Henry VI, Part 2 Characters
by William Shakespeare

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Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

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King Henry VI

King Henry VI, the king of England. Although he is the title character, he is by no means the central character of the play. A deeply religious man, he is an ineffective ruler, easily swayed by stronger personalities, including those of his wife and his advisers. He is unable to deal realistically with political conflict and seems unaware that many members of his court are plotting against him. When France retakes territory the English have held, Henry responds only that it must be God’s will. He calls for peace and harmony. Neither does he protest much when Gloucester is brought down. He is aware of his own weaknesses as a ruler and wishes he were not called by God to command. When Richard Plantagenet claims the throne, Henry retreats.

Humphrey, duke of Gloucester

Humphrey, duke of Gloucester, a noble and patriotic son of England. He is deeply upset that Henry has given to the French the territories of Anjou and Maine, in exchange for Margaret, the new queen. He remains loyal to the king and to England, using his popularity and wisdom in the service of holding together the divided country. He is next in line for the throne but has no desire to rule. A trusted adviser and friend to Henry, he is a threat to Margaret and to the Duke of Suffolk’s quest for more power. Humphrey’s wife faces trumped-up charges of witchcraft and is banished; soon afterward, Humphrey himself is falsely accused of treason and then murdered. After his death, England cannot hold together, and the civil conflict known as the Wars of the Roses begins.

Margaret of Anjou

Margaret of Anjou, Henry’s new bride, who has come from Anjou. A scheming and ill-tempered woman, she is jealous of Humphrey and intolerant of her husband’s helplessness. When Gloucester is brought down and subsequently murdered, she rejoices and gathers a group of noblemen around her to influence the king. Later, when the Duke of Suffolk is arrested for his part in the murder, it becomes apparent that he and Margaret have been lovers.

The duke of Suffolk

The duke of Suffolk, an unscrupulous and ambitious man who vies with Humphrey for influence over King...

(The entire section is 565 words.)