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

3.65  ·  Rating Details  ·  2,393 Ratings  ·  137 Reviews
This edition celebrates King Henry VI Part 2 as one of the most exciting and dynamic plays of the English renaissance theater, with its exploration of power politics and social revolution and its focus on the relationship between divine justice and sin. An extensive discussion of performance history traces the play's progress on stage from abridgement and adaptation to ful ...more
Paperback, 507 pages
Published December 9th 1999 by Bloomsbury Arden Shakespeare (first published 1623)
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Hamlet by William ShakespeareRomeo and Juliet by William ShakespeareMacbeth by William ShakespeareA Midsummer Night's Dream by William ShakespeareOthello by William Shakespeare
Best of William Shakespeare
28th out of 57 books — 1,000 voters
Romeo and Juliet by William ShakespeareA Midsummer Night's Dream by William ShakespeareThe Prince by Niccolò MachiavelliUtopia by Thomas MoreMuch Ado About Nothing by William Shakespeare
Best Books of the 16th Century
24th out of 78 books — 318 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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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 really liked it
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
Aug 08, 2015 João Fernandes rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: shakespeare, drama
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
Jun 19, 2009 Olivia rated it really liked it
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
Mar 13, 2013 Ben rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Aug 07, 2011 Trevor rated it it was amazing
Shelves: language
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
Ahmad Sharabiani
King Henry VI, Part 2 (Wars of the Roses #6), William Shakespeare
Jan 10, 2016 Monique rated it liked it
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).
Feb 04, 2015 Emily rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015, shakespeare
"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
May 22, 2010 Bruce rated it it was amazing
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
Feb 10, 2016 Perry Whitford rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
'Ah, gracious lord, these days are dangerous.
Virtue is chok'd with foul ambition'

Duke of Gloucester, Act III, Scene 1

Poor 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 im
Aug 29, 2014 Matthew rated it liked it
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
Jun 26, 2012 Jack rated it liked it
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
Dec 31, 2014 Jim rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: plays, shakespeare
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
Oct 24, 2014 Jimyanni rated it liked it
Shelves: literature
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
Apr 18, 2014 James rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Aug 03, 2015 Jeff rated it really liked it
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
Hope N
Jan 21, 2016 Hope N rated it really liked it
Second play of the trilogy (tetralogy if you count Richard III, who makes his first appearance in Henry VI Part II). King Henry is a bit older but no less passive, no more effective in dealing out justice or rooting out treachery than in Part I. He is betrayed by Suffolk (Queen Margaret's lover) who murders his only loyal adviser, by the Bishop of Windsor Suffolk's accomplice, by the commons who follow Cade into rebellion, and then by Richard Plantagenet Duke of York who believes himself to be t ...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
Jun 03, 2015 Kailey rated it it was ok
Shelves: weighty-classics
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
Mark Valentine
Jan 29, 2016 Mark Valentine rated it really liked it
Read Henry VI, part 2: I hold with those who say that Shakespeare shared the playwright pen in Part 1 with another; here in Part 2, it has all the signature style of the bard: Asides, dissembling and duplicity, factions, blank verse v. prose (Jack Cade in prose v. everyone else), sword fights and swagger, and of course, quotable lines, "The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers" (IV, 2, 74). If follows history just enough to keep the censors happy and please Elizabeth I while dramatizing ...more
Ash Ryan
Aug 18, 2015 Ash Ryan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Dec 27, 2011 Phil rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Nov 12, 2011 Abe Goolsby rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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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.” 804 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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