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 Roses, capturing the 20 years or so after Henry V’s death and the establishment of the Duke of Gloucester (Lord Humphrey) as the Lord Protector of England, since Henry VI was only an infant at his father’s death. At the end of the play, Lord Suffolk in France has arranged for Margaret of Anjou to marry the now-grown King Henry VI.
Then, 2 Henry VI begins right where the first play left off, with Suffolk arriving in England to deliver Princess Margaret to the King. From the first scene, there is tension as the Lord Protector reads the treaty arrangement that gives Margaret (who is French) to England: two of the recently conquered territories in France have been returned to French rule as a result of the marriage arrangements.
2 Henry VI is about conflicting interests, about secrets among leaders, and especially about what it means to be a leader as chaos begins to erupt around King Henry’s throne. It’s obvious that King Henry VI depends on his Lord Protector (who is his uncle) and others to guide him as king. Although he is technically of age, he is a weak and inefficient leader, although he trusts all his close counselors. This blind trust leads to the beginning of his downfall as friends are executed and his supposed friends instigate uprisings against him. I have not yet read 3 Henry VI, but I can see where it will go.Continue Reading