With a weak, unworldly king on the throne, the English nobility heightens its struggle for power in Henry VI, Part 2, leading to the brink of civil war.
At the start of the play, Henry meets his new bride, Margaret, to whom he has been married by proxy through Suffolk, her lover. Henry’s popular and powerful uncle Gloucester, the Lord Protector, soon comes under attack by Margaret, Suffolk, Cardinal Beaufort, and others.
Gloucester’s wife is shamed and exiled and Gloucester himself removed from office, then murdered on Suffolk’s orders. Suffolk is banished, captured by pirates, and killed. Meanwhile, the cardinal dies, raving in madness because of his part in Gloucester’s death.
A Kentish rebel, Jack Cade, leads a short-lived revolt, seizing London before his supporters desert him. He dies fighting in a garden. Soon another revolt emerges: Richard, Duke of York, leads an army against King Henry, who flees back to London. As the play ends, Richard’s forces also move toward London.