Henry VI, Part II

Type: 
History
First Performed: 
1590-91
First Printed: 
1594
"

I fear me, lords, for all this flattering gloss,
He will be found a dangerous protector.

"

An uneasy peace between England and France has disintegrated as the play opens, while the Earl of Suffolk has successfully gained influence over King Henry VI by manipulating his new bride, Queen Margaret. The Earl's heavy hand infuriates his noble peers, who unite to remove him from the court.

The Earl sets his sights on undermining the Earl of Gloucester, who has remained a loyal friend to the King. He preys on the ambitions of the Earl's wife Eleanor, the Duchess of Gloucester, whose own greed for the throne is used to trick her into consulting a witch, which is illegal and causes her to be banished from England. Gloucester himself is eventually arrested on fabricated charges of treason. Suffolk, Margaret, Winchester, and York conspire to see that Gloucester is murdered.

Suffolk then sends York away to Ireland to quell an uprising there. York incites Jack Cade, a clothier posing as Mortimer, to also rebel in Kent, causing additional chaos in the kingdom.

After Gloucester is murdered, the King turns on Suffolk, who has been carrying on an affair with Margaret and has enraged the populace. He is subsequently banished and murdered.

Although Cade is unsuccessful in his attempts to march against London, York returns to England with his own sons, Richard and George, to claim the throne. A battle breaks out between the King's supporters and York in the Battle of St. Albans. The King and Queen must flee London as the House of York pursues the throne.