Study Guide

Henry VI Part 2 Society and Class

By William Shakespeare

Society and Class

Oh, boy: we've got kings, queens, nobles, and commoners all thrown together on one stage, and everybody wants a bigger piece of the pie than they already have. Did someone say class issues?

Class comes up pretty often in Henry VI, Part 2, but nowhere more clearly than in the scenes with John Cade and his crew. Cade's rebellion hinges on the issue of republicanism: he's against the monarchy, and he's fighting to get power away from the king and into the hands of the people.

Equal rights and representation in the government: sounds legit, right? What if we told you that Cade also wants to have literate people murdered? And that he wants free access to any woman, anytime? And that he goes around killing anyone who gets in his way? And that he starts talking about what will happen when he's king?

Yeah, some wires got crossed somewhere. Turns out the class issues facing this society are pretty complex, and there may be no easy answers.

Questions About Society and Class

  1. What is Cade's beef with grammar, reading, and writing? How does education contribute to his notion of class?
  2. How does Cade's sudden high-class mentality comment on the whole class system? Are the classes distinguishable if someone can easily jump from one to the next?
  3. Why is no one convinced that Cade is actually Mortimer?
  4. What role does the rebellion play in Henry VI, Part 2? How does Henry respond to it? Are the issues of class taken seriously by the nobles?

Chew on This

Jack Cade is more interested in being king than he is in changing the social class system.

While Henry VI, Part 2 seems to celebrate social upheaval, it also ridicules ambitious attempts to cross class boundaries.

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