Study Guide

Henry VI Part 2 Weakness

By William Shakespeare

Weakness

Let's face it: there wouldn't be much to Henry VI, Part 2 if Henry were a strong king like his father or grandfather. What do we get here? Well, we get a guy who doesn't want to fight (but doesn't want to run away, either), who can't keep his nobles and commoners under control, who is easily fooled by religious scammers, and who leaves most of his decisions to God. Or to his wife. Or to York. Or... well, you get the idea.

Oh, yeah: Henry also admits that he would rather be a subject instead of a king.

As you can imagine, this causes a lot of trouble in Henry's kingdom. But would things be different if Henry were a stronger, more forceful king? That's possible, but it may be more complicated than that. Henry's a pretty decent guy, so would it actually be better if he were more like the nasty characters who put their ambitions before everything—and everyone—else? If Henry weren't surrounded by such nasty people, would things in his kingdom be pretty much okay? Is it just Henry's fault that things go wrong?

They say that the people most fit to rule are those who least want to. If that's true, what does that tell us about Henry and his weaknesses?

Questions About Weakness

  1. Henry is weak in warfare, but is he strong in other areas? Do people respect him or listen to his ideas?
  2. Would York have acted on his claim to the throne if Henry had more control over the country? Does Henry's weakness have anything to do with York's bid for the crown?
  3. Why does everyone remind us of Henry's weakness? Are they right about him, or are they just unable to understand him? What do the nobles think about Henry? The commoners?

Chew on This

If Henry were stronger, no nobles or commoners would have revolted in his kingdom.

Henry's weakness has nothing to do with everyone else's lust for power and glory. Even strong kings have to fight off opposition.

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