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Free Study Guide-Henry VI, Part 2 by William Shakespeare-Free Book Notes
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The Bishop Of Winchester (Cardinal Beaufort)

Henry Beaufort, the second of Gauntís illegitimate sons, is the guardian of Henry VI. He was made a Cardinal by Pope Martin V and led the opposition to Gloucester. In the play, he is introduced in the first scene. When Gloucester is dissatisfied by the marriage of Henry VI to the French princess, Beaufort tries to pacify him. He appeals to the lords not to listen to the dukeís concerns, and asserts that the duke is unhappy about the marriage, not because England will lose its French territories, but because he (Gloucester) does not want Henry to have an heir.

He warns the lords that Gloucester is power-hungry and a threat to the crown. The long established animosity between himself and the duke is revealed here. The Cardinalís hate for the duke is so great that he tries to poison his name. Salisbury, a firm supporter of Gloucester, says that Cardinal Beaufort is more like a soldier than a man of the church. The Cardinal is, in fact, the leader of the opposition against King Henry.

The Cardinal accuses the duke of exorbitant expenditure, causing hardship to the clergy, when actually he himself is to blame in this matter. In the words of Gloucester, the Cardinal is a mean and ignoble man who aspires to rise higher and higher. He condemns Cardinal Beaufort for posing as a clergyman when he has a heart of malice and jealousy inside him. Hearing about the death of the duke, the Cardinal claims to have foreseen it in a dream, whereas he helped to orchestrate the murder.

The Cardinal and Suffolk are jointly responsible for the death of the duke. The scene in which the Cardinal dies is a very important one. The fall of this powerful clergyman is the beginning of the climax of the play. The guilt in his mind has made him insane, and he dies a very painful death. As a clergyman, he should have lead a simple life, but the Cardinal is portrayed as greedy for money and power. This highlights the corruption prevalent among the clergy of the time.

The Duke of Suffolk

William de la Pole, the Marquis who is made Duke of Suffolk early in the play, has served successfully in France. He emerges as an advocate of peace with France, and he opposes Gloucester. He arranges the marriage of Henry VI with Margaret of Anjou in Nancy, France. In the third scene of Act I, Suffolk appears closely allied with the queen. When she complains that the Protector is too powerful and that she is a queen in title only, Suffolk assures her that he will destroy Gloucester and any others who stand in their way. This is an early and important indication of their intimacy.

Suffolk and the Cardinal are jointly responsible for the murder of the duke. In the murder scene, Suffolk praises the murderers for their bloody act and promises to reward them. After this, he puts on a show of innocence and pretends that he is ignorant of the cause of the Gloucesterís death. After his banishment, the scene of parting between Margaret and Suffolk is very moving. In language rich with metaphors, he expresses his love towards the queen and his inability to live without her. He says her heavenly companionship would sustain him even in the wilderness, and he would die in her lap as peacefully as a child in deep slumber.

When he is about to be killed (Act IV, Scene 1), Suffolk mocks the captain of the ship and says that he does not want to be killed by a base- born fellow, since he (Suffolk) is from the honorable House of Lancaster. Swallowing the treasury of the country, having an adulterous relationship with the queen, actively participating in the murder of the Gloucester, betrothing the daughter of a worthless French king to their good English king, and losing Englandís French territories are the allegations with which the captain charges Suffolk.

Even when he is going to be beheaded, he maintains his bold and daring nature. He says that all great men are killed by base-born fellows, and he cites the examples of Julius Caesar and Pompey. In Suffolk the audience finds a dashing but treacherous warrior who meets his downfall.

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Free Study Guide-Henry VI, Part 2 by William Shakespeare-Free Plot Summary


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