Study Guide

Henry VI Part 2 Gender

By William Shakespeare

Gender

Where would the characters in Henry VI, Part 2 be without gender stereotypes to make their insults really sting? Seriously: did you notice that people are always throwing around comments about this guy not being man enough to something, or that guy being so cowardly he must be a woman?

We get a lot of examples of what the characters think of men and women just by listening to how they offend each other. According to the play, men should be strong, scary, and powerful, while women should to be quiet, calm, and obedient. But in reality, how many characters actually live up to this model?

Questions About Gender

  1. How are women portrayed in Henry VI, Part 2? Do Eleanor and Margaret share similar traits?
  2. Does anyone fit the expectations for his or her gender? In what ways does the play invite us to criticize character's masculinity or femininity?
  3. Is there room for women in the world of Henry VI, Part 2? Eleanor is banished, and Margaret is told to butt out of politics. Do these women find other ways of getting involved in politics? If so, are they successful?
  4. What happens to the men who are strong, brutal, and forceful in Henry VI, Part 2? Are all of them praised? Are all of them successful?

Chew on This

Henry and Margaret switch gender roles: Henry is more feminine, and Margaret is more masculine.

Gender expectations in Henry VI, Part 2 are unrealistic, and no character lives up to them.

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