King Henry VI
King Henry VI, the helpless and ineffective king of England. A deeply religious man, he is gentle and contemplative, completely incapable of understanding or dealing with treachery. As the play opens, Henry tries to bring a peaceful end to the civil war, but there is no common ground to unite Richard on one side and Margaret on the other. He persuades Richard Plantagenet to let him continue to rule but makes Richard his heir instead of his own son. As killing leads to revenge and more killing, Henry protests eloquently, but he has no power to influence the actions of others. In the midst of battle, Henry wishes for a calm, pastoral life, but he can never find it. After his forces, under Queen Margaret’s command, lose at the battle of Towton, he is imprisoned in the Tower of London; later, he is murdered there by Richard, the son of Richard Plantagenet.
Queen Margaret, the ruthless and intelligent wife of Henry, effectively the leader of England’s armies. Angered that Henry has disinherited her son Edward in favor of Richard Plantagenet, she arranges for the murder of Richard’s son, Rutland. When Richard is captured by her forces at Wakefield, she tortures him with a mock coronation, tells him that she has had his son killed, and then helps stab Richard to death. Although a brave and decisive leader— quite unlike her husband, who has no heart for killing—Margaret loses the battle at Towton. Another loss at Tewkesbury seals her fate. There, she is taken prisoner by Edward, Richard’s son, and watches as her own son Edward is killed. Her final speech is an eloquent lamentation.
Richard Plantagenet, duke of York. Although he has defeated the king at St. Albans, he agrees, in an attempt to end the bitter civil war, that Henry may continue to rule until his death if he will agree to pass the throne to Richard or his son. Richard’s son, the duke of Gloucester and also called Richard, is unhappy with the new terms, as is Margaret, Henry’s wife. Civil war soon breaks out again. York is captured by Margaret’s forces and stabbed to death by the queen, who has also had Richard’s son Rutland killed.
Edward, earl of March
Edward, earl of March, a son of Richard Plantagenet and later King Edward IV. Although he becomes king, his dishonesty and selfish ambition make him as unsuitable for the role as Henry’s gentleness makes him. He states...
(The entire section is 648 words.)