Sovereignty and Commonwealth in Shakespeare's Henry VI, Part 2

Dermot Cavanagh

in The Oxford Handbook of Tudor Drama

Published in print July 2012 | ISBN: 9780199566471
Published online November 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks of Literature

Sovereignty and Commonwealth in Shakespeare's Henry VI, Part 2


Henry VI, Part 2, portrays the descent of England into civil war. Many factors contribute to this but the main narrative falls into two parts. The first depicts the downfall of the Duke of Gloucester, the Protector of the realm, and a principled guardian of the ‘commonwealth’. The second part of the play is concerned largely with revolt. This article focuses on play's political concerns. Henry VI, Part 2 presents not simply a raw struggle for power between competing forces but an equally compelling dispute over the meaning of sovereignty, that is, between different ways of conceptualizing its powers. In this respect, it serves as an excellent introduction to the ‘history play’ as a genre.

Keywords: Tudor theatre; plays; England; civil war; history play; sovereignty

Article.  8197 words. 

Subjects: Literature ; Literary Studies (1500 to 1800)

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