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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  ·  2,071 ratings  ·  114 reviews
"I feel that I have spent half my career with one or another Pelican Shakespeare in my back pocket. Convenience, however, is the least important aspect of the new Pelican Shakespeare series. Here is an elegant and clear text for either the study or the rehearsal room, notes where you need them and the distinguished scholarship of the general editors, Stephen Orgel and A. R ...more
Paperback, Pelican Shakespeare, 192 pages
Published December 1st 2000 by Penguin Classics (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
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
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
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
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.
"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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Cindy Rollins
Henry VI, Part 2 begins the intrigue that ends Henry's reign. It is quite difficult to keep up with all the Lords who are constantly torn between Lancastrians and Yorkists. I am not fond of Shakespeare's handling of Richard of York but it is consistent throughout the plays.

The play is quite astute at pointing out the dangers of uneducated mob rule in the form of the man Cade who claims the throne and leads a short rebellion. The mob is greedy and ready to vote in all sorts of gifts and benefits
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
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
David Sarkies
Aug 10, 2012 David Sarkies rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: History Buffs and Shakespeare lovers
Shelves: historical
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 moseso, being a playwright, the difficulty is increased much more. In a way plays are not the easiest forms of literature to read namely because they are designed to be acted and not read (which is a shame because a lot of plays that I would like to see, which include ...more
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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Henry VI, part 2 isn't exactly one of Shakespeare's plays that makes me squeal with joy upon hearing it mentioned. Correction: I have never heard Henry VI, part 2 mentioned, so I'm not sure if I would squeal with joy or not if given the chance.

What I will say is that during the course of the, oh, five months it took me to read it (I get sidetracked a bit too easily - call it literary ADD), is that if I were a contemporary of Shakespeare's, I would have loved to read about or watch of play of my
2 Henry VI is too packed by far. It's dense with characters, plot, and little miniature sequences of events that could do well with the kind of expansion impossible to afford by the necessary condensation of years of history. There are good things here. I find Gloucester's rejection of his wife the Duchess Eleanor particularly poignant (after her cohorts literally conjure a spirit from the ground to take out the King). She wanders the streets in forced humiliation, and yet his words to her are g ...more
Nicholas Whyte[return][return]Where Part 1 is really the story of Talbot, Part 2 is much more about Richard, Duke of York as he rises to power. I actually felt it wasn't as successful as a play as Part 1, though the narrative is at least closed a bit more clearly; there are too many characters who are introduced just in order to be killed off for historical accuracy (Lord Say being the most heinous, but there are a lot of others too).[return][return]I've settled into a p ...more
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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
Romeo and Juliet Hamlet Macbeth A Midsummer Night's Dream Othello

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“The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers.” 763 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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