Henry VI Part 2

by: William Shakespeare

Act III, Scene i

Summary Act III, Scene i

Just then a messenger arrives from Ireland, telling of a rebel uprising there. York sarcastically suggests they send Somerset as regent since he had such good fortune in France. The two men bicker; Beaufort tells York to go to Ireland as regent, leading soldiers there to restore peace. York agrees to go, and he asks for an army to be readied soon. Everyone else departs. York says it is time to be resolved in his future course. His mind has been too busy imagining ways to bring down his enemies, but now he can act. What he lacked was an army, but now he has been given one. When he is in Ireland, he will leave someone in England to stir up trouble, he plans. Toward this end he has employed Jack Cade, a fierce commoner, who will pretend to be the now-dead John Mortimer, claimant to the throne. With Cade's help, York will discover the tempers of the common people and what they think of the Yorkist claim to the throne. If Cade is captured and tortured, he won't reveal his link to York, but if he thrives, then York will come back from Ireland with his army to seize the throne.

If Henry were a stronger leader, he would not be pushed around by his nobles and consent to the imprisonment of a man he believes to be innocent. Yet Henry can't resist the accusations of his nobles and his wife, and though he is distraught at the downfall of Gloucester, he allows him to be led off to prison. In fact, he believes he betrays Gloucester through his inability to act on his behalf. But he can't give commands; Suffolk arrests Gloucester, Beaufort orders him taken away, and the others all accuse him. And though the nobles agree that they have no real proof of wrongdoing, they agree he should be killed immediately, without a trial. The nobles play out their own version of mob rule, removing their enemies from office and killing them without reason.

Meanwhile, rebellions in Ireland provide York with an excellent opportunity. He now has an army and will be out of the country when he launches his first effort at the throne, through the destructive adventures of Jack Cade. Cade will rally the citizens behind an alleged Yorkist claimant to the throne; if he succeeds, York will finish the job, but if he fails, York will have to wait until another time. It is a clever plan, as it means York's claim to the throne will not be suspected, even while commoners rage over the countryside in the name of York.