Henry VI Part 2

by: William Shakespeare

Act IV, Scenes vii-ix

Meanwhile, Cade hides in Alexander Iden's garden in Kent. He hasn't eaten in five days and is very weak. He jumps the fence to Iden's vegetable patch and starts eating his herbs. Iden enters with his men, speaking of his little garden, left to him by his father, where he enjoys spending his time far away from the turmoil of the court. Iden sees Cade, who threatens Iden. Iden doesn't understand why Cade is so rude. Cade threatens to kill him, but Iden has no desire to fight with a weakened, hungry man. Yet Cade draws his sword on him, they fight, and Iden stabs Cade to death. Cade reveals his name in a dying sentence. Iden is amazed to have killed Cade; Cade replies that he was vanquished by hunger, not by valor. Iden tells his men to leave the body in a dunghill, and he will take Cade's head to the king.

Commentary

Cade's rule is characterized by extreme brutality, from the hanging of the clerk to the death of Saye, and Cade's orders to kill the Sergeant who has complained about the behavior of one of Cade's men. The violence of Cade's army seems to confirm contemporary suspicions about the dangers of popular rule. His main violence is aimed at those who can read or write; his reasons for killing Saye seem to have more to do with his support of schools and presses than for losing any French land. And Cade's reign of terror erases any rights of women, making them fair game for rape. Cade's troops, however, seem to enjoy the pleasures of mob rule more than any ideology of freedom, and they can be easily swayed by rhetoric. When Henry's men come to urge them to abandon Cade, they must evoke Henry V rather than the present king, since Henry VI is too weak to be a convincing influence over the commoners.

Alexander Iden is a curious figure; a landowning gentleman who has built a wall around his garden and prefers it to courtly life, Iden seems charitable and doesn't want to fight with Cade. He evokes the virtues of rural life in contrast to the values of the corrupt court or the rampaging commoners. His appearance anticipates the emerging bourgeois property holder, soon to become the backbone of the nation. And his loyalties are clear; when he finds he has killed Cade, he rushes to take the head to the king. Iden's garden may, thus, represent a version of an English Eden.


More Help

From the SparkNotes Blog