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Read "Henry VI part 2"

"Force perforce, I'll make him yield the crown,
Whose bookish rule hath pull'd fair England down."

Richard Plantagenet, Duke of York

Part 2 opens with the arrival of young King Henry's promised bride, Margaret of Anjou. The marriage, eagerly anticipated by the impressionable young king, is highly unpopular with others at court, since it involves breaking a previous advantageous engagement and brings no dowry. The Duke of Gloucester, uncle and protector to the king, is furious when he learns that the marriage contract requires England to return hard-won French territories; so too are the lords York and Warwick.

She should have stayed in France and starved
in France.

Gloucester's outspoken protests earn him the enmity of Suffolk and the forceful new Queen; he already has an enemy in Cardinal Winchester. He becomes vulnerable when his ambitious wife Eleanor is found consorting with witches.

Put forth thy hand, reach at the glorious gold.

Richard Plantagenet, Duke of York, believes himself to have a better claim to the throne than King Henry does. Since Gloucester would stand between York and the throne, York welcomes the conspiracy that brings Gloucester down. King Henry seems helpless but finally, suspecting his advisor the Duke of Suffolk of having a hand in Gloucester's death, sends him away, and Suffolk and the queen have a passionate parting scene in private.

For where thou art, there is the world itself, with every several pleasure in the world, and where thou art not, desolation.

York, sent to Ireland to put down rebellion there, plots double insurrection:

Whiles I in Ireland nourish a mighty band,
I will stir up in England some black storm
Shall blow ten thousand souls to heaven or hell;
And this fell tempest shall not cease to rage
Until the golden circuit on my head,
Like to the glorious sun's transparent beams,
Do calm the fury of this mad-bred flaw.

Years of expensive war in France have overtaxed the populace and stirred resentment, and a popular rebellion led by Jack Cade breaks out, giving rise to this play's most famous line:

The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers.

After chaos and bloodshed Cade's rebellion is put down, but England enjoys no peace. York returns from Ireland with an army to assert his claim to the throne, supported by his sons (including the future kings Edward IV and Richard III) and Warwick, who will come to be known as the Kingmaker. The Wars of the Roses have begun, and they will be bloody. Young Clifford, a Lancastrian (of the King's party), upon finding his father slain in battle, vows revenge:

...Even at this sight
My heart is turn'd to stone: and while 'tis mine,
It shall be stony.

The play ends with King Henry fleeing before York's forces. Stay tuned for Part 3....

Location and Logistics: For directions to the Douglass-Truth Library at 23rd & Yesler, including the bus routes that serve it, see here: There is parking on the side streets. If you are coming from the Eastside, note that the I-90 bridge is the closest and that the 520 bridge is scheduled to be closed that weekend.

We will be in the meeting room. Food and non-alcoholic beverages are permitted in the meeting room as long as we clean up after ourselves.

This is a medium-long play. We read the whole thing, with a break mid-way through, so expect it to take much of the afternoon. If you need to leave early, just let us know so the parts are covered. If you have a copy of the play, bring it, but if not we usually have some to share. Note that we are reading Henry the Sixth part 2, not Henry the Fourth part 2!

If you're able to read or watch the play before hand it's great, but if not it's okay. (I know of two BBC filmed versions - one from 1960, part of the "Age of Kings" series, and one from the early 1980's directed by Jane Howell.) It does help to have an idea of the plot beforehand. There is a brief synopsis at this helpful website: as well as a "character circle" diagram

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  • Vince H.

    Sorry! Plans changed, I'll aim to come to a future reading..

    March 16, 2013

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