Study Guide

Henry VI Part 2 Act 3, Scene 1

By William Shakespeare

Act 3, Scene 1

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


  • Henry, Margaret, and the nobles are kicking it at parliament hall. Henry wonders why Gloucester hasn't shown.
  • Margaret points out that Gloucester's a changed man: he's so down in the dumps now. Plus, she's heard around the water cooler that Gloucester could plan a revolt—he's always had a way with the people and could easily sway them against Henry.
  • Henry thinks this is all just "a woman's fear."
  • But Suffolk, Buckingham, and York all support this gossip by bringing up Gloucester's suspicious behavior in the past. Remember when he got huge taxes in the wars, or punished people really severely? All that stuff seems to confirm that he's bad news.
  • Henry refuses to believe it; he thinks Gloucester is harmless and virtuous.
  • That makes Gloucester all the more dangerous, Margaret claims. She thinks Gloucester's innocence is just an act—and that it wins others over to his side.
  • Things get a whole lot worse when Somerset enters with the news that the French lands are lost. Oops.
  • In an aside, York tells us that's bad news for him since those lands are supposed to be his one day.
  • That's when Gloucester enters, completely unaware of what's going on. Suffolk arrests him for treason, but Gloucester doesn't care. He says that since he hasn't done anything wrong, nothing will happen to him.
  • Sure, it won't.
  • What's the reason for the treason? York claims Gloucester didn't send money to the English troops to fight, and that's why they lost the lands in France. That's one big accusation.
  • Actually, Gloucester explains, he used his own money to pay the soldiers since he didn't want to burden the poor taxpayers. Boo-ya.
  • Okay, okay. York says that maybe Gloucester didn't do that, but he did "devise strange tortures" for criminals. Gloucester knocks this one down, too, explaining he only did that to the worst criminals, like murderers or felons.
  • It's clear that the men are grasping at straws with their charges against Gloucester, but nevertheless, Suffolk tells Gloucester he remains under arrest because there are bigger crimes he has to answer for. Sounds a lot like Suffolk's making up charges, but that's just us.
  • Henry hopes this whole thing will be cleared up soon because he still thinks Gloucester is innocent.
  • Then Gloucester delivers one of those speeches where he spells it out really clearly for everyone, even if they're not really listening. He says he'd gladly die if it meant the end of the tyranny, but he doesn't think his death will solve anything. In fact, he thinks the greedy and ambitious nobles will keep on fighting even with him out of the way.
  • Predictably, Margaret, Suffolk, and Cardinal Beaufort all roll their eyes at Gloucester's little speech and say he's just ranting about nothing.
  • When Gloucester is led off, Henry tells Margaret he's grief-stricken. He knows Gloucester isn't a traitor, and he's worried about what Gloucester said before he left. Henry decides to hit the road, too—along with Salisbury, Warwick, and Buckingham.
  • Once Henry is gone, Margaret takes the opportunity to talk smack behind her husband's back. He's like a child: so weak and full of pity. Yikes.
  • Cardinal Beaufort, Margaret, and Suffolk all discuss the real problem: Gloucester. They agree he should be killed, but they don't know what charges they can drum up against him. They go back and forth with certain charges, but then they decide they just need to arrange Gloucester's funeral (translation: they should just kill him off). It doesn't matter why.
  • Mail call. News arrives from Ireland that there's been an uprising there. Uhh... first France, and now Ireland?
  • York suggests they send Somerset since he had a good time in France. That's his form of a joke, since Somerset lost lands in France. This is met with some snarky comments from Somerset.
  • The bickering ends when Margaret says things might have gone better for them if York had gone to France. Beaufort agrees and encourages York to take up the regent position in Ireland.
  • York will take the job, but he will require soldiers. Lots and lots of soldiers. Hmm… we wonder if York's desire for an army has anything to do with the fact that he wants to be king.
  • Suffolk promises York soldiers, and everyone leaves except for York.
  • Alone on stage, York reveals a dark and twisty plot to us. He's hired a commoner named Jack Cade.
  • The plan? While York's off in Ireland, Jack Cade will get in good with the common folk and stir up trouble in London. He'll pretend to be John Mortimer, who is now dead but had a claim to the throne. Once Cade forms an army of commoners, York will return from Ireland and take control of the army.
  • If Cade fails, he'll be tortured, but he won't give up York's name. If Cade succeeds, York will have the force of the commoners behind him. With the plan in place, York leaves for Ireland.

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