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The Second Part of Henry the Sixth

Plot Summary

Despite the recently concluded peace between England and France, dissension is rife within the English court. Suffolk's influence, both at court and with the new Queen Margaret, intensifies. The fractious English nobles unite in their common aim to get rid of the Duke of Gloucester. His wife Eleanor, the Duchess of Gloucester, aspires to the crown and is lured by a priest, John Hume, who is in the pay of Suffolk, to consult a witch about her ambitions. She is brought to trial and banished. Gloucester resigns his staff of office, allowing Henry to become king in his own right. Somerset returns from France with the news of the loss of all English territories. York and others seize this opportunity to implicate Gloucester in the loss of France and to accuse him of treason. Suffolk, Margaret, Winchester and York agree that Gloucester should be murdered.

Meanwhile, there is a rebellion in Ireland and York is sent by Suffolk to deal with the crisis. York incites Jack Cade, a clothier posing as Mortimer, to promote further dissension by rebelling in Kent. Gloucester is murdered and the king turns against Suffolk, who is subsequently banished and murdered. Cardinal Beaufort (Winchester) outlives his old enemy by only a few hours. Cade's rebellion is finally quashed but York returns to claim the crown, supported by his sons, Edward, Richard and George, and by Salisbury and Warwick. The two sides take up arms, Henry supported by Margaret, Somerset, Buckingham and the Cliffords. For the first time, Lancastrians face Yorkists at the battle of St Albans. The play ends with the king and queen in flight and the Yorkists contemplating the crown.

RSC Staging History 1960-2007

1963 RST/1964 Aldwych/1964 RST: Peter Hall with John Barton and Frank Evans (a two-part adaptation, performed with Richard III as 'The Wars of the Roses')
John Barton (adaptation). John Bury (design); Guy Woolfenden (music)


David Warner (Henry VI), Ian Holm (Richard), Peggy Ashcroft (Margaret), Donald Sinden (York), Roy Dotrice (Edward IV/Bedford/), Michael Craig (Suffolk), Derek Smith/Clive Swift (Jack Cade/Lord Talbot), Tom Fleming (Buckingham), Derek Waring (Charles the Dauphin), John Welsh/Paul Hardwick (Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester), Brewster Mason (Warwick), Janet Suzman (Joan la Pucelle), Susan Engel (Lady Elizabeth Grey), Shaun Curry (Dick the Butcher), Robert Jennings (Brackenbury), James Hunter (John Talbot), Charles Kay (Hume/George), John Normington (Simpcox/Young Clifford), John Normington/Charles Thomas (Edmund Mortimer), Jolyon Booth (Anjou), John Corvin (Lord Clifford), Michael Murray (Sir Humphrey Stafford/Oxford), Clifford Rose/Donald Burton (Exeter), Cherry Morris (Eleanor/Lady Bona), John Hussey (Somerset), Hugh Sullivan (Bastard of Orleans), Martin Jenkins (Vernon), Ken Wynne (Roger Bolingbroke), Brian Jackson (Holland), Rhys McConnochie (Alençon), Peter Geddis (A Son Who Has Killed His Father), Roy Marsden (Woodville, Lord Rivers), Hugh Sullivan (Lord Hastings/Iden), Nicholas Selby (Beaufort, Bishop of Winchester/A Father Who Has Killed His Son), Jeffery Dench (Bassett), Philip Brack (Burgundy), Madoline Thomas (Margery Jourdain), Penelope Keith/Sheila Grant (Mrs Simpcox), James Hunter (Edward), Tim Wylton (Messenger)

1977 RST/1978 Aldwych: Terry Hands (parts 1, 2 and 3)
Farrah (design); John Bradley, Terry Hands (lighting); Guy Woolfenden (music)


Alan Howard (Henry VI), Anton Lesser (Richard), Helen Mirren (Margaret), Emrys James (York), Alfred Lynch (Edward IV), Peter McEnery (Suffolk), James Laurenson (Jack Cade/Charles the Dauphin), Graham Crowden (Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester), Julian Glover (Warwick), Charlotte Cornwell (Joan la Pucelle), Anne Raitt (Lady Elizabeth Grey), David Swift (Lord Talbot), Barrie Rutter (Dick the Butcher/Brackenbury), Iain Mitchell (John Talbot/Hume), John Burgess (Simpcox/Anjou), Anthony Naylor (Young Clifford), Jeffery Dench (Bedford/Edmund Mortimer/Lord Clifford), Edwin Richfield (Sir Humphrey Stafford/Exeter), Yvonne Coulette (Eleanor/Countess of Auvergne), Oliver Ford-Davies (Somerset), Geoffrey Hutchings (Somerset), Jack Klaff (George/Bastard of Orleans), Stephen Jenn (Vernon/Roger Bolingbroke), Philip Dunbar (Holland/Alençon), David Shaw-Parker (A Son Who Has Killed His Father), Dan Meaden (Woodville, Lord Rivers/Lord Hastings/Iden), John Rhys-Davies (Beaufort, Bishop of Winchester), David Hobbs (Bassett), Morris Perry (Salisbury/Burgundy), Bernard Brown (Oxford), Michael Bertenshaw (Southwell/William Stafford), Roy Purcell (A Father Who Has Killed His Son), Roberta Taylor (Mrs Simpcox), Fleur Chandler (Lady Bona), Ron Cook (Edward), Arthur Whybrow (Mayor), Ian McNeice (His Man), Bille Brown (Gargrave)

1988 RST/1989 Barbican: Adrian Noble (a two-part adaptation, performed with Richard III as 'The Plantagenets')
Charles Wood, Adrian Noble (adaptation). Bob Crowley (design); Chris Parry (lighting); Edward Gregson (music)


Ralph Fiennes (Henry VI), Anton Lesser (Richard), Penny Downie (Margaret), David Calder (York), Ken Bones (Edward IV), Oliver Cotton (Suffolk/Jack Cade/Buckingham), David Waller (Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester), David Lyon (Warwick), Julia Ford/Joanne Pearce (Joan la Pucelle), Joanne Pearce (Lady Elizabeth Grey), Marjorie Yates (Duchess of York), Robert Demeger (Lord Talbot/Dick the Butcher), Mark Hadfield (John Talbot/Simpcox/Young Clifford), Raymond Bowers (Bedford/Iden), Simon Dormandy (Charles the Dauphin/Sir Humphrey Stafford), Cherry Morris (Eleanor), Tom Fahy (Somerset), David Morrissey (Vernon/George), Kevin Doyle (Holland/A Son Who Has Killed His Father), Edward Harbour (Woodville, Lord Rivers/Alençon/Hume), Nicholas Smith (Exeter), Edward Peel (Lord Hastings), Antony Brown (Beaufort, Bishop of Winchester), Trevor Gordon (Bassett), Jeffrey Segal (Salisbury/Edmund Mortimer), Richard Bremmer (Anjou/Oxford), Darryl Forbes-Dawson (Burgundy), Patrick Robinson (Bastard of Orleans/Roger Bolingbroke), Kenn Sabberton (Southwell), Roger Watkins (Brackenbury/Lord Clifford/A Father Who Has Killed His Son), Jo James (William Stafford), Denise Armon (Margery Jourdain), Cissy Collins (Mrs Simpcox), Anthony Dixon (Michael/Messenger), Jaye Griffiths (Lady Bona), Lyndon Davies (Edward), Caroline Harding (Walk-on)

1994 TOP/1994-95 Small-scale Tour: Katie Mitchell (part 3 only, 'The Battle for the Throne')
Rae Smith (design); Tina MacHugh (lighting); Helen Chadwick (music)


Jonathan Firth (Henry VI), Tom Smith (Richard), Ruth Mitchell (Margaret), Stephen Simms (York/Louis XI/Mayor of York), Lloyd Owen (Edward IV), John Keegan (Warwick), Liz Kettle (Lady Elizabeth Grey), Jo Stone-Fewings (George), Chris Garner (Exeter), Declan Conlon (Montagu), Jamie Hinde (Lord Clifford), Dugald Bruce-Lockhart (Northumberland), Nick Bagnall (Thorpe), Tom Walker (Edward, Prince of Wales), Tam Williams (Edmund, Earl of Rutland/Vyner)

2000-01 Swan/2001 Young Vic: Michael Boyd (parts 1, 2 and 3, 'This England: the Histories')
Tom Piper (design); Heather Carson (lighting); James Jones (music); Sarah Esdaile (associate director)


David Oyelowo (Henry VI), Aidan McArdle (Richard/Charles the Dauphin/Bevis), Fiona Bell (Margaret/Joan la Pucelle), Clive Wood (York), Tom Beard (Edward IV/Alençon/Holland), Richard Dillane (Suffolk), Jake Nightingale (Jack Cade/Bastard of Orleans), David Beames (Buckingham/Bedford/Lord Hastings), Richard Cordery (Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester), John Kane (Lord Clifford/Exeter/Sir John Stanley), Geff Francis (Warwick), Elaine Pyke (Lady Elizabeth Grey), Keith Bartlett (Lord Talbot/A Father Who Has Killed His Son), Edward Clayton (Dick the Butcher), Sam Troughton (John Talbot/A Son Who Has Killed His Father), Philip Brook (Simpcox/Sir Humphrey Stafford/Burgundy), Geoffrey Streatfield (Young Clifford/Vernon), Andrew Lewis (Iden/Oxford), Deirdra Morris (Eleanor), Nicholas Asbury (Somerset), Rhashan Stone (George), Richard Dillane (Woodville, Lord Rivers), Jerome Willis (Exeter), Christopher Ettridge (Beaufort, Bishop of Winchester), Jerome Willis (Salisbury/Edmund Mortimer), Robert Barton (William Stafford), Aislin McGuckin (Margery Jourdain/Countess of Auvergne/Rutland), Sarah D'Arcy (Mrs Simpcox/Lady Bona), Neil Madden (Michael/Edward)

2006 Courtyard (Complete Works Festival, re-working of 2000/01): Michael Boyd (parts 1, 2 and 3)
Tom Piper (design); Heather Carson (lighting); John Woolf (music); Andrea J. Cox (sound); Liz Ranken (movement)


Chuk Iwuji (Henry VI), Jonathan Slinger (Richard), John MacKay (Charles the Dauphin/Jack Cade/Sir John Montgomery), Katy Stephens (Margaret/Joan la Pucelle), Clive Wood (York), Forbes Masson (Edward IV/Alençon), Geoffrey Streatfeild (Suffolk/Rivers), Tom Hodgkins (Buckingham/Bedford/Lord Hastings), Richard Cordery (Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester/Louis XI), Miles Richardson (Lord Clifford/Exeter), Patrice Naiambana (Warwick), Ann Ogbomo (Lady Elizabeth Grey), Keith Bartlett (Lord Talbot), Lex Shrapnel (John Talbot/Richmond), Matt Constain (Burgundy), Keith Dunphy (Young Clifford/Vernon), Paul Hamilton (Oxford), Maureen Beattie (Eleanor), Nicholas Asbury (Somerset), James Tucker (George), Geoffrey Freshwater (Beaufort/Bishop of Winchester), Roger Watkins (Salisbury/Edmund Mortimer), Chris McGill (William Stafford), Alexia Healy (Lady Bona)

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