Study Guide

Henry VI Part 2 Loyalty

By William Shakespeare

Loyalty

Are you loyal to a king? To a country? To your relatives? To the law? To justice? To God?

One of the basic issues Henry VI, Part 2 investigates is how you go about determining who or what deserves your loyalty. When different systems (like government, religion, and family) compete with each other for your allegiance, how do you choose sides?

Different characters offer different answers to this question. Gloucester is loyal to Henry, but not to his followers. Margaret, Suffolk, and Beaufort think of themselves as above it all and are loyal only to themselves. Warwick and Salisbury are loyal to their ideal of kingship and not to one specific king. And York throws a wrench into the whole system when he makes a play for the crown. Who or what is he loyal to?

Who's right, and who's wrong? As usual, Shakespeare leaves this for us to decide.

Questions About Loyalty

  1. Who do the subjects owe their loyalty to—the current king, or the man they think should be king? Who are the commoners loyal to?
  2. Are Warwick and Salisbury committing treason by giving their loyalty to York instead of Henry? If York is right that he should be king, are Clifford and Buckingham committing treason by supporting Henry over York?
  3. Which character in the play is the most loyal? Why?
  4. How is loyalty defined in the play? Are Margaret, Suffolk, and Beaufort loyal when they murder Gloucester? Where does loyalty end and ruthlessness begin?

Chew on This

One of Henry's biggest problems is that he thinks he deserves loyalty without having to give it back to his subjects.

Although Warwick and Salisbury plot against Henry, they are loyal because they support York even under threat of treason.

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