Study Guide

Henry VI Part 2 Ambition

By William Shakespeare

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Maybe we should have called it over-ambition, because some of the characters in Henry VI, Part 2 are off the charts. Seriously, when multiple innocent heads start rolling just so that certain characters can get what they want, you know there's a problem.

Most of the characters in the play are overachievers, and we're not talking about those annoying but ultimately harmless teacher's-pet types. Nope—these are people who are willing to lie, cheat, kill, and double-cross anyone to get what they want. And what is it they want? More power, of course.

Questions About Ambition

  1. Why are the characters so ambitious in the first place? Is there something in the kingdom that encourages or perpetuates the nobles' ambition?
  2. What is the difference between York's ambition and Margaret's and Suffolk's ambition? Is it okay to just steal the crown when you think you'd make a better king?
  3. What is the difference between the nobles' ambition and commoners' ambition? Why do the commoners rebel? What do they want that's different from what the nobles want?
  4. Are there any "ambitious" characters in Henry VI, Part 2 who don't get greedy or go too far in order to get what they want?

Chew on This

The commoners are more justified in their ambition because they want equality, not sovereignty.

By the end of Henry VI, Part 2, we find that ambition is a necessary—if destructive—force that drives the plot and characters.

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