Study Guide

Henry VI Part 2 Act 1, Scene 1

By William Shakespeare

Act 1, Scene 1

Read the full text of Henry VI Part 2 Act 1 Scene 1 with a side-by-side translation HERE.


  • We're hanging at the palace, where Suffolk brings Margaret to meet King Henry. The backstory? Suffolk captured Margaret during the war with France. He figured he wouldn't let a pretty woman go to waste, so why not give her to the king? He already negotiated a deal for her.
  • Henry seems pleased with Margaret and gives her a kiss to seal the deal. Margaret salutes Henry and tells him she's overjoyed to become his wife. Everyone cheers.
  • Then Suffolk gets to the deal: he's arranged a contract with King Charles of France and wants to read it before the court to make sure it's okay.
  • Gloucester begins reading it to everyone. Basically, it's a contract between the British and the French—totally boring, right? Well, it gets interesting when Gloucester gets to a line saying that some lands have to be released as part of the deal. The contract falls, since Gloucester suddenly isn't feeling so well.
  • Cardinal Beaufort picks up the reading where Gloucester left off. The contract says that certain lands (Maine and Anjou) have to be returned to France in exchange for Margaret's hand in marriage. Since Henry didn't pay a dowry, the lands will be her dowry.
  • Henry is happy with the deal and promotes Suffolk to duke on the spot. He wants to be alone with Suffolk and Margaret so they can get ready for her coronation day; the three of them leave.
  • Once Henry's gone, Gloucester starts talking to the other lords and nobles in court: um… hello? Is no one else totally bummed by this deal with France? Gloucester is angry about the contract, and he can't believe Henry is just letting the lands in France go so easily.
  • Gloucester tells the others that Henry's father (that would be Henry V) worked really hard to get those lands, and now their king is just letting them go without a second thought. (If you want to catch up with this story, head on over to Henry V for more.)
  • Warwick, Salisbury, and York agree: they think the lands Henry gave up are important to keep if England wants to keep ruling France—they're worried that England could lose control. As if that weren't enough, they can't remember an English king paying so much for a bride.
  • Warwick, Salisbury, and York all pretty much agree that Margaret and this deal are bad news.
  • Then Cardinal Beaufort speaks up and tells these bros to calm down; he thinks they're being too quick to judge.
  • Gloucester doesn't take that very well. Actually, he gets enraged. Why? He tells the Beaufort that his criticism has nothing to do with what he's saying—Beaufort just doesn't like him, that's all. He gets up to leave, but before he does, he reminds everyone that he prophesized that France would soon be lost.
  • After Gloucester leaves, Cardinal Beaufort tells the other men that it's true: he doesn't like Gloucester one bit. Oh, and by the way, he thinks Gloucester is abusing his power and trying to become king.
  • Brain snack: Gloucester is Protector of England because Henry got crowned king when he was just a baby. Since babies can't rule, Gloucester was appointed Protector, or guardian, of Henry and England until Henry would be old enough to rule.
  • Buckingham agrees with Beaufort on this one. Why does Henry need a protector now that he's old enough to rule himself? Seems a bit unnecessary, right? So Beaufort leaves to go tell Suffolk about this; together, they'll triple-tag-team Gloucester and get rid of his Protector title.
  • Then Somerset warns Buckingham about the dangers of helping to get rid of Gloucester. It's a bad idea, man: Cardinal Beaufort is just after the Protector title himself. He's not actually trying to help Henry; he's removing the competition to make way for himself. Buckingham thinks someone else would make a good Protector—someone like himself, or like Somerset. With that, the two men leave.
  • Now it's Salisbury's turn to talk. He tells Warwick and York that those men are ambitious and prideful. He, Warwick, and York should take them all out by creating their own team—that way, they might be able to help Henry and England. Sounds good to the others, so Warwick and Salisbury take off.
  • There's scheming all over the place here. York is left alone on stage and thinks over what's just happened. He's not just angry like the other nobles; he thinks those lands weren't Henry's to give away.
  • Huh? York's argument goes a little something like this: the king owns the lands; therefore, he should be king, not Henry.
  • Now before you go thinking York's lost it, we should point out that he does actually have a claim to the throne. Henry's granddad actually stole the throne from Richard II, and York descended from Richard II's brother. Since Richard II didn't have any kids of his own, the crown would have been passed along to his brother, and it would have eventually made its way down to York. Basically, York thinks he deserves to be king more than the current crown-holder.
  • Now, that's a problem.
  • But back to the show: York decides he'll side with Warwick and Salisbury… for now. When the time is right, he'll seize the crown himself.

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