Study Guide

Henry VI Part 2 Lies and Deceit

By William Shakespeare

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Lies and Deceit

Pants are on fire all over the place in Henry VI, Part 2. People lie so much in this play that it starts to seem like everything anybody ever says is just some form of deception.

There's the type of deception that's really just political "spin," like when Margaret, Suffolk, and Beaufort push for Gloucester to give up his title because Henry doesn't need him any more. Really, we all know they just hate Gloucester and want the power for themselves, and pretty much everyone else knows it, too.

But then there's the type of slow, calculated deception that a lot of the characters do in private as they scheme for more and more power. If you're wondering what characters like Margaret and York do in their free time, we'll fill you in: they sit around trying to figure out how to manipulate everyone into doing what they want. Take York, for example: he quietly controls everyone around him until he's got 'em right where he wants 'em. He's practically yelling, "Dance for me, puppets, dance!"

This play's world isn't a pretty place for people who tell the truth.

Questions About Lies and Deceit

  1. Is it okay for York to lie to everyone around him when it's for a noble cause? When do his actions compare and contrast with those of Margaret, Suffolk, and Cardinal Beaufort?
  2. Why is it difficult to remain truthful in the play? What happens when Gloucester and Lord Saye tell the truth? Does it matter?
  3. How do characters in this play discuss deception? Which characters avoid deception completely?
  4. Why does Margaret lie about Gloucester's death when everyone knows she was involved? What is she trying to prove by claiming she had nothing to do with it?

Chew on This

York's deception is worse than other characters' because he pretends to be fighting for the king when he is actually raising up his own army to fight Henry.

Characters have to lie in Henry VI, Part 2 because the world is full of deceit and trickery.

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