Study Guide

Henry VI Part 2 Act 1, Scene 3

By William Shakespeare

Act 1, Scene 3

Read the full text of Henry VI Part 2 Act 1 Scene 3 with a side-by-side translation HERE.


  • Back at the palace, a couple of petitioners are trying to find Gloucester. When they see Suffolk with Margaret, one of them thinks that Suffolk is Gloucester. The other insists it's Suffolk. When Margaret and Suffolk see that the papers are for Gloucester, Margaret wants to read them.
  • Suffolk finds that one letter is complaining about him and another is against Thomas Horner, who apparently said that York is the rightful heir to the throne. Uh oh.
  • Both Margaret and Suffolk are shocked by this. Why did Horner say that? Is York saying that, too?
  • No way, Peter (one of the petitioners) answers. Horner just went rogue; York himself hasn't said anything it. Suffolk tells Peter and the petitioners to take their matters to the king. Then Margaret rips up some of the complaints she just took from the petitioners.
  • With the petitioners gone, Margaret gets real with Suffolk. Why should she—the queen—have to follow what Gloucester—a mere duke—decides? She's ticked that Henry is so weak and can be pushed around so easily.
  • Margaret thought Henry would be more like Suffolk: courageous, courteous, and hot. (Yeah, she actually says that.) Instead, he's more interested in holiness, which makes him weak.
  • Suffolk tells Margaret to cool it. He'll help her out here, just like he did before (when he arranged for her to be queen).
  • Then it's foe fest: Margaret and Suffolk size up all their enemies. Aside from Gloucester, they've got Somerset, Buckingham, York, Beaufort… and the list goes on. And what about the Duchess Eleanor? She acts like she's the one who's queen.
  • Don't worry, Suffolk says: he's already got a plan cooking that will ruin Eleanor. As for Beaufort, they should side with him for now, until Gloucester is humiliated. They've got their takedown list all sorted when Henry and his nobles enter.
  • There's a dispute over who should become the regent in France, and Henry readily admits he doesn't care. Everyone weighs in.
  • When Margaret speaks up, Gloucester shuts her down, saying Henry doesn't need a woman to help him—he can decide all by himself. Burn.
  • Margaret isn't one to let things go, though. If Henry can make decisions without her help, she says, then why does he need Gloucester? Score.
  • But Margaret's smack-down doesn't quite have the sting she was hoping for. Gloucester says he'll gladly resign as Protector if that's what the king wants. Suffolk tells him he should go ahead and do it.
  • Margaret decides to send Gloucester's wife a message, too: she drops her fan and asks Eleanor to pick it up. When Eleanor bends over to get it, Margaret punches her in the ear.
  • No, folks, we didn't make that up: it really does almost become a first- and second-lady brawl.
  • Eleanor promises to get revenge and departs.
  • Gloucester reenters and asks Henry to make York the regent of France because he's the most suited to the job. York doesn't think so: he thinks he'll lose more land in France because Somerset hasn't given him money or equipment to fight properly.
  • Just then, Peter and Horner enter with some heavy accusations. Peter claims he heard Horner calling York the rightful king—and that is a big deal. Horner says that he's never said such a thing and that he's not a traitor. There's bickering and name-calling—pretty much what you might expect when someone calls someone else a traitor right in front of the king.
  • Henry, as usual, looks to Gloucester for advice about what to do. Gloucester now thinks Somerset should be regent of France. Why? This whole York-should-be-king thing might be too much of a coincidence, and York shouldn't be allowed to get any more power.
  • Somerset also thinks Peter and Horner should duke it out themselves. Gloucester suggests a good old-fashioned duel.
  • Peter says doesn't know how to fight, so naturally he's really worried about this.
  • Horner is sitting pretty.
  • Henry orders for Peter and Horner to be taken away to await their fight. Then he tells Somerset to pack his bags. Translation: Somerset got the job as regent of France.

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