Henry VI, Part II – Book Review

Henry VI, Part II by William Shakespeare

I was lucky enough to receive this book from Penguin Classics in exchange for reviewing it on their site when they decided to send out each of the 1400 Penguin Classics to a different reviewer.  The books were assigned at random, so I was very fortunate to get something I was at least relatively interested in.  I have long been intrigued by the Tudors and, more recently, by those who immediately preceeded them in the rule of England.  Half-brother to the grandfather of Henry VIII, Edmund Tudor, Henry VI would play an important role in supporting the Tudors.

Although Edmund and the other Tudors don’t really factor in this part of Henry’s story, it is still fascinating.  Henry is a bit slow and easily led by those around him, and facing multiple challenges to his throne.  I’m not going to go into too much detail critiquing Shakespeare, because I think most people are familiar enough to be able to discern whether or not they would be comfortable.  I’ve never read any of his other history plays, so I’m not sure how this compares, but I was definitely aided in my attempt to understand what was going on by the fact that I had some previous knowledge of the events of Henry VI’s reign.

I do want to discuss the ease of reading of this particular edition, the Penguin classic.  There were lovely family trees in the beginning and the end of the play, showing things such as the Yorkist and Lancastrian family lines.  There were also extensive text notes after the later set of family trees.  Although the text notes had good information, it was not that helpful for me to have them at the end of the book.  If those text notes were turned into annotation, I would be able to recommend this book wholeheartedly.

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