Henry VI, part 2

Henry VI, part 2

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Henry VI, Part 2 or The Second Part of Henry the Sixt (often written as 2 Henry VI) is a history play
Shakespearean history
In the First Folio, the plays of William Shakespeare were grouped into three categories: comedies, histories, and tragedies. This categorisation has become established, although some critics have argued for other categories such as romances and problem plays. The histories were those plays based on...

 by William Shakespeare
William Shakespeare
William Shakespeare 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"...

 believed to have been written in 1591, and set during the lifetime of King Henry VI of England
Henry VI of England
Henry VI was King of England from 1422 to 1461 and again from 1470 to 1471, and disputed King of France from 1422 to 1453. Until 1437, his realm was governed by regents. Contemporaneous accounts described him as peaceful and pious, not suited for the violent dynastic civil wars, known as the Wars...

. Whereas 1 Henry VI
Henry VI, part 1
Henry VI, Part 1 or The First Part of Henry the Sixt is a history play by William Shakespeare, and possibly Thomas Nashe, believed to have been written in 1591, and set during the lifetime of King Henry VI of England...

deals primarily with the loss of England's French territories and the political machinations leading up to the Wars of the Roses
Wars of the Roses
The Wars of the Roses were a series of dynastic civil wars for the throne of England fought between supporters of two rival branches of the royal House of Plantagenet: the houses of Lancaster and York...

, and 3 Henry VI
Henry VI, part 3
Henry VI, Part 3 or The Third Part of Henry the Sixt is a history play by William Shakespeare believed to have been written in 1591, and set during the lifetime of King Henry VI of England...

deals with the horrors of that conflict, 2 Henry VI focuses on the King's inability to quell the bickering of his nobles, the death of his trusted adviser Duke Humphrey of Gloucester, the rise of the Duke of York and the inevitability of armed conflict. As such, the play culminates with the opening battle of the War, the First Battle of St Albans
First Battle of St Albans
The First Battle of St Albans, fought on 22 May 1455 at St Albans, 22 miles north of London, traditionally marks the beginning of the Wars of the Roses. Richard, Duke of York and his ally, Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick, defeated the Lancastrians under Edmund, Duke of Somerset, who was killed...


Although the Henry VI trilogy may not have been written in chronological order, the three plays are often grouped together with Richard III
Richard III (play)
Richard III is a history play by William Shakespeare, believed to have been written in approximately 1591. It depicts the Machiavellian rise to power and subsequent short reign of Richard III of England. The play is grouped among the histories in the First Folio and is most often classified...

 to form a tetralogy covering the entire Wars of the Roses saga, from the death of Henry V
Henry V of England
Henry V was King of England from 1413 until his death at the age of 35 in 1422. He was the second monarch belonging to the House of Lancaster....

 in 1422 to the rise to power of Henry VII
Henry VII of England
Henry VII was King of England and Lord of Ireland from his seizing the crown on 22 August 1485 until his death on 21 April 1509, as the first monarch of the House of Tudor....

 in 1485. It was the success of this sequence of plays which firmly established Shakespeare's reputation as a playwright.

Henry VI, Part 2 has the largest cast of all Shakespeare's plays
Shakespeare's plays
William Shakespeare's plays have the reputation of being among the greatest in the English language and in Western literature. Traditionally, the 37 plays are divided into the genres of tragedy, history, and comedy; they have been translated into every major living language, in addition to being...

, and is seen by many critics as the best of the Henry VI trilogy.


Of the King's Party
  • King Henry VI – King of England
  • Queen Margaret
    Margaret of Anjou
    Margaret of Anjou was the wife of King Henry VI of England. As such, she was Queen consort of England from 1445 to 1461 and again from 1470 to 1471; and Queen consort of France from 1445 to 1453...

    – Queen to Henry VI
  • Duke Humphrey of Gloucester – Henry VI's uncle and Lord Protector
    Lord Protector
    Lord Protector is a title used in British constitutional law for certain heads of state at different periods of history. It is also a particular title for the British Heads of State in respect to the established church...

     of England
  • Duchess Eleanor of Gloucester – Gloucester's wife
  • Henry Beaufort, Cardinal of Winchester – Henry VI's great-uncle
  • William de la Pole, Marquis of Suffolk
    William de la Pole, 1st Duke of Suffolk
    William de la Pole, 1st Duke of Suffolk, KG , nicknamed Jack Napes , was an important English soldier and commander in the Hundred Years' War, and later Lord Chamberlain of England.He also appears prominently in William Shakespeare's Henry VI, part 1 and Henry VI, part 2 and other...

    – later Duke of Suffolk; lover of Queen Margaret
  • Duke of Buckingham
    Humphrey Stafford, 1st Duke of Buckingham
    Humphrey Stafford, 1st Duke of Buckingham KG , an English nobleman, great grandson of King Edward III on his mother's side, was best known as a military commander in the Hundred Years' War and in the Wars of the Roses....

  • Duke of Somerset (a conflation of John Beaufort, 1st Duke of Somerset
    John Beaufort, 1st Duke of Somerset
    John Beaufort, 1st Duke of Somerset, KG was an English noble and military commander.-Family:Baptised on 25 March 1404, he was the second son of John Beaufort, 1st Earl of Somerset and Margaret Holland, and succeeded his elder brother Henry Beaufort, 2nd Earl of Somerset to become the 3rd Earl of...

    , who was regent
    A regent, from the Latin regens "one who reigns", is a person selected to act as head of state because the ruler is a minor, not present, or debilitated. Currently there are only two ruling Regencies in the world, sovereign Liechtenstein and the Malaysian constitutive state of Terengganu...

     of France and his younger brother Edmund Beaufort, 2nd Duke of Somerset
    Edmund Beaufort, 2nd Duke of Somerset
    Edmund Beaufort, 2nd Duke of Somerset, KG , sometimes styled 1st Duke of Somerset, was an English nobleman and an important figure in the Wars of the Roses and in the Hundred Years' War...

    , who was killed at the First Battle of St Albans)
  • Lord Clifford – military commander
  • Young Clifford
    John Clifford, 9th Baron de Clifford
    John Clifford, 9th Baron de Clifford, also 9th Lord of Skipton was a Lancastrian military leader during the Wars of the Roses...

    – Lord Clifford's son

Of the Duke of York's Party
  • Richard Plantagenet, 3rd Duke of York – asserts he should be king
  • Edward, Earl of March
    Edward IV of England
    Edward IV was King of England from 4 March 1461 until 3 October 1470, and again from 11 April 1471 until his death. He was the first Yorkist King of England...

    – Richard's son
  • Richard Plantagenet
    Richard III of England
    Richard III was King of England for two years, from 1483 until his death in 1485 during the Battle of Bosworth Field. He was the last king of the House of York and the last of the Plantagenet dynasty...

    – also son to Richard
  • Earl of Salisbury
    Richard Neville, 5th Earl of Salisbury
    Richard Neville, jure uxoris 5th Earl of Salisbury and 7th and 4th Baron Montacute, KG, PC was a Yorkist leader during the early parts of the Wars of the Roses.-Background:...

  • Earl of Warwick
    Richard Neville, 16th Earl of Warwick
    Richard Neville KG, jure uxoris 16th Earl of Warwick and suo jure 6th Earl of Salisbury and 8th and 5th Baron Montacute , known as Warwick the Kingmaker, was an English nobleman, administrator, and military commander...

    – Salisbury's son

The Petitions and the Combat
  • Thomas Horner – armourer
  • Peter Thump – his apprentice
  • Petitioners, Prentices

The Conjuration
  • John Hum – priest
  • John Southwell – priest
  • Margery Jourdayne – witch
  • Roger Bolingbrook – conjurer
  • Asmath – a spirit

The False Miracle
  • Sander Simpcox – impostor
  • Simpcox's wife

  • Mayor of St Albans
    St Albans
    St Albans is a city in southern Hertfordshire, England, around north of central London, which forms the main urban area of the City and District of St Albans. It is a historic market town, and is now a sought-after dormitory town within the London commuter belt...

  • Alderman
    An alderman is a member of a municipal assembly or council in many jurisdictions founded upon English law. The term may be titular, denoting a high-ranking member of a borough or county council, a council member chosen by the elected members themselves rather than by popular vote, or a council...

     of St Albans
  • A beadle
    Beadle, sometimes spelled "bedel," is a lay official of a church or synagogue who may usher, keep order, make reports, and assist in religious functions; or a minor official who carries out various civil, educational, or ceremonial duties....

     of St Albans

Eleanor's Penance
  • Sheriff of London
    Sheriffs of the City of London
    There are two Sheriffs of the City of London. The sheriffs are elected annually by the Liverymen of the Livery Companies, and it is a requirement for a Lord Mayor of the City of London to previously have served as a Sheriff. Sheriffs have only nominal duties now, but previously had large judicial...

  • Sir John StanleyGovernor of the Isle of Man
    Governor of the Isle of Man
    The following were Governors of the Isle of Man:*Sir Thomas Gerrard *Peter Legh *John Ireland*John Greenhalgh *William Christian *Isaac Barrow *Nicholas Stanley *Charles Zedenno Stanley...

     (actually Sir Thomas Stanley)
  • Herald

Murder of Gloucester
  • Two Murderers

Murder of Suffolk
  • Lieutenant – commander of a ship
  • Master of the Ship
  • Master's Mate
    Chief Mate
    A Chief Mate or Chief Officer, usually also synonymous with the First Mate or First Officer , is a licensed member and head of the deck department of a merchant ship...

  • Walter Whitmore – sailor on ship
  • Two Gentlemen – prisoners with Suffolk

The Cade Rebellion
  • Jack Cade
    Jack Cade
    Jack Cade was the leader of a popular revolt in the 1450 Kent rebellion during the reign of King Henry VI in England. He died on the 12th July 1450 near Lewes. In response to grievances, Cade led an army of as many as 5,000 against London, causing the King to flee to Warwickshire. After taking and...

    – rebel leader
  • Dick the Butcher – rebel
  • Smith the Weaver
    Weaving is a method of fabric production in which two distinct sets of yarns or threads are interlaced at right angles to form a fabric or cloth. The other methods are knitting, lace making and felting. The longitudinal threads are called the warp and the lateral threads are the weft or filling...

    – rebel
  • Sawyer – rebel
  • John – rebel
  • EmmanuelClerk
    Clerk (municipal official)
    A clerk is a senior official of many municipal governments in the English-speaking world. In some communities, the position is elected, but in many others, the clerk is appointed to their post...

     of Chatham
  • Sir Humphrey Stafford – military commander
  • William Stafford – Sir Humphrey's brother
  • Lord Saye
    James Fiennes, 1st Baron Saye and Sele
    James Fiennes, 1st Baron Saye and Sele was an English soldier and politician, son of Sir William Fiennes and wife Elizabeth Batisford ....

  • Lord Scales
  • Matthew Goffe – King's soldier
  • Alexander Iden – Kentish Gentleman

  • Vaux – messenger
  • Messengers, soldiers, attendants, guards, servants, drummers, commons, rebels etc.


The play begins with the marriage of King Henry VI of England to the young Margaret of Anjou
Anjou is a former county , duchy and province centred on the city of Angers in the lower Loire Valley of western France. It corresponds largely to the present-day département of Maine-et-Loire...

. Margaret is the protégée (and possibly lover) of William de la Pole, 4th Earl of Suffolk
Suffolk is a non-metropolitan county of historic origin in East Anglia, England. It has borders with Norfolk to the north, Cambridgeshire to the west and Essex to the south. The North Sea lies to the east...

, who aims to influence the king through her. The major obstacle to Suffolk and Margaret's plan is the Protector of the crown
Crown (headgear)
A crown is the traditional symbolic form of headgear worn by a monarch or by a deity, for whom the crown traditionally represents power, legitimacy, immortality, righteousness, victory, triumph, resurrection, honour and glory of life after death. In art, the crown may be shown being offered to...

, Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester
Gloucester is a city, district and county town of Gloucestershire in the South West region of England. Gloucester lies close to the Welsh border, and on the River Severn, approximately north-east of Bristol, and south-southwest of Birmingham....

, who is immensely popular with the common people and deeply trusted by the King. Gloucester's position however is undermined by the fact that his own wife also has designs on the throne
A throne is the official chair or seat upon which a monarch is seated on state or ceremonial occasions. "Throne" in an abstract sense can also refer to the monarchy or the Crown itself, an instance of metonymy, and is also used in many expressions such as "the power behind the...

, and as such, she has been duped by an agent of Suffolk into dabbling in necromancy
Necromancy is a claimed form of magic that involves communication with the deceased, either by summoning their spirit in the form of an apparition or raising them bodily, for the purpose of divination, imparting the ability to foretell future events or discover hidden knowledge...

. She summons a spirit and demands it reveal the future to her, but its prophecies are vague and before the ritual is finished, she is interrupted and arrested. At court she is then banished, greatly to the embarrassment of Gloucester. This done, Suffolk then allies himself with Cardinal Beaufort of Winchester
Winchester is a historic cathedral city and former capital city of England. It is the county town of Hampshire, in South East England. The city lies at the heart of the wider City of Winchester, a local government district, and is located at the western end of the South Downs, along the course of...

 and the Duke of Somerset
The ceremonial and non-metropolitan county of Somerset in South West England borders Bristol and Gloucestershire to the north, Wiltshire to the east, Dorset to the south-east, and Devon to the south-west. It is partly bounded to the north and west by the Bristol Channel and the estuary of the...

 in determining to bring about Gloucester's ruin. Suffolk accuses Gloucester of treason and has him imprisoned, but before Gloucester can be tried, Suffolk sends two assassins to kill him. Meanwhile, as this struggle plays itself out, Richard, 3rd Duke of York
York is a walled city, situated at the confluence of the Rivers Ouse and Foss in North Yorkshire, England. The city has a rich heritage and has provided the backdrop to major political events throughout much of its two millennia of existence...

, reveals his claim to the throne (he is descended from Edward III
Edward III of England
Edward III was King of England from 1327 until his death and is noted for his military success. Restoring royal authority after the disastrous reign of his father, Edward II, Edward III went on to transform the Kingdom of England into one of the most formidable military powers in Europe...

's third son, whereas Henry is descended from the fourth son) to the Earls of Salisbury
Salisbury is a cathedral city in Wiltshire, England and the only city in the county. It is the second largest settlement in the county...

 and Warwick
Warwick is the county town of Warwickshire, England. The town lies upon the River Avon, south of Coventry and just west of Leamington Spa and Whitnash with which it is conjoined. As of the 2001 United Kingdom census, it had a population of 23,350...

, who pledge to support him.

The Earl of Suffolk is subsequently banished for his role in Gloucester's death, whilst Winchester contracts a fever and dies cursing God. Margaret is horrified at Suffolk's banishment, and vows to see to it that he can soon return, but he is killed by pirates
Piracy is an act of robbery or criminal violence at sea. The term can include acts committed on land, in the air, or in other major bodies of water or on a shore. It does not normally include crimes committed against persons traveling on the same vessel as the perpetrator...

 shortly after departing England, and his head sent back to the distraught Margaret. Meanwhile, York has been appointed as commander of an army to suppress a revolt in Ireland. Prior to leaving, York enlists a former officer of his, Jack Cade, to stage a popular rebellion so as to ascertain if the common people would support York himself should he make an open move for power. With York in Ireland and thus free from accusations of being involved in the uprising, Cade goes about his task. At first, the rebellion is successful, and he sets himself up as Mayor of London
Mayor of London
The Mayor of London is an elected politician who, along with the London Assembly of 25 members, is accountable for the strategic government of Greater London. Conservative Boris Johnson has held the position since 4 May 2008...

, but his rebellion is put down when Lord Clifford (a supporter of Henry) persuades the common people who make up Cade's army, to abandon the cause. Cade himself is subsequently killed several days later by a man into whose garden he climbs looking for food.

Meanwhile, York returns to England with his army, claiming that his intent is to protect the King from the duplicitous Somerset. When the King refuses to accept this, York openly states his claim to the throne, supported by his sons, Edward (the future King Edward IV) and Richard (the future King Richard III). The English nobility now take sides, some supporting the House of York
House of York
The House of York was a branch of the English royal House of Plantagenet, three members of which became English kings in the late 15th century. The House of York was descended in the paternal line from Edmund of Langley, 1st Duke of York, the fourth surviving son of Edward III, but also represented...

, others supporting Henry and the House of Lancaster
House of Lancaster
The House of Lancaster was a branch of the royal House of Plantagenet. It was one of the opposing factions involved in the Wars of the Roses, an intermittent civil war which affected England and Wales during the 15th century...

. A battle is fought at St Albans
St Albans
St Albans is a city in southern Hertfordshire, England, around north of central London, which forms the main urban area of the City and District of St Albans. It is a historic market town, and is now a sought-after dormitory town within the London commuter belt...

 which sees the Duke of Somerset killed by Richard, and Lord Clifford by York. With the conflict lost, Margaret persuades the distraught King to flee the battlefield and head to London. She is joined in her efforts by Young Clifford, who has vowed revenge on the Yorkists for the death of his father. The play ends with the Yorkists setting out in pursuit of Henry, Margaret and Clifford.


Shakespeare's primary source for 2 Henry VI was Edward Hall
Edward Hall
Edward Hall , English chronicler and lawyer, was born about the end of the 15th century, being a son of John Hall of Northall, Shropshire....

's The Union of the Two Noble and Illustre Families of Lancaster and York (1548). Also, as with most of Shakespeare's chronicle histories, Raphael Holinshed
Raphael Holinshed
Raphael Holinshed was an English chronicler, whose work, commonly known as Holinshed's Chronicles, was one of the major sources used by William Shakespeare for a number of his plays....

's Chronicles of England, Scotland and Ireland (1577; 2nd edition 1587) was also consulted. Holinshed based much of his Wars of the Roses information in the Chronicles on Hall's information in Union of the Two Noble and Illustre Families, even to the point of reproducing large portions of it verbatim. However, there are enough differences between Hall and Holinshed to establish that Shakespeare must have consulted both of them.

For example, in his 2003 edition of 2 Henry VI for The Oxford Shakespeare
The Oxford Shakespeare
The Oxford Shakespeare is a common term for the range of editions of William Shakespeare's works produced by Oxford University Press. The Oxford Shakespeare is produced under the general editorship of Stanley Wells and Gary Taylor.-The Complete Works:...

, Roger Warren argues that the marked contrast between Henry and Margaret, so much a recurring theme in the play, comes directly from Hall, who presents Henry as a gentle, almost saint
A saint is a holy person. In various religions, saints are people who are believed to have exceptional holiness.In Christian usage, "saint" refers to any believer who is "in Christ", and in whom Christ dwells, whether in heaven or in earth...

-like, victim of circumstances, and Margaret as a highly intelligent manipulator and egotist. Shakespeare must also have used Hall to establish York's claim to the throne (outlined in 2.2), as in the corresponding section in Holinshed, there is a mistake in the genealogy which adds an extra generation to York's lineage. On the other hand however, the meeting between Buckingham and York prior to the Battle of St Albans (dramatised in 5.1) is found only in Holinshed. Additionally, only Holinshed contains information about the Peasants' Revolt
Peasants' Revolt
The Peasants' Revolt, Wat Tyler's Rebellion, or the Great Rising of 1381 was one of a number of popular revolts in late medieval Europe and is a major event in the history of England. Tyler's Rebellion was not only the most extreme and widespread insurrection in English history but also the...

 of 1381 which Shakespeare used as his basis for the scenes of Cade's rebellion throughout Act 4 (for example, details such as having people killed because they could read, and promises of setting up a state with no money come directly from Holinshed). Jack Cade is based on the leader of the revolt, Wat Tyler
Wat Tyler
Walter "Wat" Tyler was a leader of the English Peasants' Revolt of 1381.-Early life:Knowledge of Tyler's early life is very limited, and derives mostly through the records of his enemies. Historians believe he was born in Essex, but are not sure why he crossed the Thames Estuary to Kent...

, whose depiction in Thomas Walsingham
Thomas Walsingham
- Life :He was probably educated at St Albans Abbey at St Albans, Hertfordshire, and at Oxford.He became a monk at St Albans, where he appears to have passed the whole of his monastic life, excepting a period from 1394 to 1396 during which he was prior of Wymondham Abbey, Norfolk, England, another...

's Chronicon Angliae formed the basis of Holinshed's material.

Another piece of information represented differently in Hall and Holinshed is Henry's reaction to the Cade rebellion. In Hall, Henry pardons everyone who surrenders and lets them all return home unpunished, and this is how Shakespeare presents it in the play. In Holinshed however, Henry arranges a court
A court is a form of tribunal, often a governmental institution, with the authority to adjudicate legal disputes between parties and carry out the administration of justice in civil, criminal, and administrative matters in accordance with the rule of law...

 and has several of the leaders executed (as he did in reality). Another historical parallel found in Holinshed is that Henry is presented as unstable, constantly on the brink of madness
Insanity, craziness or madness is a spectrum of behaviors characterized by certain abnormal mental or behavioral patterns. Insanity may manifest as violations of societal norms, including becoming a danger to themselves and others, though not all such acts are considered insanity...

, something which is not in Hall, who presents a gentle but ineffective King (again, Shakespeare follows Hall here).

Shakespeare's largest departure from Hall and Holinshed is in his conflation of the Cade rebellion, York's return from Ireland and the Battle of St Albans into one continuous sequence. Both Hall and Holinshed present these events as covering a four year period (as they did in reality), but in the play they are presented as one leading directly, and immediately, to the other. Shakespeare also altered the timeline in relation to the conflict between Margaret and Eleanor. In reality, they never met, as Eleanor was banished for practising witchcraft
Witchcraft, in historical, anthropological, religious, and mythological contexts, is the alleged use of supernatural or magical powers. A witch is a practitioner of witchcraft...

 four years prior to Margaret's arrival, yet in the play they are political and personal rivals.

Another source for Shakespeare was Richard Grafton
Richard Grafton
Richard Grafton , was King's Printer under Henry VIII and Edward VI. He was a member of the Grocers' Company and MP for Coventry elected 1562-63.-Under Henry VIII:...

's A Chronicle at Large (1569). Like Holinshed, Grafton reproduces large passages of unedited material from Hall, but some sections are exclusive to Grafton, showing Shakespeare must also have consulted him. The false miracle for example (dramatised in 2.1) is found only in Grafton, not in Hall or Holinshed (although a similar scene is also outlined in John Foxe
John Foxe
John Foxe was an English historian and martyrologist, the author of what is popularly known as Foxe's Book of Martyrs, , an account of Christian martyrs throughout Western history but emphasizing the sufferings of English Protestants and proto-Protestants from the fourteenth century through the...

's Acts and Monuments, Book of Martyrs
Foxe's Book of Martyrs
The Book of Martyrs, by John Foxe, more accurately Acts and Monuments, is an account from a Protestant point of view of Christian church history and martyrology...

(1563), with which Shakespeare may have been familiar).

Another minor source may have been William Baldwin
William Baldwin (author)
-Life:From the West Country, England, Baldwin studied logic and philosophy at Oxford. On leaving Oxford, he became a corrector of the press to the printer Edward Whitchurch. During the reigns of Edward VI and Queen Mary, it appears that Baldwin was employed in preparing theatrical exhibitions for...

's Mirror for Magistrates
Mirror for Magistrates
Mirror for Magistrates is a collection of English poems from the Tudor period by various authors which retell the lives and the tragic ends of various historical figures.-Background:...

(1559; 2nd edition, 1578), a series of poems spoken by deceased, controversial historical figures, who have come forward to speak of their life and death, and to warn contemporary society not to make the same mistakes as they did. One such figure is Margaret of Anjou, and Roger Warren argues that Shakespeare may have taken the inspiration for Margaret's sorrowful departure from Suffolk (which is found nowhere in Hall, Holinshed or Grafton) from this poem. Another minor source could have been Robert Fabyan
Robert Fabyan
Robert Fabyan , chronicler, was born in London, of which hebecame an Alderman and Sheriff. He kept a diary of notable events, whichhe expanded into a chronicle, which he entitled, The Concordance of Histories. It covers the period from the arrival of Brutus in England tothe death of King Henry VII...

's New Chronicles of England and France (1516). This is possible insofar as in Fabyan, the Cade rebellion, York's return from Ireland and the Battle of St Alban's are depicted very much as they are in the play; they form one contiguous sequence.

Date and text

2 Henry VI must have been written by early 1594 as on 12 March 1594, a quarto
Quarto could refer to:* Quarto, a size or format of a book in which four leaves of a book are created from a standard size sheet of paper* For specific information about quarto texts of William Shakespeare's works, see:...

 version of the play was entered into the Stationers' Register
Stationers' Register
The Stationers' Register was a record book maintained by the Stationers' Company of London. The company is a trade guild given a royal charter in 1557 to regulate the various professions associated with the publishing industry, including printers, bookbinders, booksellers, and publishers in England...

 by the bookseller Thomas Millington
Thomas Millington
Thomas Millington was a London publisher of the Elizabethan era, who published first editions of three Shakespearean plays...

, and printed by Thomas Creede
Thomas Creede
Thomas Creede was a printer of the Elizabethan and Jacobean eras, rated as "one of the best of his time." Based in London, he conducted his business under the sign of the Catherine Wheel in Thames Street from 1593 to 1600, and under the sign of the Eagle and Child in the Old Exchange from 1600 to...

 later that year, under the title The First part of the Contention betwixt the two famous Houses of Yorke and Lancaster, with the death of the good Duke Humphrey: And the banishment and death of the Duke of Suffolke, and the Tragicall end of the proud Cardinal of Winchester, with the notable Rebellion of Jack Cade: and the Duke of Yorke's first claim unto the Crowne. This quarto is often theorised to be a reported text
Memorial reconstruction
The theory of memorial reconstruction refers to the hypotheses concerning the transcription of 17th century plays from memory by actors who had played parts in them, and the subsequent publication of those transcripts...

 of a performance of what is today called 2 Henry VI. This places the latest possible date of composition of the play as early 1594.

However, there is evidence that the play was written several years earlier. The Diary of Philip Henslowe
Philip Henslowe
Philip Henslowe was an Elizabethan theatrical entrepreneur and impresario. Henslowe's modern reputation rests on the survival of his diary, a primary source for information about the theatrical world of Renaissance London...

records a performance of a play by Lord Strange's Men
Lord Strange's Men
Lord Strange's Men was an Elizabethan playing company, comprising retainers of the household of Ferdinando Stanley, Lord Strange . They are best known in their final phase of activity in the late 1580s and early 1590s...

 called Harey Vj (i.e. Harry VI) on 3 March 1592 at the Rose Theatre
The Rose (theatre)
The Rose was an Elizabethan theatre. It was the fourth of the public theatres to be built, after The Theatre , the Curtain , and the theatre at Newington Butts The Rose was an Elizabethan theatre. It was the fourth of the public theatres to be built, after The Theatre (1576), the Curtain (1577),...

 in Southwark
Southwark is a district of south London, England, and the administrative headquarters of the London Borough of Southwark. Situated east of Charing Cross, it forms one of the oldest parts of London and fronts the River Thames to the north...

. Henslowe refers to the play as "ne" (which most critics take to mean "new", although it could be an abbreviation for the Newington Butts theatre, which Henslow may have owned) and mentions that it had fifteen performances and earned £3.16s.8d, meaning it was extremely successful. Harey Vj is usually accepted as being 1 Henry VI for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it is unlikely to have been either 2 Henry VI or 3 Henry VI as they were published in 1594 and 1595 respectively with the titles under which they would have originally been performed, so as to ensure higher sales, and as neither of them appear under the title Harey Vj, the play seen by Henslowe is unlikely to be either of them. Additionally, as Gary Taylor
Gary Taylor (English literature scholar)
Gary Taylor is George Matthew Edgar Professor of English at Florida State University, author of numerous books and articles, and joint editor of the Oxford Shakespeare and .-Life:...

 points out, Henslowe tended to identify sequels, but not first parts, to which he referred by the general title. As such, "Harey Vj could not be a Part Two or Part Three, but could easily be a Part One." The only other option is that Harey Vj is a now lost play.

That Harey Vj is not a lost play however seems to be confirmed by a reference in Thomas Nashe
Thomas Nashe
Thomas Nashe was an English Elizabethan pamphleteer, playwright, poet and satirist. He was the son of the minister William Nashe and his wife Margaret .-Early life:...

's Piers Penniless his Supplication to the Devil (entered into the Stationers' Register
Stationers' Register
The Stationers' Register was a record book maintained by the Stationers' Company of London. The company is a trade guild given a royal charter in 1557 to regulate the various professions associated with the publishing industry, including printers, bookbinders, booksellers, and publishers in England...

 on 8 August 1592), which supports the theory that Harey Vj is 1 Henry VI. Nashe praises a play which features Lord Talbot; "How would it have joyed brave Talbot (the terror of the French), to think that after he had lain two hundred years in his tomb, he should triumph again on the stage, and have his bones new embalmed with the tears of ten thousand spectators (at least), who in the tragedian that represents his person imagine they behold him fresh bleeding". It is thought that Nashe is here referring to Harey Vj, i.e. 1 Henry VI, as there is no other candidate for a play featuring Talbot from this time period (although again, there is the slight possibility that both Henslowe and Nashe are referring to a now lost play).

If one accepts that Harey Vj is 1 Henry VI, it means 1 Henry VI was on stage by March, 1592. However, it is known from another source that 3 Henry VI was on stage by September 1592. Robert Greene's pamphlet Greene's Groats-Worth of Wit
Greene's Groats-Worth of Wit
Greenes, Groats-worth of Witte, bought with a million of Repentance is a tract published as the work of the recently deceased playwright Robert Greene...

(registered in September 1592) parodies a line from 3 Henry VI whilst mocking Shakespeare, to whom Greene refers as "an upstart crow, beautified with our feathers, that with his 'tiger's heart wrapped in a player's hide', supposes that he is as well able to bombast out a blank verse as the best of you, and being an absolute Johannes fac totum
Jack of all trades, master of none
"Jack of all trades, master of none" is a figure of speech used in reference to a person that is competent with many skills but is not necessarily outstanding in any particular one....

, is in his own conceit the only Shake-scene in a country". This parodies 3 Henry VI, 1.4.138, where York refers to Margaret as a "tiger's heart wrapped in woman's hide". This parody proves that 3 Henry VI was well known by at least September 1592, which means it must have been staged prior to 23 June, as that was when the government shut the theatres to prevent an outbreak of plague. By that reasoning, 1 Henry VI was on stage by at least 3 March, and 3 Henry VI by at least 23 June, suggesting that 2 Henry VI must also have been staged some time in early-mid 1592. This would seem to indicate that it was probably written in 1591.

When the play came to be called Part 2 is unclear, although most critics tend to assume it was the invention of the First Folio editors, John Heminges
John Heminges
John Heminges was an English Renaissance actor. Most noted now as one of the editors of William Shakespeare's 1623 First Folio, Heminges served in his time as an actor and financial manager for the King's Men.-Life:Heminges was born in Droitwich Spa, Worcestershire in 1556...

 and Henry Condell
Henry Condell
Henry Condell was an actor in the King's Men, the playing company for which William Shakespeare wrote. With John Heminges, he was instrumental in preparing the First Folio, the collected plays of Shakespeare, published in 1623....

, as there are no references to the play under the title Part 2, or any derivative thereof, prior to 1623.

The 1594 quarto text of The Contention was reprinted twice, in 1600 (in quarto) and 1619 (in folio). The 1600 text was printed by Valentine Simmes
Valentine Simmes
Valentine Simmes was an Elizabethan era and Jacobean era printer; he did business in London, "on Adling Hill near Bainard's Castle at the sign of the White Swan." Simmes has a reputation as one of the better printers of his generation, and was responsible for several quartos of Shakespeare's plays...

 for Millington. The 1619 text was part of William Jaggard
William Jaggard
William Jaggard was an Elizabethan and Jacobean printer and publisher, best known for his connection with the texts of William Shakespeare, most notably the First Folio of Shakespeare's plays...

's False Folio
False Folio
False Folio is the term that Shakespeare scholars and bibliographers have applied to William Jaggard's printing of ten Shakespearean and pseudo-Shakespearean plays together in 1619, the first attempt to collect Shakespeare's work in a single volume....

, which was printed for Thomas Pavier
Thomas Pavier
Thomas Pavier was a London publisher and bookseller of the early seventeenth century. His complex involvement in the publication of early editions of some of Shakespeare's plays, as well as plays of the Shakespeare Apocrypha, has left him with a "dubious reputation."-Life and work:Pavier came to...

. This text was printed together with a version of 3 Henry VI which had been printed in octavo
Octavo to is a technical term describing the format of a book.Octavo may also refer to:* Octavo is a grimoire in the Discworld series by Terry Pratchett...

 in 1595 under the title The The True Tragedie of Richard Duke of Yorke, and the death of good King Henrie the Sixt, with the Whole Contention betweene the two Houses, Lancaster and Yorke. In the False Folio, the two plays were grouped under the general title The Whole Contention betweene the Two Famous Houses, Lancaster and Yorke. Also printed with The Whole Contention was Pericles, Prince of Tyre
Pericles, Prince of Tyre
Pericles, Prince of Tyre is a Jacobean play written at least in part by William Shakespeare and included in modern editions of his collected works despite questions over its authorship, as it was not included in the First Folio...

. The 1619 text of 2 Henry VI wasn't directly taken from The Contention however. The original text was edited slightly to correct a crucial error in York's outline of his genealogy in 2.2.

The text of the play that today forms 2 Henry VI was not published until the 1623 First Folio, under the title The second Part of Henry the Sixt, with the death of the Good Duke Humfrey

Due to the quarto title (The First Part of the Contention), and with the publication of True Tragedy in 1595, which makes no reference whatsoever to 1 Henry VI, some critics have argued that 2 Henry VI and 3 Henry VI were written prior to 1 Henry VI. This theory was first suggested by E.K. Chambers in 1923, and revised by John Dover Wilson
J. Dover Wilson
John Dover Wilson CH was a professor and scholar of Renaissance drama, focusing particularly on the work of William Shakespeare...

 in 1952. The theory is that The Contention and True Tragedy were originally conceived as a two-part play, but due to their success, a prequel
A prequel is a work that supplements a previously completed one, and has an earlier time setting.The widely recognized term was a 20th-century neologism, and a portmanteau from pre- and sequel...

 was created. Various critics have offered various pieces of evidence to attest to this fact, such as R.B. McKerrow
Ronald Brunlees McKerrow
Ronald Brunlees McKerrow was one of the leading bibliographers and Shakespeare scholars of the 20th century.-Life:R.B...

, who argues that "if 2 Henry VI was originally written to continue the first part, it seems utterly incomprehensible that it should contain no allusion to the prowess of Talbot." McKerrow also comments on the lack of reference to the symbolic use of rose
A rose is a woody perennial of the genus Rosa, within the family Rosaceae. There are over 100 species. They form a group of erect shrubs, and climbing or trailing plants, with stems that are often armed with sharp prickles. Flowers are large and showy, in colours ranging from white through yellows...

s in 2 Henry VI, whereas in 1 Henry VI and 3 Henry VI the device is mentioned numerous times. McKerrow concludes that this suggests 1 Henry VI was written closer to 3 Henry VI, and as we know 3 Henry VI was a sequel, it means that 1 Henry VI must have been written last; i.e. Shakespeare only conceived of the use of the roses whilst writing 3 Henry VI, and then incorporated the idea into his prequel. Eliot Slater comes to the same conclusion in his statistical examination of the vocabulary of all three Henry VI plays, where he argues that 1 Henry VI was written either immediately before or immediately after 3 Henry VI, hence it must have been written last. Likewise, Gary Taylor in his analysis of the authorship of 1 Henry VI, argues that the many discrepancies between 1 Henry VI and 2 Henry VI (such as the lack of reference to Talbot) coupled with similarities in the vocabulary
A person's vocabulary is the set of words within a language that are familiar to that person. A vocabulary usually develops with age, and serves as a useful and fundamental tool for communication and acquiring knowledge...

, phraseology
In linguistics, phraseology is the study of set or fixed expressions, such as idioms, phrasal verbs, and other types of multi-word lexical units , in which the component parts of the expression take on a meaning more specific than or otherwise not predictable from the sum of their meanings when...

 and tropes
Trope (literature)
A literary trope is the usage of figurative language in literature, or a figure of speech in which words are used in a sense different from their literal meaning...

 of 1 Henry VI and 3 Henry VI suggest 1 Henry VI was probably written last.

One argument against this theory is that 1 Henry VI is the weakest of the trilogy and therefore, logic would suggest it was written first. This argument suggests that Shakespeare could only have created such a weak play if it was his first attempt to turn his chronicle sources into drama; in essence, he was unsure of his way, and as such, 1 Henry VI was a trial-run of sorts, making way for the more accomplished 2 Henry VI and 3 Henry VI. Emrys Jones is one notable critic who supports this view. The standard rebuke to this theory, and the one used by Dover Wilson in 1952, is that 1 Henry VI is significantly weaker than the other two plays, not because it was written first but because it was co-authored, and may have been Shakespeare's first attempt to collaborate with other dramatists. As such, all of the play's problems can be attributed to its co-authors rather than Shakespeare himself, who may have had a relatively limited hand its composition. In this sense, the fact that 1 Henry VI is the weakest of the trilogy has nothing to do with when it may have been written, but instead concerns only how it was written.

As this implies, there is no critical consensus on this issue. Samuel Johnson
Samuel Johnson
Samuel Johnson , often referred to as Dr. Johnson, was an English author who made lasting contributions to English literature as a poet, essayist, moralist, literary critic, biographer, editor and lexicographer...

, writing in his 1765 edition of The Plays of William Shakespeare
The Plays of William Shakespeare
The Plays of William Shakespeare was an 18th-century edition of the dramatic works of William Shakespeare, edited by Samuel Johnson and George Steevens. Johnson announced his intention to edit Shakespeare's plays in his Miscellaneous Observations on Macbeth , and a full Proposal for the edition was...

, pre-empted the debate and argued that the plays were written in sequence; "It is apparent that [2 Henry VI] begins where the former ends, and continues the series of transactions, of which it presupposes the first part already written. This is a sufficient proof that the second and third parts were not written without dependence on the first." Numerous more recent scholars continue to uphold Johnson's argument. E.M.W. Tillyard
E. M. W. Tillyard
Eustace Mandeville Wetenhall Tillyard was a British classical scholar and literary scholar. He was a Fellow in English at Jesus College and later Master of Jesus College , Cambridge. He is known mainly for his book The Elizabethan World Picture, as background to Elizabethan Literature,...

, for example, writing in 1944, believes the plays were written in order, as does Andrew S. Cairncross in his editions of all three plays for the 2nd series of the Arden Shakespeare
Arden Shakespeare
The Arden Shakespeare is a long-running series of scholarly editions of the works of William Shakespeare. It presents fully edited modern-spelling editions of the plays and poems, with lengthy introductions and full commentaries...

(1957, 1962 and 1964). E.A.J. Honigmann also agrees, in his 'early start' theory of 1982 (which argues that Shakespeare's first play was Titus Andronicus
Titus Andronicus
Titus Andronicus is a tragedy by William Shakespeare, and possibly George Peele, believed to have been written between 1588 and 1593. It is thought to be Shakespeare's first tragedy, and is often seen as his attempt to emulate the violent and bloody revenge plays of his contemporaries, which were...

, which Honigmann posits was written in 1586). Likewise, Michael Hattaway, in both his 1990 New Cambridge Shakespeare
New Cambridge Shakespeare
The New Cambridge Shakespeare is a series of scholarly editions of the plays of William Shakespeare published by Cambridge University Press. The series began in 1984, publishing several new editions each year. To date, the majority of Shakespeare's plays and poems have been published in the series...

edition of 1 Henry VI and his 1991 edition of 2 Henry VI argues that the evidence suggests 1 Henry VI was written first. In his 2001 introduction to Henry VI: Critical Essays, Thomas A. Pendleton makes a similar argument, as does Roger Warren, in his 2003 edition of 2 Henry VI for The Oxford Shakespeare.

On the other hand, Edward Burns, in his 2000 Arden Shakespeare 3rd series edition of 1 Henry VI and Ronald Knowles, in his 1999 Arden Shakespeare 3rd series edition of 2 Henry VI make the case that 2 Henry VI probably preceded 1 Henry VI. Similarly, Randall Martin, in his 2001 Oxford Shakespeare edition of 3 Henry VI argues that 1 Henry VI was almost certainly written last. In his 2003 Oxford edition of 1 Henry VI, Michael Taylor agrees with Martin. Additionally, it is worth noting that in the Oxford Shakespeare: Complete Works of 1986 and the 2nd edition of 2005, and in the Norton Shakespeare of 1997 and again in 2008, both 2 Henry VI and 3 Henry VI precede 1 Henry VI.

Ultimately, the question of the order of composition remains unanswered, and the only thing that critics can agree on is that all three plays (in whatever order) were written by early 1592 at the latest.

Critical history

Some critics argue that the Henry VI trilogy were the first plays ever to be based on recent English history, and as such, they deserve an elevated position in the canon
Western canon
The term Western canon denotes a canon of books and, more broadly, music and art that have been the most important and influential in shaping Western culture. As such, it includes the "greatest works of artistic merit." Such a canon is important to the theory of educational perennialism and the...

, and a more central role in Shakespearean criticism. According to F.P. Wilson for example, "There is no certain evidence that any dramatist before the defeat of the Spanish Armada
Spanish Armada
This article refers to the Battle of Gravelines, for the modern navy of Spain, see Spanish NavyThe Spanish Armada was the Spanish fleet that sailed against England under the command of the Duke of Medina Sidonia in 1588, with the intention of overthrowing Elizabeth I of England to stop English...

 in 1588 dared to put upon the public stage a play based upon English history [...] so far as we know, Shakespeare was the first." However, not all critics agree with Wilson here. For example, Michael Taylor argues that there were at least thirty-nine history plays prior to 1592, including the two-part Christopher Marlowe
Christopher Marlowe
Christopher Marlowe was an English dramatist, poet and translator of the Elizabethan era. As the foremost Elizabethan tragedian, next to William Shakespeare, he is known for his blank verse, his overreaching protagonists, and his mysterious death.A warrant was issued for Marlowe's arrest on 18 May...

 play Tamburlaine
Tamburlaine (play)
Tamburlaine the Great is the name of a play in two parts by Christopher Marlowe. It is loosely based on the life of the Central Asian emperor, Timur 'the lame'...

(1587), Thomas Lodge
Thomas Lodge
Thomas Lodge was an English dramatist and writer of the Elizabethan and Jacobean periods.-Early life and education:...

's The Wounds of Civil War
The Wounds of Civil War
The Wounds of Civil War is an Elizabethan era stage play, written by Thomas Lodge. A dramatization of the ancient Roman conflict between Marius and Sulla, the play is generally considered Lodge's only extant solo drama.-Publication:...

(1588), the anonymous The Troublesome Reign of King John
The Troublesome Reign of King John
The Troublesome Reign of King John is an Elizabethan history play, generally accepted by scholars as the source and model that William Shakespeare employed for his own King John ....

(1588), Edmund Ironside
Edmund Ironside (play)
Edmund Ironside, or War Hath Made All Friends is an anonymous Elizabethan play that depicts the life of Edmund II of England. At least three critics have suggested that it is an early work by William Shakespeare.-Text:...

(1590 – also anonymous ), Robert Green's Selimus
Selimus (play)
Selimus, Emperor of the Turks is a tragedy attributed to Robert Greene. It was published in 1594 and is loosely based on a historical figure named Selimus who was ruler of the Ottoman Empire....

(1591) and another anonymous play, The True Tragedy of Richard III
The True Tragedy of Richard III
The True Tragedy of Richard III is an anonymous Elizabethan history play on the subject of Richard III of England. It has attracted the attention of scholars of English Renaissance drama principally for the question of its relationship with Shakespeare's Richard III.The True Tragedy of Richard III...

(1591). Paola Pugliatti however argues that the case may be somewhere between Wilson and Taylor's argument; "Shakespeare may not have been the first to bring English history before the audience of a public playhouse, but he was certainly the first to treat it in the manner of a mature historian rather than in the manner of a worshipper of historical, political and religious myth."

In any case, there is much more critical disagreement about the play, not the least aspect of which concerns its relationship to The Contention.

The Contention as reported text

Over the years, critics have debated the connection between 2 Henry VI and The Contention, to the point where four main theories have emerged:
  1. The Contention is a reconstructed version of a performance of what we today call 2 Henry VI; i.e. a bad quarto
    Bad quarto
    Bad quarto is a term and concept developed by twentieth-century Shakespeare scholars to explain some problems in the early transmission of the texts of Shakespearean works...

    , an attempt by actors to reconstruct the original play from memory and sell it. Originated by Samuel Johnson in 1765 and refined by Peter Alexander in 1929. Traditionally, this is the most accepted theory.
  2. The Contention is an early draft of the play that was published in the 1623 Folio under the title The Second Part of Henry the Sixt. Originated by Edmond Malone
    Edmond Malone
    Edmond Malone was an Irish Shakespearean scholar and editor of the works of William Shakespeare.Assured of an income after the death of his father in 1774, Malone was able to give up his law practice for at first political and then more congenial literary pursuits. He went to London, where he...

     in 1790 as an alternate to Johnson's memorial report theory. Supported today by critics such as Steven Urkowitz.
  3. The Contention is both a reported text and an early draft of 2 Henry VI. This theory has been gaining increasing support from the later half of the 20th Century, and is championed by many modern editors of the play.
  4. Shakespeare didn't write The Contention at all; it was an anonymous
    Anonymous work
    Anonymous works are works, such as art or literature, that have an anonymous, undisclosed, or unknown creator or author. In the United States it is legally defined as "a work on the copies or phonorecords of which no natural person is identified as author."...

     play which he used as the basis for 2 Henry VI. Originated by Georg Gottfried Gervinus
    Georg Gottfried Gervinus
    Georg Gottfried Gervinus was a German literary and political historian.-Biography:Gervinus was born in Darmstadt. He was educated at the gymnasium of the town, and intended for a commercial career, but in 1825 he became a student of the university of Giessen...

     in 1849, this theory remained popular throughout the nineteenth century, with Robert Greene the leading candidate as a possible author. It has fallen out of favour in the twentieth century.

Traditionally, critical opinion has tended to favour the first theory; that The Contention is a bad quarto, a memorial reconstruction, perhaps by the actor who had played Suffolk and/or Cade in early performances. Samuel Johnson originated this theory in 1765, but it was challenged by Edmond Malone in 1790, when he suggested the possibility that The Contention could be an early draft of 2 Henry VI. Malone's view was the dominant one until 1929, when Peter Alexander and Madeleine Doran
Madeleine Doran
Madeleine Doran was an American literary critic and poet who taught at the University of Wisconsin–Madison from the early 1930s until her retirement in the 1970s. Doran's work combined historical and formalist impulses...

, working independently of one another, re-established the dominance of the bad quarto theory.

One of their main arguments focused on a major genealogical error in The Contention, which they argue seems unlikely to have been made by an author, and is therefore only attributable to a reporter. In 2.2, when York is outlining his claim to the throne, in The Contention, he identifies Edmund of Langley
Edmund of Langley, 1st Duke of York
Edmund of Langley, 1st Duke of York, 1st Earl of Cambridge, KG was a younger son of King Edward III of England and Philippa of Hainault, the fourth of the five sons who lived to adulthood, of this Royal couple. Like so many medieval princes, Edmund gained his identifying nickname from his...

 as Edward III's second son, instead of his fifth (as in 2 Henry VI). This is important because it renders unnecessary his need to claim the throne through his mother's ancestry; if he was descended from the second son, his mother would not be important to his argument, as he himself would be descended directly from an elder son than Henry. This mistake renders much of his argument as to lineage completely pointless, and it has been argued that "no one who understood what he was writing, that is – no author – could have made this error, but someone parroting someone else's work of which he himself had but a dim understanding – that is, a reporter – could have."

Act 3, Scene 1 has been pinpointed as another scene which provides evidence that The Contention is a reported text. In The Contention, after the court has turned on Gloucester, Suffolk then illogically switches back to discussing the regentship of France. Horner and Thump are introduced and Gloucester arranges for them to formally duel
A duel is an arranged engagement in combat between two individuals, with matched weapons in accordance with agreed-upon rules.Duels in this form were chiefly practised in Early Modern Europe, with precedents in the medieval code of chivalry, and continued into the modern period especially among...

. At this point, Gloucester leaves, but without any discernible reason (unlike in 2 Henry VI, where Margaret threatens his life just prior to his abrupt departure). Margaret then strikes Eleanor, Gloucester returns, and he and his wife leave together. Steven Urkowitz (a staunch opponent of the theory of bad quartos in general and a supporter of the early draft theory) argues that the difference in the two scenes is an example of "the finely Shakespearean first choices recorded in the Quarto." Roger Warren however argues that the scene provides strong evidence that The Contention is a reported text; "it is not hard to conjecture how the Quarto's version came about. The conflicting claims of York and Somerset led to the Armourer and his Man being introduced too soon; whoever was compiling the Quarto text remembered that Gloucester left the stage, though not why, but did remember that while he was offstage, Margaret struck his wife. The utterly unmotivated exit and reappearance of Gloucester in itself rules out the possibility that the Quarto's scene is a legitimate alternative to the Folio version rather than a confused report of it."

Further evidence for the reported text theory is provided in how other plays are used throughout The Contention. For example, Marlowe's The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus is quoted in the witchcraft scene ("Now Faustus, what wouldst thou have me do?" (1.3.36) is reproduced as "Now Bolingbroke, what wouldst thou have me do?"), and Marlowe's Edward II
Edward II (play)
Edward II is a Renaissance or Early Modern period play written by Christopher Marlowe. It is one of the earliest English history plays. The full title of the first publication is The Troublesome Reign and Lamentable Death of Edward the Second, King of England, with the Tragical Fall of Proud...

is paraphrased in Act 3, Scene 1 (Marlowe's "The wild O'Neill, with swarms of Irish kerns,/Lives uncontrolled within the English pale" (2.2.163–164) becomes "The wild O'Neill, my lords, is up in arms,/With troops of Irish kerns that uncontrolled/Doth plant themselves within the English pale"). Also, even a line from 3 Henry VI is used in Act 3, Scene 1 ("If our King Henry had shook hands with death" (1.4.103)), all of which seems to suggest that, as so often in the bad quartos, the reporter was filling in blanks (i.e. passages he couldn't remember) with extracts from other plays.

The Contention as early draft

Steven Urkowitz has spoken at great length about the debate between the bad quarto theory and the early draft theory, coming down firmly on the side of the early draft. Urkowitz argues that the quarto of 2 Henry VI and the octavo of 3 Henry VI actually present scholars with a unique opportunity to see a play evolving, as Shakespeare edited and rewrote certain sections; "the texts of 2 and 3 Henry VI offer particularly rich illustrations of textual variation and theatrical transformation." Urkowitz cites the dialogue in the opening scene of 2 Henry VI as especially strong evidence of the early draft theory. In The Contention, Henry receives Margaret with joy and an exclamation that all his worldly troubles are behind him; in 2 Henry VI, he is more cautious, seeing Margaret as a relief for his problems, but only if she and he can find common ground and love one another. In The Contention, Margaret is utterly humble, and vows to love the King no matter what; in 2 Henry VI Margaret is much bolder and self-congratulatory. In The Contention, after the initial meeting, Henry asks Margaret to sit beside him before bidding the Lords to stand nearby and welcome her; in 2 Henry VI, there is no reference to anyone sitting, and the lords kneel before speaking to Margaret. Urkowitz summarises these differences by arguing, "In the visible geometry of courtly ceremony, the Folio version offers us a bold Queen Margaret and an exuberant king while the visibly subordinated nobles kneel before them. In contrast to the modest queen seated beside the king surrounded by standing nobles, in this text at the equivalent moment, we have an exertive queen standing upright with her monarch, visibly subordinating the kneeling, obedient lords. Distinct theatrical representations of psychological and political tensions distinguish the two versions of the passage. Both texts "work" by leading an audience through an elaborate ceremonial display fraught with symbolic gestures of emotional attachment, sanctification, regal authority and feudal obedience, but each displays a distinct pattern of language and coded gestures. Such fine-tuning of dramatic themes and actions are staples of professional theatrical writing." As such, the differences in the texts are exactly the types of differences one tends to find in texts which were altered from an original form, and Urkowitz cites Eric Rasmussen, E.A.J. Honigmann and Grace Ioppolo as supporting this view. He particularly refers to the case of Richard Brinsley Sheridan
Richard Brinsley Sheridan
Richard Brinsley Butler Sheridan was an Irish-born playwright and poet and long-term owner of the London Theatre Royal, Drury Lane. For thirty-two years he was also a Whig Member of the British House of Commons for Stafford , Westminster and Ilchester...

's The School for Scandal
The School for Scandal
The School for Scandal is a play written by Richard Brinsley Sheridan. It was first performed in London at Drury Lane Theatre on May 8, 1777.The prologue, written by David Garrick, commends the play, its subject, and its author to the audience...

(1777), which existed in an earlier form, also by Sheridan, in a two-part play The Slanderers and Sir Peter Teazel, and which he argues contain the same type of modifications as is found in the Henry VI plays.
Urkowitz is not alone in finding evidence to support the early draft theory. For example, in The Contention, Margery Jourdayne is referred to as "the cunning witch of Ely
Ely, Cambridgeshire
Ely is a cathedral city in Cambridgeshire, England, 14 miles north-northeast of Cambridge and about by road from London. It is built on a Lower Greensand island, which at a maximum elevation of is the highest land in the Fens...

", but in 2 Henry VI she is referred to merely as "the cunning witch". The traditional argument to explain this disparity is that such information was added by either Shakespeare or someone else during rehearsals, but was not found in the prompt book
Prompt book
The prompt book, also called promptbook, transcript, the bible or sometimes simply "the book," is the copy of a production script that contains the information necessary to create the production from the ground up...

 which was used to print the First Folio. However, R.B. McKerrow argues against the likelihood of this theory. He asks why a writer would go back to a chronicle source to add a piece of information which is of no importance dramatically, and brings nothing to the scene. It makes no sense to McKerrow that Shakespeare would thrall through his sources simply to add a tiny and irrelevant piece of information such as "of Ely". McKerrow thus suggests that the line was actually cut after performance, not added prior to performance; essentially, the situation is not one of addition in The Contention but of removal in 2 Henry VI.

A similar example is found in Act 4, Scene 7 where Cade orders his men to kill Lord Saye and Sir James Comer. In 2 Henry VI, Cade simply orders them to cut off Saye's head and then go to Cromer's house and kill him, but in The Contention, he tells them to bring Saye to "Standard in Cheapside
Cheapside is a street in the City of London that links Newgate Street with the junction of Queen Victoria Street and Mansion House Street. To the east is Mansion House, the Bank of England, and the major road junction above Bank tube station. To the west is St. Paul's Cathedral, St...

", and then go to Cromer's house in "Mile End Green
Mile End
Mile End is an area within the East End of London, England, and part of the London Borough of Tower Hamlets. It is located east-northeast of Charing Cross...

". Again, the standard argument is that these details were added during rehearsals, and are hence examples of additions in The Contention. Again however, McKerrow argues that such unimportant detail suggests removal after performance rather than addition prior to performance.

More evidence is found in Act 2, Scene 1. In The Contention, after Winchester has accepted Gloucester 's challenge to a duel (l. 38; "Marry, when thou dar'est"), there is additional dialogue not found in 2 Henry VI;


Dare? I tell thee priest,

House of Plantagenet
The House of Plantagenet , a branch of the Angevins, was a royal house founded by Geoffrey V of Anjou, father of Henry II of England. Plantagenet kings first ruled the Kingdom of England in the 12th century. Their paternal ancestors originated in the French province of Gâtinais and gained the...

 could never brook the dare.


I am Plantagenet as well as thou,.

And son of John of Gaunt
John of Gaunt, 1st Duke of Lancaster
John of Gaunt, 1st Duke of Lancaster , KG was a member of the House of Plantagenet, the third surviving son of King Edward III of England and Philippa of Hainault...



In bastardy.


I scorn thy words.

Again, McKerrow's argument here is not that these lines were added during rehearsals, but that they existed in an early draft of the play and were removed after rehearsals, as they were simply deemed unnecessary; the animosity between the two had already been well established.

However, the theory that The Contention may be an early draft does not necessarily imply that it could not also represent a bad quarto as well. Traditionally, most critics (such as Alexander, Doran, McKerrow and Urkowitz) have looked at the problem as an either-or situation; The Contention is either a reported text or an early draft, but recently there has been some argument that it may be both. For example, this is the theory supported by Roger Warren in his Oxford Shakespeare edition of the play. It is also the theory advanced by Randall Martin in his Oxford Shakespeare edition of 3 Henry VI. The crux of the argument is that both the evidence for the bad quarto theory and the evidence for the early draft theory are so compelling that neither is able to completely refute the other. As such, if the play contains evidence of being both a reported text and an early draft, it must be both; i.e. The Contention represents a reported text of an early draft of 2 Henry VI. Shakespeare wrote an early version of the play, which was staged. Shortly after that staging, some of the actors constructed a bad quarto from it and had it published. In the meantime, Shakespeare had rewritten the play into the form found in the First Folio. Warren argues that this is the only theory which can account for the strong evidence for both reporting and revision, and it is a theory which is gaining increased support in the late twentieth/early twenty-first century.


Language has an extremely important role throughout the play, often helping to establish the theme as well as the tone of a particular episode. For example, the opening speech of the play is an elaborately ornate, exceptionally formal declaration by Suffolk:

As by your high imperial
British Empire
The British Empire comprised the dominions, colonies, protectorates, mandates and other territories ruled or administered by the United Kingdom. It originated with the overseas colonies and trading posts established by England in the late 16th and early 17th centuries. At its height, it was the...

Majesty is an English word derived ultimately from the Latin maiestas, meaning "greatness".- Origin :Originally, during the Roman republic, the word maiestas was the legal term for the supreme status and dignity of the state, to be respected above everything else...

I had in charge at my depart for France,

As procurator to your excellence,

To marry Princess Margaret for your grace,

So in the famous ancient city Tours
Tours is a city in central France, the capital of the Indre-et-Loire department.It is located on the lower reaches of the river Loire, between Orléans and the Atlantic coast. Touraine, the region around Tours, is known for its wines, the alleged perfection of its local spoken French, and for the...


In presence of the Kings of France and Sicil
Sicily is a region of Italy, and is the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea. Along with the surrounding minor islands, it constitutes an autonomous region of Italy, the Regione Autonoma Siciliana Sicily has a rich and unique culture, especially with regard to the arts, music, literature,...


The Dukes of Orléans
-Prehistory and Roman:Cenabum was a Gallic stronghold, one of the principal towns of the Carnutes tribe where the Druids held their annual assembly. It was conquered and destroyed by Julius Caesar in 52 BC, then rebuilt under the Roman Empire...

, Calabre
Calabria , in antiquity known as Bruttium, is a region in southern Italy, south of Naples, located at the "toe" of the Italian Peninsula. The capital city of Calabria is Catanzaro....

, Bretagne
Brittany is a cultural and administrative region in the north-west of France. Previously a kingdom and then a duchy, Brittany was united to the Kingdom of France in 1532 as a province. Brittany has also been referred to as Less, Lesser or Little Britain...

, and Alençon
Alençon is a commune in Normandy, France, capital of the Orne department. It is situated west of Paris. Alençon belongs to the intercommunality of Alençon .-History:...


Seven earls, twelve barons, and twenty reverend bishops,

I have performed my task and was espoused,

And humbly now upon my bended knee,

In sight of England and her lordly peers
Peerage of England
The Peerage of England comprises all peerages created in the Kingdom of England before the Act of Union in 1707. In that year, the Peerages of England and Scotland were replaced by one Peerage of Great Britain....


Deliver up my title in the Queen

To your most gracious hands, that are the substance

Of that great shadow I did represent:

The happiest gift that ever marquis
A marquess or marquis is a nobleman of hereditary rank in various European peerages and in those of some of their former colonies. The term is also used to translate equivalent oriental styles, as in imperial China, Japan, and Vietnam...


The fairest queen that ever king received.

Suffolk is basically saying, "As I was instructed to marry Margaret on your behalf, I did so, and now I deliver her to you". However, the formality of the scene and the importance of the event itself require him to deliver this message in a heightened language quite divorced from that used in less formal conversations, with the formal significance of Henry's marriage to Margaret mirrored in the formal, ceremonial languChristian
Christianity is a monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus as presented in canonical gospels and other New Testament writings...

 chrisage used by Suffolk to announce that marriage.
Language is also vitally important in conveying the importance of religion throughout the play, especially in terms of revealing what specific characters think about religion. Oftentimes, Henry's language specifically echoes the Bible
The Bible refers to any one of the collections of the primary religious texts of Judaism and Christianity. There is no common version of the Bible, as the individual books , their contents and their order vary among denominations...

. For example, he refers to heaven
Heaven, the Heavens or Seven Heavens, is a common religious cosmological or metaphysical term for the physical or transcendent place from which heavenly beings originate, are enthroned or inhabit...

 as "the treasury of ever lasting joy" (2.1.18), recalling Matthew
Gospel of Matthew
The Gospel According to Matthew is one of the four canonical gospels, one of the three synoptic gospels, and the first book of the New Testament. It tells of the life, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth...

 6:20 ("lay up treasures for yourselves in heaven"), and then a few lines later he muses "Bless'd are the peacemakers on earth" (2.1.34), echoing Jesus' Sermon on the Mount
Sermon on the Mount
The Sermon on the Mount is a collection of sayings and teachings of Jesus, which emphasizes his moral teaching found in the Gospel of Matthew...

 (Matthew 5:9). On both of these occasions however, Cardinal Winchester (who is supposedly a deeply pious man) takes up Henry's genuine piety and distorts it. After Henry's assessment of heaven, Winchester says to Gloucester, "Thy heaven is on earth, thine eyes and thoughts/Beat on a crown
Crown (headgear)
A crown is the traditional symbolic form of headgear worn by a monarch or by a deity, for whom the crown traditionally represents power, legitimacy, immortality, righteousness, victory, triumph, resurrection, honour and glory of life after death. In art, the crown may be shown being offered to...

, the treasure of thy heart" (2.1.19–20). Then, after Henry praises peacemakers, Winchester hypocritically says, "Let me be bless'd for the peace I make,/Against this proud Protector with my sword" (2.1.35–36). Language here not only serves to show Henry's genuine fealty to and love for God, but also to show the hypocrisy and unscrupulousness of Winchester. The Cardinal again mocks religion just prior to the murder of Gloucester. Speaking of the forthcoming murder, Suffolk comments, "And to preserve my sovereign from his foe,/Say but the word, and I will be his priest" (3.1.271–272), to which Winchester sarcastically responds "But I would have him dead, my Lord of Suffolk,/Ere you can take due orders for a priest" (3.1.273–274). Again, this is in utter disdain of the notion of priesthood
Clergy is the generic term used to describe the formal religious leadership within a given religion. A clergyman, churchman or cleric is a member of the clergy, especially one who is a priest, preacher, pastor, or other religious professional....

, both mocking it and trivialising the forthcoming murder. After Gloucester is dead, Winchester continues to blaspheme
Blasphemy is irreverence towards religious or holy persons or things. Some countries have laws to punish blasphemy, while others have laws to give recourse to those who are offended by blasphemy...

 himself, proclaiming the death of Gloucester to be "God's secret judgement" (3.2.31), a callous and knowing distortion of what has actually happened.

On a more basic level, Shakespeare uses language to distinguish between different types of characters. The courtly scenes tend to be spoken in blank verse
Blank verse
Blank verse is poetry written in unrhymed iambic pentameter. It has been described as "probably the most common and influential form that English poetry has taken since the sixteenth century" and Paul Fussell has claimed that "about three-quarters of all English poetry is in blank verse."The first...

, whereas the commons tend to speak in prose
Prose is the most typical form of written language, applying ordinary grammatical structure and natural flow of speech rather than rhythmic structure...

, with fewer metaphors and less decorative language (Shakespeare uses this contrast in several plays, such as The Two Gentlemen of Verona
The Two Gentlemen of Verona
The Two Gentlemen of Verona is a comedy by William Shakespeare, believed to have been written in 1590 or 1591. It is considered by some to be Shakespeare's first play, and is often seen as his first tentative steps in laying out some of the themes and tropes with which he would later deal in more...

, where prose marks the servants out from their masters). However, there is an irony in how this contrast is used in 2 Henry VI insofar as when power begins to go to Jack Cade's head, he begins to slip into a more courtly way of speaking himself. This is most noticeable in his adoption of the majestic plural, using phrases such as "our jurisdiction regal" (4.7.44), and "we charge and command" (4.7.116).

The longest speech in the play is Margaret's lament to Henry after they have found Gloucester's dead body. This lengthy speech is full of classical allusions, elaborate metaphors and verbosity as Margaret moves through a litany of topics in an effort to make her point;

Be woe for me, more wretched than he is.

What, dost thou turn away and hide thy face?

I am no loathsome leper
Leprosy or Hansen's disease is a chronic disease caused by the bacteria Mycobacterium leprae and Mycobacterium lepromatosis. Named after physician Gerhard Armauer Hansen, leprosy is primarily a granulomatous disease of the peripheral nerves and mucosa of the upper respiratory tract; skin lesions...

, look on me.

What, art thou like the adder
Venomous snake
"Poisonous snake" redirects here. For true poisonous snakes, see Rhabdophis.Venomous snakes are snakes which have venom glands and specialized teeth for the injection of venom...

, waxen deaf?

Be poisonous too and kill thy forlorn queen.

Is all thy comfort shut in Gloucester's tomb?

Why then Queen Margaret was ne'er thy joy.

Erect his statua and worship it,

And make my image but an alehouse sign.

Was I for this nigh wracked upon the sea,

And twice by awkward wind from England's bank

Drove back again unto my native clime?

What boded this but well forewarning wind

Did seem to say 'Seek not a scorpion
Scorpions are predatory arthropod animals of the order Scorpiones within the class Arachnida. They have eight legs and are easily recognized by the pair of grasping claws and the narrow, segmented tail, often carried in a characteristic forward curve over the back, ending with a venomous stinger...

's nest,

Nor set no footing on this unkind shore'?

What did I then, but cursed the gentle gusts

And he that loosed them forth their brazen caves,

And bid them blow towards England's bless'd shore,

Or turn our stern upon a dreadful rock?

Yet Aeolus
Aeolus was the ruler of the winds in Greek mythology. In fact this name was shared by three mythic characters. These three personages are often difficult to tell apart, and even the ancient mythographers appear to have been perplexed about which Aeolus was which...

 would not be a murderer,

But left that hateful office unto thee.

The pretty vaulting sea refused to drown me,

Knowing that thou wouldst have me drown'd on shore

With tears as salt as sea through thy unkindness.

The splitting rocks cow'red in the sinking sands,

And would not dash me with their ragged sides,

Because thy flinty heart, more hard than they,

Might in thy palace perish Margaret.

As far as I could ken thy chalky cliffs
White cliffs of Dover
The White Cliffs of Dover are cliffs which form part of the British coastline facing the Strait of Dover and France. The cliffs are part of the North Downs formation. The cliff face, which reaches up to , owes its striking façade to its composition of chalk accentuated by streaks of black flint...


When from thy shore the tempest beat us back,

I stood upon the hatches in the storm,

And when the dusky sky began to rob

My earnest-gaping sight of thy land's view,

I took a costly jewel
Jewellery or jewelry is a form of personal adornment, such as brooches, rings, necklaces, earrings, and bracelets.With some exceptions, such as medical alert bracelets or military dog tags, jewellery normally differs from other items of personal adornment in that it has no other purpose than to...

 from my neck-

A heart it was, bound in with diamonds-

And threw it towards thy land; the sea received it,

And so I wished thy body might my heart.

And even with this I lost fair England's view,

And bid mine eyes be packing with my heart,

And called them blind and dusky spectacles,

For losing ken of Albion
Albion is the oldest known name of the island of Great Britain. Today, it is still sometimes used poetically to refer to the island or England in particular. It is also the basis of the Scottish Gaelic name for Scotland, Alba...

's wish'd coast.

How often have I tempted Suffolk's tongue-

The agent of thy foul inconstancy-

To sit and witch me, as Ascanius
Ascanius is the son of the Trojan hero Aeneas and a legendary king of Alba Longa. He is a character of Roman mythology, and has a divine lineage, being the son of Aeneas, who is son of Venus and the hero Anchises, a relative of Priam; thus Ascanius has divine ascendents by both parents, being...


When he to madding Dido would unfold

His father
Aeneas , in Greco-Roman mythology, was a Trojan hero, the son of the prince Anchises and the goddess Aphrodite. His father was the second cousin of King Priam of Troy, making Aeneas Priam's second cousin, once removed. The journey of Aeneas from Troy , which led to the founding a hamlet south of...

's acts, commenced in burning Troy
Troy was a city, both factual and legendary, located in northwest Anatolia in what is now Turkey, southeast of the Dardanelles and beside Mount Ida...


Am I not witched like her? Or thou not false like him?

Ay me, I can no more. Die, Margaret,

For Henry weeps that thou dost live so long.

There is some debate amongst critics as to the meaning and purpose of this speech, although all tend to agree that the meaning is inherently tied up in the elaborate language. Some critics (such as Stanley Wells
Stanley Wells
Stanley William Wells, CBE, is a Shakespeare scholar and Chairman of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust.Wells took his first degree at University College, London, and was awarded an honorary DLitt by the University of Warwick in 2008...

 for example) have argued that the speech, with its wordiness, lack of any real concrete point, strained classical allusions and lengthy metaphors, is simply badly written, evidence that Shakespeare was not yet in control of his medium. Proponents of this theory point to The Contention, where only seven lines are retained, with the argument being that the rest of the speech was cut from performance because the company realised it wasn't especially good and accomplished very little.

Another theory, proposed by L.C. Knights
Lionel Charles Knights
Lionel Charles Knights was an English literary critic, an authority on Shakespeare and his period. His essay How many children had Lady Macbeth? is a classic of modern criticism. He became King Edward VII Professor of English Literature at the University of Cambridge in 1965.-Early life:He was...

, is that the speech is purposely over-the-top and elaborate because Margaret is trying to deflect Henry away from accusing Suffolk of the murder. Henry already suspects Suffolk, so Margaret engages him in a dizzyingly complicated speech which jumps from topic to topic and employs references which are not immediately apparent, in an effort to divert the already confused and dejected Henry.

Another theory, suggested by Roger Warren, is that Margaret's mind is growing increasingly confused and desperate. The plan she, Suffolk and Winchester conceived has gone awry almost immediately, with Henry accusing Suffolk of being involved in the murder, and therefore Margaret is simply panicking, and is babbling as she tries to appear calm; the words thus betraying her internal turmoil. In this view, "the speech is there to establish the emotional, hysterical side of Margaret's nature. I think that is why the language gets so extremely elaborate – it is an attempt by Margaret to contain her turbulent emotions by expressing them in such a strange way."

The complete antithesis of this theory has also been suggested as a possibility; that the speech shows not that Margaret is losing control, but that she is completely in control of herself and her emotions. This theory is most noticeable in how director Jane Howell had Julia Foster
Julia Foster
Julia Foster is a British actress.Foster's credits include the films The Bargee with Harry H. Corbett, Alfie with Michael Caine, Half a Sixpence with Tommy Steele, and Percy with Hywel Bennett...

 act the part in the 1981 BBC Shakespeare
BBC Television Shakespeare
The BBC Television Shakespeare was a set of television adaptations of the plays of William Shakespeare, produced by the BBC between 1978 and 1985.-Origins:...

adaptation. Here, Margaret uses her speech to give an outlet to her intense emotions, not to attempt to contain them. The far ranging metaphors and classical allusions are her way of letting go of her pent up rage and emotion, her disdain for Henry and her inherent passion.

Yet another theory is that Margaret is trying to bring Henry back from the brink of complete madness by engaging his mind in an elaborate, difficult to follow verbal dance. This is how it was played in Terry Hands
Terry Hands
Terence David Hands is an English theatre director. He ran the Royal Shakespeare Company for 20 years during one of its most successful periods.-Early years:...

' 1977 production for the Royal Shakespeare Company
Royal Shakespeare Company
The Royal Shakespeare Company is a major British theatre company, based in Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire, England. The company employs 700 staff and produces around 20 productions a year from its home in Stratford-upon-Avon and plays regularly in London, Newcastle-upon-Tyne and on tour across...

 at Stratford-upon-Avon
Stratford-upon-Avon is a market town and civil parish in south Warwickshire, England. It lies on the River Avon, south east of Birmingham and south west of Warwick. It is the largest and most populous town of the District of Stratford-on-Avon, which uses the term "on" to indicate that it covers...

, with Helen Mirren
Helen Mirren
Dame Helen Mirren, DBE is an English actor. She has won an Academy Award for Best Actress, four SAG Awards, four BAFTAs, three Golden Globes, four Emmy Awards, and two Cannes Film Festival Best Actress Awards.-Early life and family:...

 as Margaret. Henry's preceding speech to Suffolk, where he demands Suffolk not look at him, and then immediately demands that he wants to look into Suffolk's eyes was played by Alan Howard
Alan Howard
Alan MacKenzie Howard, CBE, is an English actor known for his roles on stage, television and film.He was a member of the Royal Shakespeare Company from 1966 to 1983, and played leading roles at the Royal National Theatre between 1992 and 2000.-Personal life:Howard is the only son of the actor...

 in such as way as to suggest that Henry was losing his grip on reality, and in response to this, Mirren played the speech in such a way as to engage Henry's mind in the here and now, focus his thoughts and prevent them drifting away.

Henry's weakness

A major theme of the play is Henry's inherent weakness and his inability to control the country or even his own court. According to Randall Martin in his Oxford Shakespeare edition of 3 Henry VI, Henry's weakness as king was the main reason that many nineteenth century critics judged 2 Henry VI to lack emotion; Henry was so inept, audiences could not empathise with him, and hence, his tragedy in the play was diminished. There are numerous examples throughout the play which such critics could have focused on. For example, Henry fails to unite his bickering nobles, and instead allows them to push him around as they decide for themselves how to act and what to do, and at the same time, he allows himself to be utterly dominated by Margaret. He is so subservient that he consents to the imprisonment of a man (Gloucester) he loves and knows to be innocent, and then attempts to hide from the implications of this decision, trying to leave the court after Gloucester's arrest;


My lords, what to your wisdoms seemeth best

Do or undo, as if ourself were here.


What, will your highness leave the parliament?


Ah Margaret, my heart is drowned with grief

Whose flood begins to flow within mine eyes.

This leads Henry to a realisation of how he has failed Gloucester, and to lament his own lack of decisiveness and resoluteness;

And as the butcher takes away the calf
Calves are the young of domestic cattle. Calves are reared to become adult cattle, or are slaughtered for their meat, called veal.-Terminology:...


And binds the wretch and beats it when it strains,

Bearing it to the bloody slaughterhouse
A slaughterhouse or abattoir is a facility where animals are killed for consumption as food products.Approximately 45-50% of the animal can be turned into edible products...


Even so remorseless have they borne him hence;

And as the dam
A mother, mum, mom, momma, or mama is a woman who has raised a child, given birth to a child, and/or supplied the ovum that grew into a child. Because of the complexity and differences of a mother's social, cultural, and religious definitions and roles, it is challenging to specify a universally...

 runs lowing up and down,

Looking the way her harmless young one went,

And can do nought but wail her darling's loss,

Even so myself bewails good Gloucester's case

With sad unhelpful tears, and with dimmed eyes

Look after him, and cannot do him good,

So mighty are his vow'd enemies.

Another example of his weakness as ruler is seen in his utter indifference to the vital decision of choosing a new French regent; as Somerset and York debate the issue, each trying to convince Henry that they should be the one to get the job, Henry dismissively declares, "For my part, noble Lords, I care not which:/Or Somerset or York, all's one to me" (1.3.103-102). This lack of concern is forcibly emphasised when Somerset later tells Henry that all French territories have been lost, and Henry responds non-chalantly, "Cold news, Lord Somerset; but God's will be done" (3.1.86). His lack of decisive leadership is even referred to by Margaret; "Henry my great lord is cold in great affairs,/Too full of foolish pity" (3.1.224–225).
Another point of indecision is depicted in the BBC Shakespeare adaptation of Act 2, Scene 1. After Thump and Horner are brought before the King, played by Peter Benson
Peter Benson (actor)
Peter Benson is a British actor probably best known as Bernie Scripps in the popular ITV1 TV-series Heartbeat, a drama about the police in Aidensfield in the 1960s. Benson has played Bernie Scripps in the series since 1995. In the TV-series 'Bernie' Scripps is running Aidensfield Garage, and the...

, the court looks to him, awaiting his judgement of the case, but he appears to panic, unsure of what to do, and hastily defers to Gloucester, played by David Burke, who appears exasperated by Henry's failure to respond to the situation himself.

Henry is presented as a good man, but a poor king, to whom Roger Warren refers as "a man of deep religious conviction but no political acumen." He is a weak leader, and it is partly his failure to assert his authority that is responsible for the chaos that takes over the country. As director Peter Hall says, "In theory, Henry should be a good king. He applies Christian
Christianity is a monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus as presented in canonical gospels and other New Testament writings...

 ethics to government. But he is up against men who don't. They justify their behaviour by invoking the great sanctions – God, the King, Parliament, the People – that unscrupulous statesmen, motivated by the naked desire to be on top, have used throughout the ages. Here is the central irony of the play: Henry's Christian goodness produces evil."

Contrast between Henry and Margaret

Another major theme throughout the play is the contrast between Margaret and Henry, something which is introduced when they first meet. Henry thanks God for bringing Margaret to him, and exclaims "For thou hast given me in this beauteous face/A world of earthly blessing to my soul,/If sympathy of love unite our thoughts" (1.1.21–23). The irony here, much commented on by critics, is that this unity is exactly what doesn't happen – their thoughts never unite, and their contrasting and incompatible attitudes are seen time and again throughout the play. For example, after the false miracle, Henry is distraught and laments, "O God, seest thou this and bear'st so long?" (2.1.150), whilst Margaret's response is much more mundane; "It made me laugh to see the villain run" (2.1.151). Another example is when Buckingham arrives to bring news to Henry of Eleanor's dabbling in necromancy. Again, Henry's reaction is pious and sorrowful, "O God, what mischiefs work the wicked ones,/Heaping confusion on their heads thereby" (2.1.181–182). Margaret's response however is combative, using the news to forward her own agenda; "Gloucester, see here the tainture of thy nest,/And look thyself be faultless, thou wert best" (2.1.183–184). Later, when Horner and Thump are about to fight, Henry sees the contest as a sacred point of honour; "A God's name, see the lists and all things fit;/Here let them end it, and God defend the right" (2.3.54–55). Margaret however, is simply looking forward to a fight; "For purposely therefore,/Left I the court to see this quarrel tried" (2.3.52–53). As Roger Warren has written of Henry; he is "fatally married to his polar opposite."

The contrast between them is perhaps most forcibly realised when Gloucester dies in Act 3, Scene 2. Margaret makes a speech in which she points out how it is unfair to accuse Suffolk of the murder simply because Suffolk and Gloucester were enemies, as she and Gloucester's wife were enemies too, so if Suffolk is a suspect, so should she be one as well; "Ay me unhappy,/To be a queen, and crowned with infamy" (70–71). Again, she is turning events to focus on herself. Henry however, completely ignores her, calling out sorrowfully; "Ah, woe is me for Gloucester, wretched man" (72). This situation is repeated during the Cade rebellion, but this time they ignore one another. After the rebels deliver their terms to Henry, he tells Buckingham he will speak with Cade, but Margaret is concerned only with herself and Suffolk (whose head she is now carrying). Speaking to the head she ignores Henry's problems and exclaims, "Ah barbarous villain! Hath this lovely face/Ruled like a wandering planet
A planet is a celestial body orbiting a star or stellar remnant that is massive enough to be rounded by its own gravity, is not massive enough to cause thermonuclear fusion, and has cleared its neighbouring region of planetesimals.The term planet is ancient, with ties to history, science,...

 over me,/And could it not enforce them to relent,/That were unworthy to behold the same?" (4.4.14–17). Henry however ignores this, and continues to deal with the rebel demands, saying simply, "Lord Saye, Jack Cade hath sworn to have thy head" (4.4.18). This tendency for them to ignore one another is another example of their incompatibility, their failure to unite in thoughts.


Religion is a fundamental fact of life to Henry, who is presented as a genuinely pious character, truly in love with God, and in great reverence of Him, and His judgement. Shakespeare may have taken this aspect of Henry's character from Edward Hall's description of him: "He did abhor of his own nature, all the vices, as well of the body as of the soul
A soul in certain spiritual, philosophical, and psychological traditions is the incorporeal essence of a person or living thing or object. Many philosophical and spiritual systems teach that humans have souls, and others teach that all living things and even inanimate objects have souls. The...

; and from his very infancy he was of honest conversation and pure integrity; no knower of evil
Evil is the violation of, or intent to violate, some moral code. Evil is usually seen as the dualistic opposite of good. Definitions of evil vary along with analysis of its root motive causes, however general actions commonly considered evil include: conscious and deliberate wrongdoing,...

, and a keeper of all goodness; a despiser of all things which were wont to cause the minds of mortal men to slide or appair. Besides this, patience was so radicate in his heart that of all the injuries to him committed (which were no small number) he never asked vengeance nor punishment, but for that rendered to Almighty God, his Creator, hearty thanks, thinking that by this trouble and adversity his sins were to him forgotten and forgiven."
Religion as a theme, specifically Henry's love for God, is introduced early. When Henry first meets Margaret, his reaction is to welcome her, and then immediately thank God for bringing her to him; "I can express no kinder sign of love/Than this kind kiss. O Lord, that lends me life,/Lend me a heart replete with thankfulness!" (1.1.18–20). Henry has barely greeted Margaret, and already, he has turned from her and thanked God. Another example of Henry's belief in the power of God is seen when he first hears of the false miracle. Even before meeting Simpcox, Henry exclaims, "Now God be praised that to believing souls/Gives light in darkness, comfort in despair" (2.1.64–65). Henry immediately accepts the authenticity of the event without any evidence, simply trusting in his faith that it is true and that God has performed a miracle.

Henry also comments several times on his belief in the absolute nature of God's judgements. After discovering that Gloucester has died, Henry asks God to pass judgement on what has happened, as only God is qualified to do so;

O thou that judgest all things, stay my thoughts,

My thoughts, that labour to persuade my soul

Some violent hands were laid on Gloucester 's life.

If my suspect be false, forgive me God,

For judgment only doth belong to thee.

Henry also believes that justice, truth and guilt are determined by God, not through human actions. After the fight between Horner and Thump, Henry announces,

For by his death we do perceive his guilt.

And God in justice hath revealed to us

The truth and innocence of this poor fellow,

Which he had thought to have murdered wrongfully.

Indeed, so devoted to God is Henry that other characters comment on it. For example, when Margaret is deridingly describing Henry to Suffolk, she says,

All his mind is bent to holiness,

To number Ave-Maries
Hail Mary
The Angelic Salutation, Hail Mary, or Ave Maria is a traditional biblical Catholic prayer asking for the intercession of the Virgin Mary, the mother of Jesus. The Hail Mary is used within the Catholic Church, and it forms the basis of the Rosary...

 on his beads
The rosary or "garland of roses" is a traditional Catholic devotion. The term denotes the prayer beads used to count the series of prayers that make up the rosary...


His champions are the prophets and apostles
Apostle (Christian)
The term apostle is derived from Classical Greek ἀπόστολος , meaning one who is sent away, from στέλλω + από . The literal meaning in English is therefore an "emissary", from the Latin mitto + ex...


His weapons holy saws of sacred writ,

His study is his tilt-yard
A tiltyard was an enclosed courtyard for jousting . Tiltyards were a common feature of late medieval castles and palaces...

, and his loves

Are brazen images of canonised saints.

I would the college of the cardinals

Would choose him Pope and carry him to Rome,

And set the triple crown
Papal Tiara
The Papal Tiara, also known incorrectly as the Triple Tiara, or in Latin as the Triregnum, in Italian as the Triregno and as the Trirègne in French, is the three-tiered jewelled papal crown, supposedly of Byzantine and Persian origin, that is a prominent symbol of the papacy...

 upon his head;

That were a state fit for his holiness.

Additionally, York twice refers to Henry's piousness. First, when outlining his plan to assume power he refers to Henry as a king "whose church-like humours fits not for a crown" (1.1.246). Then, when making his argument as to why he should be king, he says to Henry, "Thy hand is made to grasp a palmer
Palmer (pilgrim)
In the Middle Ages, a palmer was a Christian Pilgrim, normally from Western Europe, who had visited the holy places in Palestine, and who, as a token of his visit, brought back a palm leaf, or a palm leaf folded into a cross...

's staff/And not to grace an aweful princely spectre" (5.1.97–98).


Ideas of justice
Justice is a concept of moral rightness based on ethics, rationality, law, natural law, religion, or equity, along with the punishment of the breach of said ethics; justice is the act of being just and/or fair.-Concept of justice:...

 are also paramount throughout the play, especially the notion of where justice comes from, who determines it. This is hinted at when Thump first meets Henry, and Henry asks Gloucester's opinion. Gloucester states,

Let these have a day appointed them

For single combat in convenient place,

For he hath witness of his servant's malice.

This is the law, and this Duke Gloucester's doom.

The idea of determining justice by physical combat illustrates that the lords feel it useless to actually listen to the debate, instead trusting simply that whoever wins must have been telling the truth, and whoever loses was the liar. Of this scene, Michael Hattaway has commented, "the feudal
Feudalism was a set of legal and military customs in medieval Europe that flourished between the 9th and 15th centuries, which, broadly defined, was a system for ordering society around relationships derived from the holding of land in exchange for service or labour.Although derived from the...

 ritual of trial by combat
Trial by combat
Trial by combat was a method of Germanic law to settle accusations in the absence of witnesses or a confession, in which two parties in dispute fought in single combat; the winner of the fight was proclaimed to be right. In essence, it is a judicially sanctioned duel...

 is reduced to the grotesque fights between the drunken armourer and his apprentice [...] It serves to mirror the realities of the play: instead of seeing justice determined by God with regards to the rights of the adversaries, here we see simply a trial of might." As Henry himself says,

For by his death we do perceive his guilt.

And God in justice hath revealed to us

The truth and innocence of this poor fellow,

Which he had thought to have murdered wrongfully.

He returns to this notion later, again arguing that truth is a defence against death and defeat;

What stronger breastplate than a heart untainted?

Thrice is he armed that hath his quarrel just,

And he but naked, though lock'd up in steel,

Whose conscience with injustice is corrupted.

The perversion of justice is also important in the fall of Gloucester, who assures Eleanor that as long as he has truth on his side, his enemies cannot destroy him (2.4.59–63). In this, he proves incorrect, as he is arrested on false charges and then assassinated prior to his trial. The nobles disdain for justice is revealed even more forcibly when Henry, unaware that Gloucester is dead, asks the court to treat him fairly, and Margaret, knowing full well he is both innocent and dead, responds, "God forbid any malice should prevail/That faultless may condemn a noble man" (3.2.23–24) As Michael Hattaway points out "In England under Henry, law bears little relation to divinity
Divinity and divine are broadly applied but loosely defined terms, used variously within different faiths and belief systems — and even by different individuals within a given faith — to refer to some transcendent or transcendental power or deity, or its attributes or manifestations in...

 and stands divorced from equity. The regnal and judicial roles of the king's court are hopelessly confused, so that the status of the institution itself is compromised." Hattaway also refers to the period as one where nobles converted "law into expediency".
Additionally, the lords apparent failure to understand the need for an impartial and functioning judiciary
The judiciary is the system of courts that interprets and applies the law in the name of the state. The judiciary also provides a mechanism for the resolution of disputes...

 system is echoed in the rebellion; "The virulent ambition and hostility to law that characterised the barons equally characterise the workmen," suggesting there is no difference between the old order and the would-be new one. This is particularly evident in Cade's speech after ordering the execution of Lord Saye; "The proudest peer in the realm shall not wear a head on his shoulders unless he pay me tribute. There shall not a maid be married but she shall pay to me her maidenhead
Virginity refers to the state of a person who has never engaged in sexual intercourse. There are cultural and religious traditions which place special value and significance on this state, especially in the case of unmarried females, associated with notions of personal purity, honor and worth...

 ere they have it. Men shall hold of me in capite
In old English law, a capite was a tenure, abolished by Act 12 Chas. II, xxiv., by which either person or land was held immediately of the king, or of his crown, either by knight-service or socage. A holder of a capite is termed a Tenant-in-chief....

; and we charge and command that their wives be as free as heart can wish or tongue can tell" (4.7.112–117). In this proposed new world order, Cade envisions establishing an autocracy
An autocracy is a form of government in which one person is the supreme power within the state. It is derived from the Greek : and , and may be translated as "one who rules by himself". It is distinct from oligarchy and democracy...

 where all will pay fealty to him, and where his laws, which he can make arbitrarily, stand for everyone. As such, in this political system, as in the old, law and justice seem to have little relevance.

Physical destruction

Physical violence is another major theme throughout the play, with multiple characters dying violently. Gloucester is suffocated in his bed, Winchester dies in a passionate frenzy, Suffolk is beheaded, Somerset and Clifford are killed in battle (as is Buckingham, as revealed early in 3 Henry VI, when Edward announces that he killed him), Cade has Matthew Gough, Humphrey Stafford, William Stafford, Lord Saye, James Comer and the Clerk of Chatham all executed during the rebellion, and is then killed and beheaded himself by Alexander Iden.

Gloucester's death in particular is associated with the physical, as seen in Warwick's detailed description of the body;

See how the blood is settled in his face.

Oft have I seen a timely-parted ghost
A cadaver is a dead human body.Cadaver may also refer to:* Cadaver tomb, tomb featuring an effigy in the form of a decomposing body* Cadaver , a video game* cadaver A command-line WebDAV client for Unix....


Of ashy semblance, meagre, pale, and bloodless,

Being all descended to the labouring heart,

Who in the conflict that it holds with death

Attracts the same for aidance 'gainst the enemy,

Which with the heart there cools and ne'er returneth

To blush and beautify the cheek again.

But see, his face is black and full of blood;

His eyeballs further out than when he lived,

Staring full ghastly like a strangled man;

His hair upreared, his nostrils stretched with struggling,

His hands abroad displayed, as one that grasped

And tugged for life and was by strength subdued.

Look, on the sheets: his hair, you see, is sticking;

His well-proportioned beard made rough and rugged,

Like to the summer's corn by tempest lodged.

It cannot be but he was murther'd here;

The least of all these signs were probable.

Winchester's death is also physically grotesque as he distorts his face and curses God, haunted by the ghost of Gloucester.

However, many of the after-death actions are even more macabre than the deaths themselves. Characters don't just die, their bodies are destroyed; Suffolk's head is delivered to Margaret, who carries it around court for the last two acts of the play. Lord Stafford and his brother are killed and their bodies dragged through the streets behind horses. Lord Saye and his son-in-law are beheaded and their heads carried throughout the streets on poles and made to kiss. Cade is beheaded and his head delivered to the king. Not only is physical violence presented as a major theme, but so too is physical desecration, a disregard for the body after death.


After the original 1592 performances, the complete text of 2 Henry VI seems to have been rarely acted. The first definite performance after Shakespeare's day was on 23 April 1864 (Shakespeare's tercentenary) at the Surrey Theatre
Surrey Theatre
The Surrey Theatre began life in 1782 as the Royal Circus and Equestrian Philharmonic Academy, one of the many circuses that provided contemporary London entertainment of both horsemanship and drama...

 in London, as a stand-alone performance (i.e. without 1 Henry VI or 3 Henry VI), with director James Anderson
James Anderson (actor)
James Anderson is a British actor.After graduating with first class honours from Warwick University, Anderson trained at the Actors' Studio in New York City. He has since had roles for TV, the stage and independent film...

 playing York and Cade. Of this production, The Illustrated London News wrote, "It is a revival, or rather restoration to the stage, of an utterly neglected work, which has not been played for 270 years." The next definite performance was in 1889, when George Osmond Tearle directed another stand-alone production at the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre
Royal Shakespeare Theatre
The Royal Shakespeare Theatre is a 1,040+ seat thrust stage theatre owned by the Royal Shakespeare Company dedicated to the British playwright and poet William Shakespeare. It is located in the town of Stratford-upon-Avon - Shakespeare's birthplace - in the English Midlands, beside the River Avon...

 in Stratford-upon-Avon
Stratford-upon-Avon is a market town and civil parish in south Warwickshire, England. It lies on the River Avon, south east of Birmingham and south west of Warwick. It is the largest and most populous town of the District of Stratford-on-Avon, which uses the term "on" to indicate that it covers...

, starring Erskine Lewis as Henry and Ellen Cranston as Margaret. In 1899, F.R. Benson directed yet another stand-alone production of the play at the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre. In 1906, he revived the play, and included 1 Henry VI and 3 Henry VI in a production of Shakespeare's two tetralogies, performed over eight nights. As far as can be ascertained, this was not only the first performance of the octology, but was also the first performance of both the tetralogy and the trilogy. Benson himself played Henry and his wife, Constance Benson
Constance Benson
Constance Benson was a British stage and film actress.Born Gertrude Constance Samwell in London, England, Benson was the wife of Australian actor Frank Benson. She worked in theater for most of her career, but did appear in lead roles in four silent films, all of which were early film adaptations...

, played Margaret.

In 1951, Douglas Seale
Douglas Seale
Douglas Seale was a British stage and film actor.He provided the voice of Krebbs in The Rescuers Down Under . Two years later, Seale voiced the Sultan in Aladdin. He also appeared in several movies including Amadeus and Ernest Saves Christmas...

 directed a production at the Birmingham Repertory Theatre
Birmingham Repertory Theatre
Birmingham Repertory Theatre is a theatre and theatre company based on Centenary Square in Birmingham, England...

, starring Paul Daneman
Paul Daneman
Paul Daneman was an English film, television, theatre and voice actor.Paul Frederick Daneman was born in Islington, London. He attended the Haberdashers' Aske's School and Sir William Borlase's Grammar School in Marlow and studied stage design at Reading University where he joined the dramatic...

 as Henry, Rosalind Boxall as Margaret, John Arnatt
John Arnatt
- Biography :John Arnatt was born in Petrograd on 9 May 1917. His parents were Francis Arnatt and Ethel Marion Arnatt . He attended Epworth College. Arnatt trained for the stage at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art...

 as York and Alfred Burke
Alfred Burke
Alfred Burke was a British actor, best known for his portrayal of Frank Marker in the drama series Public Eye, which ran on television for ten years.-Early life:...

 as Gloucester. 2 Henry VI has not been performed as a stand-alone play since then, although Seale's production was so successful that 3 Henry VI followed in 1952, and 1 Henry VI in 1953, all with linked casting.

A production which made much of its unedited status came in 1977, at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, where Terry Hands
Terry Hands
Terence David Hands is an English theatre director. He ran the Royal Shakespeare Company for 20 years during one of its most successful periods.-Early years:...

 presented all three Henry VI plays with Alan Howard
Alan Howard
Alan MacKenzie Howard, CBE, is an English actor known for his roles on stage, television and film.He was a member of the Royal Shakespeare Company from 1966 to 1983, and played leading roles at the Royal National Theatre between 1992 and 2000.-Personal life:Howard is the only son of the actor...

 as Henry and Helen Mirren
Helen Mirren
Dame Helen Mirren, DBE is an English actor. She has won an Academy Award for Best Actress, four SAG Awards, four BAFTAs, three Golden Globes, four Emmy Awards, and two Cannes Film Festival Best Actress Awards.-Early life and family:...

 as Margaret. Although the production was only moderately successful at the box office, it was critically lauded at the time for Alan Howard's unique portrayal of Henry. Howard adopted historical details concerning the real Henry's madness
Insanity, craziness or madness is a spectrum of behaviors characterized by certain abnormal mental or behavioral patterns. Insanity may manifest as violations of societal norms, including becoming a danger to themselves and others, though not all such acts are considered insanity...

 into his performance, presenting the character as constantly on the brink of a mental and emotional breakdown. Also praised was the staging of the battle of St Albans, which was fought between the principal characters only, without any extras or suggestions of it being a larger battle, thus emphasising that the whole conflict grew from what was originally a small family squabble. Possibly as a reaction to a recent adaptation of the trilogy under the general title Wars of the Roses, which was strongly political, Hands attempted to ensure his own production was entirely apolitical; "Wars of the Roses was a study in power politics: its central image was the conference table, and Warwick, the scheming king-maker, was the central figure. But that's not Shakespeare. Shakespeare goes far beyond politics. Politics is a very shallow science." Aside from Howard and Mirren, the production starred Emrys James
Emrys James
Emrys James , was a Welsh Shakespearean actor. He also performed in many theatre and TV parts between 1960 and 1989, and was an Associate Artist of the Royal Shakespeare Company...

 as York and Graham Crowden
Graham Crowden
Clement Graham Crowden was a Scottish actor. He was best known for his many appearances in television comedy dramas and films, often playing eccentric 'offbeat' scientist, teacher and doctor characters.-Early life:...

 as Gloucester.
Under the direction of Michael Boyd the play was presented at the Swan Theatre
Swan Theatre (Stratford)
The Swan Theatre is a theatre belonging to the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford-upon-Avon, England. It is built on to the side of the larger Royal Shakespeare Theatre, occupying the Victorian Gothic structure that formerly housed the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre that preceded the RST but was...

 in Stratford in 2000, with David Oyelowo
David Oyelowo
- Background :Oyelowo was born in Oxford, England of Nigerian descent. He is married to actress Jessica Oyelowo and they have three sons.Oyelowo first attended a youth theatre after being invited by a girl to whom he was attracted. He then studied Theatre Studies for A level and his teacher...

 as Henry, Fiona Bell as Margaret, Clive Wood
Clive Wood
-Film and television:Wood's first starring TV role was as Vic Brown, opposite Joanne Whalley and Susan Penhaligon, in the 1982 ITV drama series based on the novel A Kind of Loving. He has played Matt Kerr in Press Gang, DCI Gordon Wray in The Bill and Jack Morgan in London's Burning...

 as York and Richard Cordery
Richard Cordery
-External links:*http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0179549/*http://www.bestofbritish.ws/RichardCorderyCV.pdf*http://www.almeida.co.uk/production_details/Waste/the_cast.aspx...

 as Gloucester. The play was presented with the five other history plays (Richard II
Richard II (play)
King Richard the Second is a history play by William Shakespeare believed to be written in approximately 1595. It is based on the life of King Richard II of England and is the first part of a tetralogy, referred to by some scholars as the Henriad, followed by three plays concerning Richard's...

, 1 Henry IV
Henry IV, Part 1
Henry IV, Part 1 is a history play by William Shakespeare, believed to have been written no later than 1597. It is the second play in Shakespeare's tetralogy dealing with the successive reigns of Richard II, Henry IV , and Henry V...

, 2 Henry IV
Henry IV, Part 2
Henry IV, Part 2 is a history play by William Shakespeare, believed written between 1596 and 1599. It is the third part of a tetralogy, preceded by Richard II and Henry IV, Part 1 and succeeded by Henry V.-Sources:...

, Henry V and Richard III) to form a complete eight-part history cycle under the general title This England: The Histories
This England: The Histories
This England: The Histories was a season of Shakespeare's history plays staged by the Royal Shakespeare Company in 2000-2001. The company staged both of Shakespeare's tetralogies of history plays so that audiences could see all eight plays over several days...

(the first time the RSC had ever attempted to stage the eight plays as one sequence). This England: The Histories was revived in 2006, as part of the Complete Works
Complete Works (RSC festival)
The Complete Works is a festival set up by the Royal Shakespeare Company, running between April 2006 and March 2007 at Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire, England. The festival aims to perform all of Shakespeare's works, including his sonnets, poems and all 37 plays...

festival at the Courtyard Theatre
Courtyard Theatre
The Courtyard Theatre is a temporary 1,048 seat thrust stage theatre building in Stratford-upon-Avon, England. Designed by Ian Ritchie Architects and built in 11 months, it opened in August 2006 to host performances by the Royal Shakespeare Company while its Royal Shakespeare and Swan Theatres...

, with the Henry VI plays again directed by Boyd, and starring Chuk Iwuji as Henry, Katy Stephens as Margaret, Jonathan Slinger
Jonathan Slinger
Jonathan Slinger is a British actor. He trained at RADA, graduating in 1994. From there, he went to work at the Royal National Theatre and Shakespeare's Globe...

 as Richard, Duke of Gloucester and, reprising his role from 2000, Richard Cordery as Gloucester. When the Complete Works wrapped in March 2007, the history plays remained on stage, under the shorter title The Histories, as part of a two-year thirty-four actor ensemble
Ensemble cast
An ensemble cast is made up of cast members in which the principal actors and performers are assigned roughly equal amounts of importance and screen time in a dramatic production. This kind of casting became more popular in television series because it allows flexibility for writers to focus on...

 production. 2 Henry VI was performed under the title Henry VI, Part 2: England's Fall. At the end of the two-year programme, the entire octology was performed over a four-day period under the title The Glorious Moment; Richard II was staged on a Thursday evening, followed by the two Henry IV plays on Friday afternoon and evening, the three Henry VI plays on Saturday (two afternoon performances and one evening performance), and Richard III on Sunday evening.

Boyd's production garnered much attention at the time because of his interpolations and additions to the text. Most notably, Boyd introduced a new character into the trilogy. Called The Keeper, the character never speaks, but upon the death of each major character, the Keeper (played by Edward Clayton in 2000, and by Anthony Bunsee in 2006/2007), wearing all red, would walk onto stage and approach the body. The actor playing the body would then stand up and allow himself to be led off-stage by the figure. Another alteration was that the 'Lieutenant' who orders Suffolk's death in 4.1 was in fact the ghost of Lord Talbot (played by Keith Bartlett), who had been killed in 1 Henry VI. Additionally, during Jack Cade's rebellion, the ghosts of Gloucester, Winchester and Suffolk all appear as rebels, and in a much lauded piece of double casting, Clayton and Bunsee also played Dick the Butcher in their respective performances. The production was also particularly noted for its realistic violence. According to Robert Gore-Langton of the Daily Express
Daily Express
The Daily Express switched from broadsheet to tabloid in 1977 and was bought by the construction company Trafalgar House in the same year. Its publishing company, Beaverbrook Newspapers, was renamed Express Newspapers...

, in his review of the original 2000 production, "blood from a severed arm sprayed over my lap. A human liver slopped to the floor by my feet. An eyeball scudded past, then a tongue."

Outside the UK, the first major American performance was in 1935 at the Pasadena Playhouse
Pasadena Playhouse
The Pasadena Playhouse is a historic performing arts venue located 39 S El Molino Avenue in Pasadena, California. The 686-seat auditorium produces a variety of cultural and artistic events, professional shows, and community engagements each year.-History:...

 in California, directed by Gilmore Brown, as part of a production of all ten Shakespearean histories (the two tetralogies, preceded by King John and proceeded by Henry VIII
Henry VIII (play)
The Famous History of the Life of King Henry the Eight is a history play by William Shakespeare and John Fletcher, based on the life of Henry VIII of England. An alternative title, All is True, is recorded in contemporary documents, the title Henry VIII not appearing until the play's publication...


In Europe, unedited stagings of the play took place at the Weimar Court Theatre in 1857. Directed by Franz von Dingelstedt
Franz von Dingelstedt
Franz von Dingelstedt was a German poet, dramatist and theatre administrator.-Biography:Dingestedt was born at Halsdorf, Hesse-Kassel , Germany, and later studied at the University of Marburg nearby. In 1836 he became a master at the Lyceum in Kassel, from where he was transferred to Fulda in 1838...

, it was performed as the sixth part of the octology, with all eight plays staged over a ten day period. A major production was staged at the Burgtheater
The Burgtheater , originally known as K.K. Theater an der Burg, then until 1918 as the K.K. Hofburgtheater, is the Austrian National Theatre in Vienna and one of the most important German language theatres in the world.The Burgtheater was created in 1741 and has become known as "die Burg" by the...

 in Vienna in 1873, with a celebrated performance from Friedrich Mitterwurzer as Winchester. Jocza Savits directed a production of the tetralogy at the Munich Court Theatre
Bavarian State Opera
The Bavarian State Opera is an opera company based in Munich, Germany.Its orchestra is the Bavarian State Orchestra.- History:The opera company which was founded under Princess Henriette Adelaide of Savoy has been in existence since 1653...

 in 1889 and again in 1906. In 1927, Saladin Schmitt presented the unedited octology at the Municipal Theatre in Bochum
Bochum is a city in North Rhine-Westphalia, western Germany. It is located in the Ruhr area and is surrounded by the cities of Essen, Gelsenkirchen, Herne, Castrop-Rauxel, Dortmund, Witten and Hattingen.-History:...

. The next major German production was Peter Palitzsch's presentation of the tetralogy as Der krieg der rosen in 1967 at the Stuttgart State Theatre
Staatstheater Stuttgart
The Staatstheater Stuttgart ' is an opera house in Stuttgart, Germany. It is also known locally as the Grosses Haus, having been the larger of two theatres of the former Königliche Hoftheater....

. Denis Llorca staged the tetralogy as one twelve-hour piece in Carcassonne
Carcassonne is a fortified French town in the Aude department, of which it is the prefecture, in the former province of Languedoc.It is divided into the fortified Cité de Carcassonne and the more expansive lower city, the ville basse. Carcassone was founded by the Visigoths in the fifth century,...

 in 1978 and in Créteil
-Health:As of 1 January 2006, 27 pharmacies, about 60 dentists, about 60 general practitioners, 10 pediatricians, and a half-dozen ophthalmologists and dermatologists constitute the general medical staff of the city.Health facilities include:...

 in 1979. In 1999, director Ruediger Burbach presented 2 Henry VI and 3 Henry VI at the Zurich Playhouse
Schauspielhaus Zürich
The Schauspielhaus Zürich is one of the most prominent and important theatres in the German-speaking world. It is also known as "Pfauenbühne" after its location on the Pfauen Square in Zürich, Switzerland. The large theatre has 750 seats...

. This production was unique insofar as a woman (Katharina Schmoelzer) played Henry. Margaret was played by Katharina von Bock.


Evidence for the first adaptation of 2 Henry VI is found during the Restoration, when, in 1681, John Crowne
John Crowne
John Crowne was a British dramatist and a native of Nova Scotia.His father "Colonel" William Crowne, accompanied the earl of Arundel on a diplomatic mission to Vienna in 1637, and wrote an account of his journey...

 created a two part play entitled Henry the Sixth, The First Part and The Misery of Civil War. Henry comprised Acts 1–3 of 2 Henry VI focusing on the death of Gloucester, Misery adapted the last two acts of 2 Henry VI and much of 3 Henry VI. Writing at the time of Popish Plot
Popish Plot
The Popish Plot was a fictitious conspiracy concocted by Titus Oates that gripped England, Wales and Scotland in Anti-Catholic hysteria between 1678 and 1681. Oates alleged that there existed an extensive Catholic conspiracy to assassinate Charles II, accusations that led to the execution of at...

, Crowne, who was a devout royalist
A royalist supports a particular monarch as head of state for a particular kingdom, or of a particular dynastic claim. In the abstract, this position is royalism. It is distinct from monarchism, which advocates a monarchical system of government, but not necessarily a particular monarch...

, used his adaptation to warn about the danger of allowing England to descend into another civil war, which would be the case should the Whig party rise to power. As such, the scenes of Jack Cade's rebellion, as depicted in Misery, were much more violent than in Shakespeare, with painted backdrops of people on fire and children impaled on pikes. Crowne also rewrote the roles of Gloucester and Winchester to make Gloucester more saint-like and taintless, and Winchester even more villainous. He also linked the murder of Gloucester to the recent assassination of Edmund Berry Godfrey
Edmund Berry Godfrey
Sir Edmund Berry Godfrey was an English magistrate whose mysterious death caused anti-Catholic uproar in England...

, an incident which had led to an outbreak of anti-Catholic hysteria in London in 1678. By creating this link, Crowne was aiming to enhance anti-Catholic sentiment even more and ensure the passing of the Exclusion Bill
Exclusion Bill
The Exclusion Crisis ran from 1678 through 1681 in the reign of Charles II of England. The Exclusion Bill sought to exclude the king's brother and heir presumptive, James, Duke of York, from the thrones of England, Scotland and Ireland because he was Roman Catholic...

, which would prevent the Catholic James Stuart, Duke of York
James II of England
James II & VII was King of England and King of Ireland as James II and King of Scotland as James VII, from 6 February 1685. He was the last Catholic monarch to reign over the Kingdoms of England, Scotland, and Ireland...

 succeeding his brother, the Protestant Charles II
Charles II of England
Charles II was monarch of the three kingdoms of England, Scotland, and Ireland.Charles II's father, King Charles I, was executed at Whitehall on 30 January 1649, at the climax of the English Civil War...

. To this end, Crowne rewrote the murder scene to give more characterisation to the three murderers, who were depicted as devout, but cold blooded Catholics.

Two more adaptations followed in 1723. The first was Humfrey Duke of Gloucester by Ambrose Philips
Ambrose Philips
-Life:He was born in Shropshire of a Leicestershire family. He was educated at Shrewsbury School and St John's College, Cambridge, of which he became a fellow in 1699. He seems to have lived chiefly at Cambridge until he resigned his fellowship in 1708, and his pastorals were probably written in...

, which used about thirty lines from Acts 1–3 of 2 Henry VI and was performed at Drury Lane
Theatre Royal, Drury Lane
The Theatre Royal, Drury Lane is a West End theatre in Covent Garden, in the City of Westminster, a borough of London. The building faces Catherine Street and backs onto Drury Lane. The building standing today is the most recent in a line of four theatres at the same location dating back to 1663,...

. In a possible comment on the politics of Crowne's adaptation, Phillips dedicated his version to William Pulteney, 1st Earl of Bath
William Pulteney, 1st Earl of Bath
William Pulteney, 1st Earl of Bath, PC was an English politician, a Whig, created the first Earl of Bath in 1742 by King George II; he is sometimes stated to have been Prime Minister, for the shortest term ever , though most modern sources reckon that he cannot be considered to have held the...

, a leading Whig politician. The second 1723 adaptation, also performed at Drury Lane, was Theophilus Cibber
Theophilus Cibber
Theophilus Cibber was an English actor, playwright, author, and son of the actor-manager Colley Cibber.He began acting at an early age, and followed his father into theatrical management. In 1727, Alexander Pope satirized Theophilus Cibber in his Dunciad as a youth who "thrusts his person full...

's King Henry VI: A Tragedy, which used Act 5 of 2 Henry VI and Acts 1 and 2 of 3 Henry VI, and which featured his father Colley Cibber
Colley Cibber
Colley Cibber was an English actor-manager, playwright and Poet Laureate. His colourful memoir Apology for the Life of Colley Cibber describes his life in a personal, anecdotal and even rambling style...

 as Winchester.

In 1817, Edmund Kean
Edmund Kean
Edmund Kean was an English actor, regarded in his time as the greatest ever.-Early life:Kean was born in London. His father was probably Edmund Kean, an architect’s clerk, and his mother was an actress, Anne Carey, daughter of the 18th century composer and playwright Henry Carey...

 appeared in J.H. Merivale
John Herman Merivale
John Herman Merivale was an English barrister and man of letters.-Life:He was the only son of John Merivale of Barton Place, Exeter, and Bedford Square, London, by Ann Katencamp or Katenkamp, daughter of a German merchant settled in Exeter, and was born in that city on 5 August 1779...

's Richard Duke of York; or the Contention of York and Lancaster, which used material from all three Henry VI plays, but removed everything not directly related to York. Material from 2 Henry VI included the lamentation about the lose of Anjou and Maine, the conflict between Gloucester and Winchester, the murder of Gloucester, the death of Winchester (where all Warwick's dialogue is reassigned to York), and Cade's rebellion.

Following Merivale's example, Robert Atkins
Robert Atkins (actor)
Sir Robert Atkins, CBE was an English actor, producer and director.Born in Dulwich, London, England, Atkins was most famous for his participation in the theatre. An early graduate of the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, he also appeared many times on film and in television, though not with the...

 adapted all three plays into one for a performance at The Old Vic in 1923 as part of the celebrations for the tercentenary of the First Folio. Guy Martineau played Henry and Esther Whitehouse played Margaret. Atkins himself played York.

The success of the 1951–1953 Douglas Seale stand-alone productions of each of the individual plays in Birmingham prompted him to present the three plays together at the Old Vic in 1957 under the general title The Wars of the Roses. Barry Jackson adapted the text, altering the trilogy into a two part play; 1 Henry VI and 2 Henry VI were combined (with almost all of 1 Henry VI eliminated) and 3 Henry VI was edited down. Seale again directed, with Paul Daneman again appearing as Henry and Alfred Burke as Gloucester, alongside Barbara Jefford
Barbara Jefford
Barbara Jefford, OBE is a British Shakespearean actress best known for her theatrical performances with the Royal Shakespeare Company, the Old Vic and the National Theatre, and her role as Molly Bloom in the 1967 film of James Joyce's Ulysses.-Early life:Jefford was born Mary Barbara Jefford in...

 as Margaret and Derek Godfrey
Derek Godfrey
Derek Godfrey was a British actor who appeared in several films and BBC television dramatizations during the 1960s and 1970s....

 as York.

The production which is usually credited with establishing the reputation of the play in the modern theatre is John Barton
John Barton (director)
John Bernard Adie Barton CBE is a theatrical director. He is the son of Sir Harold Montagu and Lady Joyce Barton. He married Anne Righter, a university lecturer, in 1968....

 and Peter Hall's 1963/1964 RSC production of the tetralogy, adapted into a three-part series, under the general title The Wars of the Roses, at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre. The first play (entitled simply Henry VI) featured a much shortened version of 1 Henry VI and half of 2 Henry VI (up to the death of Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester). The second play (entitled Edward IV) featured the second half of 2 Henry VI and a shortened version of 3 Henry VI, which was then followed by a shortened version of Richard III as the third play. In all, 1,450 lines written by Barton were added to 6,000 lines of original Shakespearean material, with a total of 12,350 lines removed. The production starred David Warner
David Warner (actor)
David Warner is an English actor who is known for playing both romantic leads and sinister or villainous characters, both in film and animation...

 as Henry, Peggy Ashcroft
Peggy Ashcroft
Dame Peggy Ashcroft, DBE was an English actress.-Early years:Born as Edith Margaret Emily Ashcroft in Croydon, Ashcroft attended the Woodford School, Croydon and the Central School of Speech and Drama...

 as Margaret, Donald Sinden
Donald Sinden
Sir Donald Alfred Sinden CBE is an English actor of theatre, film and television.-Personal life:Sinden was born in Plymouth, Devon, England, on 9 October 1923. The son of Alfred Edward Sinden and his wife Mabel Agnes , he grew up in the Sussex village of Ditchling, where their home doubled as the...

 as York and Paul Hardwick
Paul Hardwick
Paul Hardwick was an English actor.-Selected filmography:*The Prince and the Showgirl *The Long Duel *Romeo and Juliet -External links:...

 as Gloucester. Barton and Hall were both especially concerned that the plays reflect the contemporary political environment, with the civil chaos and breakdown of society depicted in the plays mirrored in the contemporary milieu, by events such as the building of the Berlin Wall
Berlin Wall
The Berlin Wall was a barrier constructed by the German Democratic Republic starting on 13 August 1961, that completely cut off West Berlin from surrounding East Germany and from East Berlin...

 in 1961, the Cuban Missile Crisis
Cuban Missile Crisis
The Cuban Missile Crisis was a confrontation among the Soviet Union, Cuba and the United States in October 1962, during the Cold War...

 in 1962 and the assassination of John F. Kennedy
Assassination of John F. Kennedy
John Fitzgerald Kennedy, the thirty-fifth President of the United States, was assassinated at 12:30 p.m. Central Standard Time on Friday, November 22, 1963, in Dealey Plaza, Dallas, Texas...

 in 1963. Hall allowed these events to reflect themselves in the production, arguing that "we live among war, race riots, revolutions, assassinations, and the immanent threat of extinction. The theatre is, therefore, examining fundamentals in staging the Henry VI plays."

Another major adaptation was staged in 1987 by the English Shakespeare Company
English Shakespeare Company
The English Shakespeare Company was an English theatre company founded in 1986 by Michael Bogdanov and Michael Pennington to present and promote the works of William Shakespeare on both a national and an international level....

, under the director of Michael Bogdanov
Michael Bogdanov
Michael Bogdanov , is a British theatre director known for his work with new plays, modern reinterpretations of Shakespeare, musicals and work for Young People.-Early years:...

. This touring production opened at the Old Vic, and subsequently toured for two years, performing at, amongst others, the Panasonic Globe Theatre
Panasonic Globe Theatre
The Panasonic Globe Theatre in Tokyo, Japan, was designed by Isozaki Arata and opened in 1988 to showcase local and international productions of Shakespeare's plays...

 in Tokyo, Japan (as the inaugural play of the arena), the Festival dei Due Mondi
Festival dei Due Mondi
The Festival dei Due Mondi ' is an annual summer music and opera festival held each June to early July in Spoleto, Italy, since its founding by composer Gian Carlo Menotti in 1958...

 in Spoleto
Spoleto is an ancient city in the Italian province of Perugia in east central Umbria on a foothill of the Apennines. It is S. of Trevi, N. of Terni, SE of Perugia; SE of Florence; and N of Rome.-History:...

, Italy and at the Adelaide Festival of Arts
Adelaide Festival of Arts
The Adelaide Festival of Arts is an arts festival held biennially in the South Australian capital of Adelaide. Although locally considered to be one of the world's greatest celebrations of the arts, that is internationally renowned and the pre-eminent cultural event in Australia, it is actually...

 in Adelaide
Adelaide is the capital city of South Australia and the fifth-largest city in Australia. Adelaide has an estimated population of more than 1.2 million...

, Australia. Following the structure established by Barton, Bogdanov combined a heavily edited 1 Henry VI and the first half of 2 Henry VI into one play (Henry VI), and the second half of 2 Henry VI and 3 Henry VI into another (Edward IV), and followed them with an edited Richard III. Also like Barton, Bogdanov concentrated on political issues, although he made them far more overt than had Barton. For example, played by June Watson, Margaret was closely modelled after the British Prime Minister
Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
The Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is the Head of Her Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom. The Prime Minister and Cabinet are collectively accountable for their policies and actions to the Sovereign, to Parliament, to their political party and...

 at the time, Margaret Thatcher
Margaret Thatcher
Margaret Hilda Thatcher, Baroness Thatcher, was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1979 to 1990...

, even to the point of having similar clothes and hair. Similarly, Paul Brennan
Paul Brennan
The Irish artist is a teacher at Willow Tree Primary School located in West LondonPaul Brennan is a traditional musician from County Down, Northern Ireland who has lived in London for a number of years.Brennan co-founded the Belfast School of Piping...

's Henry was modelled after King Edward, prior to his abdication
Abdication occurs when a monarch, such as a king or emperor, renounces his office.-Terminology:The word abdication comes derives from the Latin abdicatio. meaning to disown or renounce...

. Jack Cade, played by Michael Pennington
Michael Pennington
Michael Vivian Fyfe Pennington is a British director and actor who, together with director Michael Bogdanov, founded the English Shakespeare Company...

 was presented as a punk with spiked hair and wearing a shirt depicting a Union Jack
Union Flag
The Union Flag, also known as the Union Jack, is the flag of the United Kingdom. It retains an official or semi-official status in some Commonwealth Realms; for example, it is known as the Royal Union Flag in Canada. It is also used as an official flag in some of the smaller British overseas...

 with a white rose in the middle, and during the Cade rebellion, football hooligan
Football hooliganism
Football hooliganism, sometimes referred to by the British media as the English Disease, is unruly and destructive behaviour—such as brawls, vandalism and intimidation—by association football club fans...

 chants were heard. Indeed, the Cade rebellion in general was modelled on the National Front. Bogdanov also employed frequent anachronisms and contemporary visual registers, in an effort to show the relevance of the politics in the fifteenth century to the contemporary period. The production was noted for its pessimism as regards contemporary British politics, with some critics feeling the political resonances were too heavy handed. However, the series was a huge box office success. Alongside Watson and Brennen, the play starred Barry Stanton as York and Colin Farrell as Gloucester.

Another adaptation of the tetralogy by the Royal Shakespeare Company followed in 1988, performed at the Barbican
Barbican Centre
The Barbican Centre is the largest performing arts centre in Europe. Located in the City of London, England, the Centre hosts classical and contemporary music concerts, theatre performances, film screenings and art exhibitions. It also houses a library, three restaurants, and a conservatory...

. Adapted by Charles Wood
Charles Wood (playwright)
Charles Wood is a playwright and scriptwriter for radio, television, and film. He lives in England....

 and directed by Adrian Noble
Adrian Noble
Adrian Keith Noble is a theatre director, and was also the artistic director and chief executive of the Royal Shakespeare Company from 1990 to 2003.-Education and career:...

, the Barton structure was again followed, reducing the trilogy to two plays by dividing 2 Henry VI in the middle. The resulting trilogy was entitled The Plantagenets, with the individual plays entitled Henry VI, The Rise of Edward IV and Richard III, His Death. Starring Ralph Fiennes
Ralph Fiennes
Ralph Nathaniel Twisleton-Wykeham-Fiennes is an English actor and film director. He has appeared in such films as The English Patient, In Bruges, The Constant Gardener, Strange Days, The Duchess and Schindler's List....

 as Henry, Penny Downie
Penny Downie
Penny Downie is an Australian actress, noted for her appearances on British television.She began her career in Australia, initially in Brisbane at Twelfth Night Theatre and Brisbane Arts Theatre. She trained at the National Institute of Dramatic Art , Sydney...

 as Margaret, Anton Lesser
Anton Lesser
Anton Lesser is a British actor. He attended Moseley Grammar School and the University of Liverpool before going to RADA in 1977 where he was awarded the Bancroft Gold Medal as the most promising actor of his year....

 as York and David Waller
David Waller
David Waller was an English actor best known for his role as Inspector Jowett in the British television series Cribb...

 as Gloucester, the production was extremely successful with both audiences and critics.

Michael Bogdanov and the English Shakespeare Company presented a different adaptation at the Grand Theatre in Swansea in 1991, using the same cast as on the touring production. All eight plays from the history cycle were presented over a seven night period, with each play receiving one performance only, and with only twenty eight actors portraying the nearly five hundred roles. Whilst the other five plays in the cycle were unadapted, the Henry VI plays were combined into two, using the Barton structure. The first was named The House of Lancaster and the second, The House of York.

In 2000, Edward Hall
Edward Hall (director)
Edward Hall is an English theatre director and an associate director at The National Theatre. Hall is known for directing Rose Rage, a stage adaptation of Shakespeare's three Henry VI plays. He also runs an all-male Shakespeare company, Propeller...

 presented the trilogy as a two-part series at the Watermill Theatre
Watermill Theatre
The Watermill Theatre is an award -winning, professional repertory theatre with charitable status. It is a converted watermill with gardens beside the River Lambourn, in Bagnor, near Newbury, Berkshire, England...

 in Newbury
Newbury, Berkshire
Newbury is a civil parish and the principal town in the west of the county of Berkshire in England. It is situated on the River Kennet and the Kennet and Avon Canal, and has a town centre containing many 17th century buildings. Newbury is best known for its racecourse and the adjoining former USAF...

. Hall followed the Jackson/Seale adaptation, combining 1 Henry VI and 2 Henry VI into one play which all but eliminated 1 Henry VI and following this with an edited version of 3 Henry VI. This production was noted for how it handled the violence of the play. The set was designed to look like an abattoir
A slaughterhouse or abattoir is a facility where animals are killed for consumption as food products.Approximately 45-50% of the animal can be turned into edible products...

, but rather than attempt to present the violence realistically (as most productions do), Hall went in the other direction; presenting the violence symbolically. Whenever a character was decapitated or killed, a red cabbage was sliced up whilst the actor mimed the death beside it.

In 2001, Tom Markus directed an adaptation of the tetralogy at the Colorado Shakespeare Festival
Colorado Shakespeare Festival
The Colorado Shakespeare Festival is a Shakespeare Festival each summer at the University of Colorado at Boulder in the outdoor Mary Rippon Theater and indoor University Theatre. The Mary Rippon Theater hosted an annual summer Shakespeare play starting in 1944. The Colorado Shakespeare Festival...

. Condensing all fours plays into one, Markus named the play Queen Margaret, doing much the same with the character of Margaret as Merivale had done with York. Margaret was played by Gloria Biegler, Henry by Richard Haratine, York by Lars Tatom and Gloucester by Charles Wilcox.
Another unusual 2001 adaptation of the tetralogy was entitled Shakespeare's Rugby Wars. Written by Matt Toner and Chris Coculuzzi, and directed by Coculuzzi, the play was acted by the Upstart Crow Theatre Group and staged outdoors at the Robert Street Playing Field as part of the Toronto Fringe Festival
Toronto Fringe Festival
The Toronto Fringe Festival is an annual theatre festival, featuring uncensored plays by unknown or well-known artists, taking place in the theatres of Toronto. Several productions originally mounted at the Fringe have later been remounted for larger audiences, including the Tony Award-winning...

. Presented as if it were a live rugby match between York and Lancaster, the 'play' featured commentary from Falstaff
Sir John Falstaff is a fictional character who appears in three plays by William Shakespeare. In the two Henry IV plays, he is a companion to Prince Hal, the future King Henry V. A fat, vain, boastful, and cowardly knight, Falstaff leads the apparently wayward Prince Hal into trouble, and is...

 (Stephen Flett), which was broadcast live for the audience. The 'match' itself was refereed by 'Bill Shakespeare' (played by Coculuzzi), and the actors (whose characters names all appeared on their jerseys) had microphones attached and would recite dialogue from all four plays at key moments.

In 2002, Leon Rubin presented the tetralogy as a trilogy at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival in Ontario. Using the Barton method of combining 1 Henry VI with the first half of 2 Henry VI, and the second half of 2 Henry VI with 3 Henry VI, the plays were renamed Henry VI: Revenge in France and Henry VI: Revolt in England. Michael Thierry played Henry, Seana McKenna
Seana McKenna
Seana McKenna is a Canadian actress primarily associated with stage roles at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival.-Background:Seana Mckenna was raised in Etobicoke, west of Toronto, Ontario...

 played Margaret, Thom Marriott played York and David Francis played Gloucester.

Also in 2002, Edward Hall and the Propellor Company presented a one-play all-male cast modern dress adaptation of the trilogy at the Watermill Theatre
Watermill Theatre
The Watermill Theatre is an award -winning, professional repertory theatre with charitable status. It is a converted watermill with gardens beside the River Lambourn, in Bagnor, near Newbury, Berkshire, England...

. Under the title Rose Rage, Hall used a cast of only thirteen actors to portray the nearly one hundred and fifty speaking roles in the four-hour production, thus necessitating doubling and tripling of parts. Although a new adaptation, this production followed the Jackson/Seale method of eliminating almost all of 1 Henry VI. The original cast included Jonathan McGuinness as Henry, Robert Hands
Robert Hands
Robert Hands is a British actor based in London. He trained at the prestigious Bristol Old Vic theatre school. His career has spanned over twenty years during which time he has played leading roles in film, television, and both classical and musical theatre in London’s West End...

 as Margaret, Guy Williams as York and Richard Clothier as Gloucester. After a successful run at the Watermill, the play moved to the Chicago Shakespeare Theater
Chicago Shakespeare Theater
Chicago Shakespeare Theater is a non-profit, professional theater company located at Navy Pier in Chicago, Illinois. Its more than six hundred annual performances performed 48 weeks of the year include its critically acclaimed Shakespeare series, its World's Stage touring productions, and youth...

. The American cast included Carman Lacivita as Henry, Scott Parkinson as Margaret, Bruce A. Young
Bruce A. Young
Bruce A. Young is an American television, film, and stage actor who is perhaps best known for his role as Capt. Simon Banks in the UPN science fiction police drama The Sentinel. Young had roles in the films Risky Business, Jurassic Park III, The Color of Money, Basic Instinct, Into Temptation,...

 as York and Sean Fortunato as Gloucester.

Outside England, a major European adaptation of the tetralogy took place in 1864 in Weimar under the direction of Franz von Dingelstedt, who, seven years previously had staged the play unedited. Dingelstedt turned the trilogy into a two-parter under the general name Die weisse rose. The first play was called Haus Lancaster, the second Haus York. This adaptation was unique insofar as both plays were created by combining material from all three Henry VI plays. Following this structure, Alfred von Walzogen also produced a two-part play in 1875, under the general title Edward IV. Another European adaptation was in 1965 at the Teatro Piccolo in Milan. Directed by Giorgio Strehler
Giorgio Strehler
Giorgio Strehler was an Italian opera and theatre director.-Biography:Strehler was born in Barcola, Trieste to an Austrian father and a Franco-Slovene mother; he grew up speaking Italian but spoke French well and his German was passable. He became suddenly fatherless at the age of three, his...

 it went under the title Il gioco del potenti (The Play of the Mighty). Using Barton's structure, Strehler also added several characters, including a Chorus, who used monologues from Richard II, both parts of Henry IV, Henry V, Macbeth
The Tragedy of Macbeth is a play by William Shakespeare about a regicide and its aftermath. It is Shakespeare's shortest tragedy and is believed to have been written sometime between 1603 and 1607...

and Timon of Athens
Timon of Athens
The Life of Timon of Athens is a play by William Shakespeare about the fortunes of an Athenian named Timon , generally regarded as one of his most obscure and difficult works...

, and two gravediggers called Bevis and Holland (after the names of two of Cade's rebels in the Folio text), who commented (with dialogue written by Strehler himself) on each of the major characters as they set about burying them.


The first television adaptation of the play was in 1960 when the BBC
The British Broadcasting Corporation is a British public service broadcaster. Its headquarters is at Broadcasting House in the City of Westminster, London. It is the largest broadcaster in the world, with about 23,000 staff...

 produced a serial entitled An Age of Kings. The show comprised fifteen one-hour episodes which adapted all eight of Shakespeare's sequential history plays. Directed by Michael Hayes and produced by Peter Dews
Peter Dews (director)
Peter Dews was an English stage director.Born and educated in Wakefield, Yorkshire he then took an M.A. at University College, Oxford...

, with a script by Eric Crozier
Eric Crozier
Eric Crozier was a British theatrical director and opera librettist, long associated with Benjamin Britten....

, this production featured Terry Scully
Terry Scully
Terry Scully was a British theatre and television actor.After making his name in the theatre, from the 1960s onwards he became more known for TV work...

 as Henry, Mary Morris
Mary Morris
Mary Morris was a British actress.-Life and career:She was the daughter of Herbert Stanley Morris, the botanist, and his wife Sylvia Ena de Creft-Harford. She was educated at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art.She made her stage debut in Lysistrata at the Gate Theatre, London, in 1935...

 as Margaret, Jack May
Jack May
Jack May was an English actor. Born in Henley-on-Thames, he was educated at Forest School, Walthamstow and after war service with the Royal Indian Navy in India was offered a place at RADA, but he instead went to Merton College, Oxford...

 as York and John Ringham
John Ringham
John Henry Ringham was a British character actor of both television and stage who appeared in over a hundred screen appearances in a wide variety of roles....

 as Gloucester. The tenth episode, under the title 'The Fall of a Protector' covered 2 Henry VI from Acts 1 to 3. The eleventh, 'The Rabble from Kent', presented Acts 4 and 5.

In 1965, BBC 1
BBC One is the flagship television channel of the British Broadcasting Corporation in the United Kingdom. It was launched on 2 November 1936 as the BBC Television Service, and was the world's first regular television service with a high level of image resolution...

 broadcast all three plays from John Barton and Peter Hall's The Wars of the Roses trilogy (Henry VI, The Rise of Edward IV and Richard III) with David Warner as Henry and Peggy Ashcroft as Margaret. The play was presented as more than simply filmed theatre however. At certain performances of the plays, cameramen with hand-held cameras were allowed on stage to shoot battle scenes, and camera platforms were created around the theatre. In all, twelve cameras were used to record the performance, allowing the final product to edited more like a film than a piece of static filmed theatre. Filming was done following the 1964 run of the plays at Stratford-upon-Avon, and took place over an eight-week period. In 1966, the production was repeated on BBC 1 where it was re-edited into eleven episodes of fifty minutes each.
Another television version of the play was produced by the BBC in 1981 for their BBC Television Shakespeare
BBC Television Shakespeare
The BBC Television Shakespeare was a set of television adaptations of the plays of William Shakespeare, produced by the BBC between 1978 and 1985.-Origins:...

series, although the episode didn't air until 1983. Directed by Jane Howell, the play was presented as the second part of the tetralogy (all four adaptations directed by Howell) with linked casting; Henry was played by Peter Benson, Margaret by Julia Foster, York by Bernard Hill
Bernard Hill
Bernard Hill is a British actor of film, stage and television. In a career spanning thirty years, he is best known for playing Yosser Hughes, the troubled 'hard man' whose life is falling apart in Alan Bleasdale's groundbreaking 1980s TV drama, Boys from the Blackstuff...

 and Gloucester by David Burke. All four plays were set in a children's playground area, which decayed and became more and more dilapidated as the plays went on and social order became more fractious.

Howell's The Second Part of Henry the Sixt was one of the most lauded of the entire series, with Julia Foster's performance as Margaret, Peter Benson's as Henry, Bernard Hill
Bernard Hill
Bernard Hill is a British actor of film, stage and television. In a career spanning thirty years, he is best known for playing Yosser Hughes, the troubled 'hard man' whose life is falling apart in Alan Bleasdale's groundbreaking 1980s TV drama, Boys from the Blackstuff...

's as York, David Burke's as Gloucester and Mark Wing-Davey
Mark Wing-Davey
Mark Wing-Davey is a British actor and director.-Early life and career:The son of actor and actress Peter Davey and Anna Wing, Wing-Davey went to school at Woolverstone Hall School, before studying at Cambridge University where he was a member of the Footlights from 1967 to 1970.He had a featured...

's as Warwick garnering considerable critical plaudits. The adaptation was based on the folio text rather than the quarto, however, it departed from that text in a number of places. For example, numerous lines were cut from almost every scene. Some of the more notable omissions include; in Act 1, Scene 1, both of Gloucester's references to Bedford
John of Lancaster, 1st Duke of Bedford
John of Lancaster, 1st Duke of Bedford, KG , also known as John Plantagenet, was the third surviving son of King Henry IV of England by Mary de Bohun, and acted as Regent of France for his nephew, King Henry VI....

 are absent (ll. 82–83, 95–96), as is the reference to Suffolk's demands that he be paid for escorting Margaret from France (ll. 131–133), and York's allusion to Althaea
Althaea (mythology)
Althaea was in Greek mythology the daughter of King Thestius and Eurythemis, and was sister to Leda, Hypermnestra, Iphiclus, Euippus, &c. She was also the wife of Oeneus, king of Calydon, and mother of five sons, Meleager, Melanippe , Troxeus, Thyreus, Clymenus, and two daughters, Deianeira and...

 and Calydon
Calydon was an ancient Greek city in Aetolia, situated on the west bank of the river Evenus. According to Greek mythology, the city took its name from its founder Calydon, son of Aetolus. Close to the city stood Mount Zygos, the slopes of which provided the setting for the hunt of the Calydonian...

 in his closing soliloquy (ll.231–235). Absent in Act 2, Scene 1 is Gloucester's question to Winchester "Is your priesthood grown peremptory? Tantaene animis caelestibus irae?" (ll.23–24), as are lines 173–180, where Winchester taunts Gloucester about Eleanor's arrest and Gloucester calls off their duel. York's outline of Edward III's seven sons is absent from Act 2, Scene 2 (ll.10–17), as is Salisbury's reference to Owen Glendower
Owain Glyndwr
Owain Glyndŵr , or Owain Glyn Dŵr, anglicised by William Shakespeare as Owen Glendower , was a Welsh ruler and the last native Welshman to hold the title Prince of Wales...

 (l.41). Suffolk's accusation that Gloucester was involved in necromancy with Eleanor is omitted from Act 3, Scene 1 (ll.47–53), as is Gloucester's outline of how he dealt with criminals during his time as Protector (ll.128–132). Also absent from 3.1 are the comments by Winchester, Suffolk and Margaret after Gloucester accuses them of conspiring to bring him down (ll.172–185), and York's references to how he fought alongside Cade in Ireland (ll.360–370). In Act 4, Scene 1, all references to Walter Whitmore's name as Gualtier are absent (ll.38–39). The entirety of Act 4, Scene 5 (a brief scene showing Scales and Gough on patrol at the Tower of London
Tower of London
Her Majesty's Royal Palace and Fortress, more commonly known as the Tower of London, is a historic castle on the north bank of the River Thames in central London, England. It lies within the London Borough of Tower Hamlets, separated from the eastern edge of the City of London by the open space...

) is absent. In Act 5, Scene 1, some of the dialogue between Clifford and Warwick is absent (ll.200–210), and the characters of Lord Scales and Matthew Gough are omitted.

However, there were also some additions to the text, most noticeably some lines from The Contention, such as in Act 1, Scene 1, where two lines are added to Salisbury's vow to support York if he can prove he is a legitimate heir to the crown. Between lines 197 and 198 is added "The reverence of mine age and the Neville's name/Is of no little force if I command." In Act 1, Scene 3, two lines are added to the conversation between Margaret and Thump between lines 31 and 32, where Thump mistakes the word 'usurper' for 'usurer" and is corrected by Margaret. Another example is found in Act 2, Scene 1, where the extended conversation between Gloucester and Winchester in which Gloucester says Winchester was born "in bastardy" is included. Other changes include the transferral of lines to characters other than those who speak them in the Folio text. The most notable of these is 1.3.211 where Gloucester's line "This is the law, and this Duke Gloucester's doom" is given to Henry. Additionally, in Act 1, Scene 4, during the conjuration, there is no separate spirit in the scene; all the spirit's dialogue is spoken 'through' Jourdayne, and her lines from the Folio are omitted. Also, later in the scene, it is Buckingham who reads the prophecies, not York. In Act 4, Scene 1, the second half of line 139 ("Pompey the Great
Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus, also known as Pompey or Pompey the Great , was a military and political leader of the late Roman Republic...

, and Suffolk dies by pirates") is spoken by the Lieutenant, not Suffolk.

Another notable stylistic technique is that the soliloquies of York in Act 1, Scene 1 and Act 3, Scene 1, as well as those of Eleanor and Hum in Act 1, Scene 2, and York's asides in Act 1, Scene 1 and Act 3, Scene 1 are all delivered direct to camera, as is the Dick the Butcher's comments in Act 4, Scene 2, as Cade delivers his speech to the masses. Also worth noting is that character of George Plantagenet
George Plantagenet, 1st Duke of Clarence
George Plantagenet, 1st Duke of Clarence, 1st Earl of Salisbury, 1st Earl of Warwick, KG was the third son of Richard Plantagenet, 3rd Duke of York, and Cecily Neville, and the brother of kings Edward IV and Richard III. He played an important role in the dynastic struggle known as the Wars of the...

 is introduced just prior to the Battle of St Albans, whereas in the text, he is not introduced until 3 Henry VI, Act 2, Scene 2.

In 1964, Austrian channel ORF2
ORF2 is an Austrian television channel owned by ORF.ORF2 was launched on 11 September 1961 as a technical test programme. Since 1970, ORF2 broadcasts on seven days a week. Today it is one of the three public TV channels in Austria.Where as ORF1 focuses on tv series and movies, ORF2 broadcasts...

 presented an adaptation of the trilogy by Leopold Lindtberg
Leopold Lindtberg
Leopold Lindtberg was an Austrian Swiss film and theatre director...

 under the title Heinrich VI. The cast list from this production has been lost. In 2003, German channel ZDF
Zweites Deutsches Fernsehen , ZDF, is a public-service German television broadcaster based in Mainz . It is run as an independent non-profit institution, which was founded by the German federal states . The ZDF is financed by television licence fees called GEZ and advertising revenues...

 presented a filmed version of the 1967 Peter Palitzsch presentation of the tetralogy in Stuttgart
Stuttgart is the capital of the state of Baden-Württemberg in southern Germany. The sixth-largest city in Germany, Stuttgart has a population of 600,038 while the metropolitan area has a population of 5.3 million ....



In 1923, extracts from all three Henry VI plays were broadcast on BBC Radio 1
BBC Radio 1
BBC Radio 1 is a British national radio station operated by the British Broadcasting Corporation which also broadcasts internationally, specialising in current popular music and chart hits throughout the day. Radio 1 provides alternative genres after 7:00pm including electronic dance, hip hop, rock...

, performed by the Cardiff Station Repertory Company as the third episode of a series of programs showcasing Shakespeare's plays, entitled Shakespeare Night. In 1947, BBC Third Programme
BBC Third Programme
The BBC Third Programme was a national radio network broadcast by the BBC. The network first went on air on 29 September 1946 and became one of the leading cultural and intellectual forces in Britain, playing a crucial role in disseminating the arts...

 aired a one hundred and fifty minute adaptation of the trilogy as part of their Shakespeare's Historical Plays series, a six-part adaptation of the eight sequential history plays, with linked casting. Adapted by Maurice Roy Ridley
Roy Ridley
Maurice Roy Ridley was a writer and poet, Fellow and Chaplain of Balliol College, Oxford. He was a model for the fictional character Lord Peter Wimsey.-Life:...

, King Henry VI starred John Bryon as Henry, Gladys Young as Margaret, Richard Williams as York and Baliol Holloway as Gloucester. In 1952, Third Programme aired an adaptation of the tetralogy by Peter Watts and John Dover Wilson under the general name The Wars of the Roses. The tetralogy was adapted into a trilogy but in an unusual way. 1 Henry VI was simply removed, so the trilogy contained only 2 Henry VI, 3 Henry VI and Richard III. The reason for this was explained by Dover Wilson, who argued that 1 Henry VI is "patchwork in which Shakespeare collaborated with inferior dramatists." The adaptation starred Valentine Dyall
Valentine Dyall
Valentine Dyall was an English character actor, the son of veteran actor Franklin Dyall. Dyall was especially popular as a voice actor, due to his very distinctive sepulchral voice, he was known for many years as "The Man in Black", narrator of the BBC Radio horror series Appointment With Fear.In...

 as Henry, Sonia Dresdel
Sonia Dresdel
Sonia Dresdel was an English actress, whose career ran between the 1940s and 1970s.She was born Lois Obee in Hornsea, East Riding of Yorkshire, England and was educated at Aberdeen High School for Girls....

 as Margaret, Stephen Jack as York and Gordon McLeod
Gordon McLeod (actor)
Gordon McLeod was an English actor, born Charles Gordon McLeod.His film appearances include Chance of a Lifetime and The Silent Passenger, but he is best known for his recurring appearance as the character Claud Eustace Teal in films such as The Saint Meets the Tiger.-Selected filmography:* A...

 as Gloucester. In 1971, BBC Radio 3
BBC Radio 3
BBC Radio 3 is a national radio station operated by the BBC within the United Kingdom. Its output centres on classical music and opera, but jazz, world music, drama, culture and the arts also feature. The station is the world’s most significant commissioner of new music, and its New Generation...

 presented a two-part adaptation of the trilogy by Raymond Raikes. Part 1 contained an abridged 1 Henry VI and an abridged version of the first three acts of 2 Henry VI. Part 2 presented Acts 4 and 5 and an abridged 3 Henry VI. Nigel Lambert
Nigel Lambert
Nigel Lambert is best known for his role as the narrator of the first series of the BBC comedy series Look Around You.He is the voice of Mr Curry in The Adventures of Paddington Bear television series and also "Papa" in the Dolmio pasta sauce puppet commercials.He also contributed extensively to...

 played Henry, Barbara Jefford played Margaret and Ian McKellen
Ian McKellen
Sir Ian Murray McKellen, CH, CBE is an English actor. He has received a Tony Award, two Academy Award nominations, and five Emmy Award nominations. His work has spanned genres from Shakespearean and modern theatre to popular fantasy and science fiction...

 played both York and Richard III. In 1977, BBC Radio 4
BBC Radio 4
BBC Radio 4 is a British domestic radio station, operated and owned by the BBC, that broadcasts a wide variety of spoken-word programmes, including news, drama, comedy, science and history. It replaced the BBC Home Service in 1967. The station controller is currently Gwyneth Williams, and the...

 presented a 26-part serialisation of the eight sequential history plays under the general title Vivat Rex (Long live the King). Adapted by Martin Jenkins as part of the celebration of the Silver Jubilee
Silver Jubilee
A Silver Jubilee is a celebration held to mark a 25th anniversary. The anniversary celebrations can be of a wedding anniversary, ruling anniversary or anything that has completed a 25 year mark...

 of Elizabeth II, 2 Henry VI comprised episodes 17 ("Witchcraft") and 18 ("Jack Cade"). James Laurenson
James Laurenson
James Laurenson is a New Zealand actor, who has performed many classical roles on stage and television.Laurenson was born in Marton, New Zealand...

 played Henry, Peggy Ashcroft played Margaret, Peter Jeffrey
Peter Jeffrey
Peter Jeffrey was a British actor with many roles in television and film.Jeffrey was born in Bristol, the son of Florence Alice and Arthur Winfred Gilbert Jeffrey. He was educated at Harrow School and Pembroke College, Cambridge but had no formal training as an actor...

 played York and Richard Burton
Richard Burton
Richard Burton, CBE was a Welsh actor. He was nominated seven times for an Academy Award, six of which were for Best Actor in a Leading Role , and was a recipient of BAFTA, Golden Globe and Tony Awards for Best Actor. Although never trained as an actor, Burton was, at one time, the highest-paid...


In America, in 1936, a heavily edited adaptation of the trilogy was broadcast as part of NBC Blue
Blue Network
The Blue Network, and its immediate predecessor, the NBC Blue Network, were the on-air names of an American radio production and distribution service from 1927 to 1945...

's Radio Guild series. Comprising three sixty minute episodes aired a week apart, the adaptation was written by Vernon Radcliffe and starred Henry Herbert
Henry Herbert (actor)
Henry Herbert was an English stage actor and producer, who became well known in the United States.He appears to have commenced his early career with Ben Greet's Company, and with Sir Frank Benson; for some years he managed Benson's No.2 Company on tour, as well as playing leading parts...

 as Henry, and Janet Nolan as Margaret. In 1954, CBC Radio
CBC Radio
CBC Radio generally refers to the English-language radio operations of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. The CBC operates a number of radio networks serving different audiences and programming niches, all of which are outlined below.-English:CBC Radio operates three English language...

 presented an adaptation of the trilogy by Andrew Allen, who combined 1 Henry VI, 2 Henry VI and 3 Henry VI into a one hundred and sixty minute episode. There is no known cast information for this production.

In 1985, German radio channel Sender Freies Berlin
Sender Freies Berlin
Sender Freies Berlin was the ARD public radio and television service for West Berlin from 1 June 1954 until 1990 and for Berlin as a whole from German reunification until 30 April 2003...

 broadcast a heavily edited seventy-six minute two-part adaptation of the octology adapted by Rolf Schneider, under the title Shakespeare's Rosenkriege.

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