Henry VI, Part 2: Act II

The fall of Gloucester and a random miracle.

Act II

Scene 1: The King, Queen, Gloucester, Cardinal Winchester, and Suffolk are out doing falconry. One of the falcons is named Joan. We can’t just ignore that reference, but that is the only time the name is mentioned, and so we move on.

They all begin teasing Gloucester about his lofty ideas and dreams of soaring above his lot. He quips back that only a simple-minded person doesn’t aim to think above the birds. Most of the quarrel is a rehashing of the same old fight between Gloucester and Winchester with Suffolk and even the Queen chiming in. The King, of course, strives to maintain the peace and fails completely. Things come to a head when Gloucester and Winchester decide to have a sword fight out of earshot from everyone else. This, like many events in the play, comes to nothing.

Then, a man comes up from the village claiming to be healed of his blindness by a miracle. King Henry believes it immediately, but everyone else has their doubts. Especially when it turns out he can’t walk. Why would he be healed of one ailment, but not the other? First, they ask him what color everyone is wearing, which he answers correctly. They question how one who only saw for the first time a few minutes prior could identify colors. The truth is finally uncovered when they threaten to whip him until he jumps over a chair, which he does after the first strike. His wife says they did it for money and he is arrested and that’s it. They are never heard from again.

Finally, Buckingham enters to tell everyone that Gloucester’s wife, Eleanor, has been arrested for witchcraft.

Scene 2: York explains his lineage – and right to the throne – to the Salisbury and Warwick. They accept his claim and hail him as King. They all swear to make York King.

Scene 3: The King sentences the witches helping Eleanor to death by hanging. Eleanor however, since she’s a noblewoman, will be exiled to the Isle of Man after walking through the streets of London in a sheet with a torch and a sign on her back. Gloucester, in his shame, resigns his post. Margaret, of course, rejoices in this fact.

Now, the armorer, Horner, and his apprentice, Peter, enter for their fight. Their neighbors got them drunk because you always fight better when drunk. Horner is more drunk than Peter, but Peter is still confident that he will lose. However, Peter wins against his drunken master and Horner confesses to treason. Horner is arrested to be put to death, and Peter is rewarded.

Scene 4: Gloucester waits for his wife before she begins her penance. She laments her fate and her oncoming humiliation. He gets called away to parliament. She leaves with the man who will be holding her at the Isle of Man.

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