A man and woman kiss on stage

Henry VI Part II

William Shakespeare

Henry VI Part II, written around 1591 - 92, is part of Shakespeare’s trilogy centred on the Wars of the Roses. The play focuses on a murder plot, a rebellion and the further divide between the Lancastrians and Yorkists.


Despite the new peace between England and France, the English court is still divided. Now a duke, Suffolk's influence is growing, both at court and with his lover, Queen Margaret.


The English nobles join together to get rid of the Duke of Gloucester, who is very popular with the people and the king. His wife Eleanor wants to be queen and is encouraged by a priest to consult a witch about her ambitions. But the priest is in the pay of Suffolk, and Eleanor is arrested, brought to trial and banished. Gloucester resigns, allowing Henry to become king in his own right.


Somerset returns from France with the news that all the English territories have been lost. The Duke of York and others take the opportunity to blame Gloucester, accusing him of treason. Suffolk, Margaret, York and the Bishop of Winchester agree that Gloucester should be murdered. After Gloucester’s death, the king turns against Suffolk, who is then banished and killed. Winchester dies soon after.


Meanwhile, there is a rebellion in Ireland and York is sent to deal with the crisis. Keen to make his own claim to the throne, York encourages a Kentish rebel, Jack Cade, to revolt in London in the hope of causing more trouble. The rebels are quickly beaten.


York returns to claim the crown from Henry, supported by his sons Edward, Richard and George, as well as Salisbury and Warwick. The two sides take up arms, with Henry supported by Margaret, Somerset, Buckingham and the Cliffords. For the first time, the armies of Lancaster and York face each other at the battle of St Albans. The play ends with the king and queen in flight and York’s forces moving towards London.