Buy Tickets From the 2016-2017 Season: Henry The Sixth: Part Two (The Rise of Queen Margaret) Playing October 01, 2016 to October 09, 2016

A Suzi Recommended Show

"The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers". - (Act IV, Scene II)
Rebels, Pirates and Demons, oh my! As the War of the Roses continues to blossom, Margaret’s power grows, Henry becomes more like a monk and less like a King and York does all he can to rise to power and take the throne. With him he brings his two sons Edward and Richard (the future evil King Richard III of England).

A part of The Shakespeare Evolution Series!

Join the cast and crew members for a lively Question and Answer session on Sunday October 2 after the show!

Atlanta Theatre Buzz Writer Brad Rudy has kindly let us use his H6 Primer article he wrote the first time we did these plays. We hope it gives you some context and deeper understanding of the plays!

Three Tales of Henry Plantagenet

As they did eight short years ago, the Atlanta Shakespeare Company at the Shakespeare Tavern Playhousewill be venturing back to the fifteenth century and the War of the Roses. The troupe will be presenting all three Henry VI plays sequentially n September and October, then in repertory for a glorious two weeks in late November. These plays are rarely performed, though they were quite popular in Shakespeare’s own time, so I am looking forward to seeing them (again), and thought I’d put together a background piece to prepare you for the experience.

As an introduction, I must confess the story of Henry has a personal appeal for me. A number of years ago (okay, make that a number of decades ago), I wanted to try my hand at writing a full-length play in Iambic Pentameter. Perhaps influenced by the Carter Presidency, I found the story of a man who was a good person but a weak leader especially appealing. Add to that a strong female leader (Henry’s wife Margaret) who would have made an excellent Queen, given half a chance, and it seem the perfect formula for a play about sex roles, about class, and about how Civil War can rend families to pieces.

Well, I finished the play, it was unproducable (and, to this date, unreadable*), but it did lead me to Shakespeare’s version of the events, for which I am ever grateful. I think you’ll find them a perfect example of young Shakespeare’s developing talent (they were some of the first plays he wrote), as well as an intriguing look into the Tudor filters through which Shakespeare often viewed History.

As background, here is some historical trivia that may help your journey:

1422—Henry V, the “Hero of Agincourt,” dies, leaving an infant son. (Regents are the baby’s uncles, The Duke of Bedford and the Duke of Gloucester).

1431—Joan of Arc helps the French defeat the British at Orleans. Most of Henry V’s gains on the continent are now lost.

1435—Death of the Duke of Bedford.

1436—Richard Plantagenet becomes the Duke of York.

1437—Henry VI comes of age and is crowned king.

1445—Henry is married to a French Princess, Margaret of Anjou.

1447—Death of the Duke of Gloucester.

1454—Henry goes a little mad. The Duke of York is named “Protector.”

1455—The War of the Roses begins in earnest with the Battle of St. Albans. The Earl of Warwick (Richard Neville) helps the York faction send Henry into exile.

From here to the end, it gets quite chaotic. Power changes hands over and over. The Earl of Warwick (often called the “Kingmaker") switches sides. York is killed, but his son is crowned Edward IV. Margaret wins a key victory that puts Henry back on the throne. Then Edward is back, and Henry is in the tower. Finally, Henry is murdered in 1471 and Margaret goes into exile. It looks like smooth sailing for Edward and his brothers, none of whom have yet read “Richard III.”

Let’s start with the first bit of Tudor Propaganda. In these plays, the author’s sympathies are definitely with the Red Rose Lancastrians. After all, Henry VI’s mother Katherine eventually married Owen Tudor and begat that whole dynasty. So, of course in Tudor eyes, the Yorkists were opportunists, usurpers, and, in Richard Junior’s case, the most despicable of villains.

But, today, we have little knowledge of the various Plantagenet factions, so we give Shakespeare a “pass” on this one. However, we do know Joan of Arc, or at least we thought we did. Shakespeare was writing 150 years after the actual occurrence, so the bitterness of the losses at Orleans were still a bit vivid (much like many in today’s South are still bitter about our own Civil War). So, it should come as no surprise, that in Part One, Joan of Arc (here called Joan La Pucelle) is characterized as a villainous, cowardly shrew who is very rightly put to death for witchcraft (I especially like how the cast of characters lists “Fiends attending on La Pucelle").

Which leads into another motif—how the plays are structured, and how women are the dominating forces. Part One sets up everything—the death of Henry V, the squabbling of the regents, and the losses in France. Joan emerges as the “force of evil” that sets into motion the future events, and Henry emerges as a good and pious man, who would be happier in a monastery than on a throne.

Part Two centers on the rise of Richard of York, on the downfall of the Duke of Gloucester, and on a popular rebellion of 1450 led by Jack Cade. Here, the “mantle of witchcraft” is passed on to Gloucester’s Duchess, Dame Eleanor Cobham. She “goes to the dark side” in order to secure her position as well as her husband’s, and the results are disastrous.

Finally, Part Three focuses on the War of the Roses and all the whipsawing loyalties and fortunes. Here, Queen Margaret dominates, and her glee at York’s downfall is astonishing—the humiliation of York is one of the cruelest scenes in the entire canon, and is matched by an equally cruel scene where Margaret loses her son. In Part Three we also see the emergence of the man who will be Richard III, and his final scene with Henry is a beautiful “sneak peek” at what will come.

Part Three also contains one of my favorite scenes in all of Shakespeare. In a perfectly realized expression of what is in store in any Civil War, Shakespeare gives us three characters on the battlefield—Henry VI, “A son that hath killed his father” and “A father that hath killed his son:”

SON: How will my mother for a father’s death
Take on with me and ne’er be satisfied!

FATH: How will my wife for slaughter of my son
Shed seas of tears and ne’er be satisfied!

KING: How will the country for these woeful chances
Misthink the King and not be satisfied!

SON: Was ever son so rued a father’s death?

FATH: Was ever father so bemoaned his son?

KING: Was ever king so grieved for subjects’ woe?
Much is your sorrow; mine ten times so much.

Not only does this scene show the horror of the war, it also nicely gives us a portrait of Henry—his goodness, his sense of responsibility, and, yes, his weaknesses. It’s as if the entire trilogy were encapsulated in these 120+ lines.

So, what will be in store for you when you see these plays? Hundreds of characters played by dozens of actors, battle after battle after battle before the final battle. Soaring poetry and primal passion. Three nights of making an obscure (to us) period of British History come alive in its full horrifically blood-soaked glory. And, to the political enthusiasts among us, revisionist spin that beggars the efforts of modern practitioners of the art of propaganda.

If it is only half as well done as the tavern’s last 2008 productions of these plays, it will still be time well-worth spent. But plan now—each play will only be performed a limited number of times.

* I did end the first scene with a rhymed couplet I’m still a little proud of. Young Margaret has been captured after trying to run away from her “handlers,” and has reconciled herself to her future marriage:

So take me off to win my promised ring!
I’ll be your pawn—a queen to mated king!

Everything else [I wrote], though, is pure garbage (shudder).

Read the Plot Synopsis

Henry VI part 2

Here the main theme is York’s gradual rise to power; in the middle is Jack Cade’s mob-law rebellion. The Quarto of 1594 puts it all in the title: “The First Part of the Contention betwixt the two famous Houses of Yorke and Lancaster, with the death of the good Duke Humphrey: And the banishment and death of the Duke of Suffolke, and the Tragicall end of the proud Cardinall of Winchester, with the notable Rebellion of Jacke Cade: And the Duke of Yorkes first claime unto the Crowne.”

York in the speech beginning “Anjou and Maine are given to the French”, vows “when I spy advantage” to claim the crown. The peers have split into their factions. The Duchess of Gloucester, the Lord Protector’s thrusting wife, attempts to learn the future from a “conjuror” and a witch and is arrested for treason. She is banished to the Isle of Man after doing penance through London, barefoot and in a white sheet, and warning her honest husband of his enemies. The King, though believing the heavily assailed Gloucester to be honest, removes him from the Protectorship; he, too, is arrested – York manages to implicate him in what is now the complete loss of France – and he is later murdered through the agency of Suffolk and of Cardinal Beaufort, who dies while confessing it.

York has gone to quell an Irish rising, leaving the ruffianly Jack Cade of Ashford (claiming to be John Mortimer, Richard II’s heir) to begin a rebellion in and around London: this ends with a pardon to those who forsake Cade, and Cade’s death in combat with Alexander Iden in a Kentish garden. Pirates, meanwhile, have murdered Suffolk who, in spite of Margaret, has been banished.

When York returns with his army the Wars of the Roses begin in earnest: Henry, Margaret, Somerset and old Clifford for Lancaster; Warwick and Salisbury for York and his sons. York, demanding the crown wins the battle of St Albans where Clifford and Somerset are slain. “Sound drum and trumpets”, cries Warwick, “and to London all;/And more such days as these to us befall!”

from The Pocket Companion to Shakespeare’s Plays by J.C. Trewin

Director's Notes

Directed by Jeff Watkins

Show Information


Act One - 55 min / 15 min intermission / Act Two - 55 min / 5 minute break / Act Three - 55 min.

Show Roles

Performances October 1-9, 2016

King Henry the Sixth - Mary Ruth Ralston
Margaret, his Queen - Amee Vyas*
Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester - Doug Kaye*
Eleanor, Duchess of Gloucester - Tetrianna Silas
Cardinal Beaufort - J. Tony Brown*
Richard Plantagenet, Duke of York - Maurice Ralston*
Edward Plantagenet, Duke of York’s son - Matt Nitchie
Richard Plantagenet, Duke of York’s son - Andrew Houchins*
Duke of Somerset - Vinnie Mascola
Duke of Suffolk - Trey York
Duke of Buckingham - Clarke Weigle
Lord Clifford - Doug Kaye*
Young Clifford, his son - Trey York
Earl of Salisbury - Peter Hardy
Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick - Troy Willis*
Lord Scales - Trey York
Lord Say - Matt Nitchie
Sir Humphrey Stafford - Maurice Ralston*
William Stafford, his brother - Peter Hardy
Sir William Vaux - Julia Steudle
Walter Whitmore, a pirate - Vinnie Mascola
Shipmaster - Nathan Hesse
Sawyer - Troy Willis*
Margery Jourdain, a witch - Julia Steudle
John Hume, a priest - Drew Reeves*
John Southwell, a priest - Sean Kelley
Roger Bolingbroke, a conjuror - Matt Nitchie
Thomas Horner, an armourer - Nathan Hesse
Peter, Horner’s man - Adam King
Clerk of Chatham - Adam King
Mayor of St Albans - Drew Reeves*
Saunders Simpcox, an imposter - David Sterritt
Wife to Simpcox - Adam King
Alexander Iden, a Kentish gentleman - David Sterritt
Gentlemen - Tatyana Arrington, Miles McBath, Sean Kelley
Jack Cade, a rebel - Drew Reeves*
George Bevis, follower of Cade - Clarke Weigle
John Holland, follower of Cade - J. Tony Brown*
Dick, the butcher, follower of Cade - Nathan Hesse
Smith, the weaver, follower of Cade - David Sterritt
Cade - Followers Tatyana Arrington, Miles McBath, Julia Steudle
Herald - David Sterritt
Neighbors - Vinnie Mascola, Clarke Weigle
Citizens - Vinnie Mascola, Julia Steudle
Lieutenant - Matt Nitchie
Jailers - Adam King
Petitioners - David Sterritt, Miles McBath
Lady In Waiting - Tatyana Arrington
Beadle - Miles McBath
Soldier - Miles McBath
Spirit - Miles McBath
Murderers - David Sterritt, Miles McBath
Trumpeter - Clarke Weigle

Show Times
Shows at The Shakespeare Tavern Playhouse begin at 7:30pm, except on Sundays, when they begin at 6:30pm

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These are plays you may have read in high school or college. The plot is fairly uncomplicated, though some of the themes may be dense or dark. These plays may include supernatural elements, straight-forward politics, historical content or religious content. In these plays, there may also be bawdy language and certain adult situations. If we feel a show contains a plethora of Graphic Elizabethan Poetry (or is very bloody/violent/triggering) we will put that disclaimer in the blurb about the show.

Note for all plays: The performers of The Atlanta Shakespeare Company are specially trained to make Shakespeare’s text and intention clear, no matter the plot or the subject matter. They know precisely how to get to the emotional core of each line, each moment, each scene. We promise you will understand everything! Leave the heavy lifting to us!

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