anjou and pays
Interesting Shakespearean psuedo-history.

This is hardly one of Shakespeare's better-known plays, and I can't say that it is under-rated as such; there's a reason that this one doesn't get the attention that Hamlet, or King Lear, or Julius Caesar, or any of the plays that you're likely to have seen or read get. Other than "The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers", there aren't many memorable lines to be found here, and the history is just as dubiously historical as in most of Shakespear
GLOUCESTER: Ah! thus King Henry throws away
his crutch,
Before his legs be firm to bear his body.
Thus is the shepherd beaten from thy side,
And wolves are gnarling who shall gnaw thee
Ah, that my fear were false! ah, that it were!
For, good King Henry, thy decay I fear.
-Act III Scene I

Well, one thing is for sure: King Henry VI, Part 2 is marginally better than its predecessor, mainly because it is slightly more entertaining. The drawback, of course, is that there's no Joan of Arc this time. S
The saga of (sadly, since he's too young) inept Henry continues as more people start to lay claim to the throne, as Henry thinks everyone is still working for and with him, not against and to kill him. In many ways it's amazing that he isn't killed off sooner, like some of his colleagues and uncles. The plots to take the throne are much more fascinating than in the first play, coming from his Queen (who he finally sets eyes on), from Richard, Duke of York, and from most amusingly Jack Cade, a co ...more
I know I said that, if I applied the criteria of my nine-year-old self, Henry VI, Part One was the best Shakespeare Play Ever, but that was before I read Part Two. This is the Road Warrior to Part One's Mad Max, the sequel that blows an awesome original right out of the water. While there are only two sword fights and one battle, the onstage appearance of FOUR SEVERED HEADS sends Henry VI, Part Two right off the scale on the middle-school cool meter. From an ever-so-slightly more adult perspecti ...more
I know that these early history plays don't get a lot if critical love (well-deservedly so), but there is no denying the absolutely gonzo energy of this play--it's hard, after all, not to love a scene where a character holds up two severed heads and makes it look like they are kissing (there is a definite arms(!) race here between this play and Titus Andronicus in terms of lopped body parts). Maybe what's most fun, though, is that this play is a catalogue of so many themes and motifs that Shakes ...more
Jenny Maloney
The Henry plays -- and a great deal of Shakespeare's history plays -- were written prior to 1594. These are Shakespeare's early attempts and a lot of critics have pointed out: it shows.

Henry VI, Pt 2, is definitely rough. There are a crap-ton of characters, some of whom only show up once for a couple lines and then disappear. In a production of these plays, a lot of these roles would be doubled-up. The result is a somewhat chaotic read, though I bet it's much easier to follow on stage.

All I re
Not my favorite play by any stretch of the imagination. I got so bored with all the politics, and had difficulty remembering who was loyal to the king and who was plotting with whom. Still there are several good scenes, and some interesting characters that kept me entertained.

Henry is a good guy, but a lazy king. He abandons the court gatherings to indulge his own feelings of grief, leaving a bunch of people to conveniently conspire against him and murder his friends. Seriously, if he had just b
Jackson Cyril
Well Shakespeare does it again. While Part 1 was rather rather dull in terms of action sequences, (with the exception of Talbot, no one important dies. And he does a terrible job with Joan of Arc as a character), Part 2 delivers all the punch lacking in the first. We begin to see the Wars of the Roses truly begin to take shape and Shakespeare does an admirable job showing the chaos that engulfed the country. All hell breaks loose in court as well, as noblemen are killed almost at will. Jack Cade ...more
Ash Ryan
Shakespeare's histories are best read back to back in sequence, which gives a broader context and more of a historical sense. It can be a bit confusing to just take in one at random, more or less like dropping in on the middle of a story.[return][return]That is particularly true here, in the second part (of three) about the reign of Henry VI. There is a lot going on in this play, and some of the acts seem to be there mainly to move us along in the historical narrative as efficiently as possible. ...more
I love the Henry VI plays - I know that's not a popular stance to take, but I think it's partly their unfamiliarity that's so refreshing. I saw the William Boyd sequence at the RSC in 2007/2008 (all the histories in chronological order from Richard II, through the three Henrys to Richard III, in rep with actors playing the same parts in consecutive plays - and the same actor playing Richards II and III, which was effective) and the Henry VI plays, along with Richard II, were my favourites.

Abe Goolsby
The intrigue, drama, and humor-tinged tragedy continue in Part Two of Shakespeare's treatment of one of the most tumultuous (and interesting - for those who have the luxury of anything less that a first hand experience with such subjects) periods of English history.

The more things change, the more they stay the same. There is nothing new under the sun. To highlight what I found one of the most memorable episodes (probably due to current events at the time of this reading/listening) it is impossi
Michelle Prendergast
A slight improvement from Part 1, but there is still no protagonist, making the play driven primarily by greed, power lust, etc that are portrayed w/out the Shakespearean opaqueness that I've grown accustomed to. At first I thought Gloucester was becoming something of a heroic character, but he was dispatched quickly and with little fanfare; it was interesting that Gloucester's wife -- the Duchess -- seems to be something of a prototype for Lady Macbeth. Jack Cade's character demonstrates the ty ...more
What an amazing play! Simply incredible! I felt anxious and stressed throughout the entire thing, even though I was well aware of what the outcome would be—thank you, English degree. The drama that plays out is so world shaking, and the historical implications are intense and devastating. And to think that the events in the play—the prelude to the War of the Roses—were still relatively fresh in the consciousness of the country when the play was written. I have to imagine that the significance of ...more
An absolutely wonderful edition of this play, acknowledging it both a single entity and part of a much larger sequence. The informative introduction discusses critical and theatrical approaches to the work over the centuries, and the notes are second-to-none.

My only issue with the Arden series is in the advertising. Their website and promotional materials suggest these are the best Shakespeare editions for students, including highschool and undergraduate. I'm just not sure I agree. For instance
Rebecca Reid
Coming off the heels of 1 Henry VI, the next play, 2 Henry VI, struck me as wonderfully written. I hadn’t found much to stand out in 1 Henry VI. But from the beginning, the analogies, the rhythm of the poetry, and the play on words impressed me in the second play. As the action progressed, I could picture the actors and their reactions. I really enjoyed 2 Henry VI, and in fact I read it twice this month just so I’d feel I understood it fully.

1 Henry VI provided the backdrop for the War of the Ro
Mark Ganek
One of Shakespeare's earliest plays, if not his first. There are flashes of brilliance, as well as early versions of themes and characters that he would later revisit. The Duchess of Gloucester is a proto-Lady Macbeth, ("Put forth thy hand, reach at the glorious gold. / What, is’t too short? I’ll lengthen it with mine.") and Cade's peasant rebellion is nearly a play within a play, in that it comments on and satirizes the main action.

But Shakespeare doesn't seem to trust his audience yet, which l
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William Shakespeare (baptised 26 April 1564) was an English poet and playwright, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world's pre-eminent dramatist. He is often called England's national poet and the "Bard of Avon" (or simply "The Bard"). His surviving works consist of 38 plays, 154 sonnets, two long narrative poems, and several other poems. His plays have been tr ...more
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Other Books in the Series

Wars of the Roses (8 books)
  • Richard II
  • King Henry IV, Part 1 (Wars of the Roses, #2)
  • Henry IV, Part 2 (Wars of the Roses, #3)
  • Henry V
  • Henry VI, Part 1
  • King Henry VI, Part 3
  • Richard III

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“The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers.” 798 likes
“For where thou art, there is the world itself,
With every several pleasure in the world,
And where thou art not, desolation.”
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