Shakespeare Plays Available in Video Format
Scholars Online Educational Resources


All’s Well That Ends Well
Antony and Cleopatra
As You Like It
The Comedy of Errors
Henry IV, part 1
Henry IV, part 2
Henry V
Henry VI, part 1
Henry VI, part 2
Henry VI, part 3
Henry VIII
Julius Caesar
King John
King Lear
Love’s Labour’s Lost
Measure for Measure
The Merchant of Venice
The Merry Wives of Windsor
A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Much Ado About Nothing
Richard II
Richard III
Romeo and Juliet
The Taming of the Shrew
The Tempest
Timon of Athens
Titus Andronicus
Troilus and Cressida
Twelfth Night
Two Gentlemen of Verona
The Winter’s Tale

Available versions

1960: Michael Hayes

1983: Jane Howell

Henry VI, Part 2

Henry IV, Part 2, picks up some of the themes that are later managed with more dexterity in Richard II (which, while earlier in historical chronology, is a much later product). In particular, Henry’s inability to rein in the divisions of his nobles — the same issue that drove a wedge into Richard’s kingship between Mowbray and Bolingbroke — brings on wave after wave of civil chaos. It climaxes in the opening battle of the Wars of the Roses, namely the First Battle of St. Albans.

The Jack Cade rebellion is an almost independent episode in the middle of the play. Like Spartacus, his narrative has occasionally been coopted as a support for nineteenth-century communist, socialist, or variably populist uprisings. Shakespeare’s explanation is more cynical: he suggests that the Duke of York has instigated it from behind the scenes as a way of discerning whether the populace would be open to the possibility of deposing the king. Nothing like that is really apparent from the historical record. Cade’s identity is not entirely clear, and his cause for revolution seems to have rested more on immediate contemporary conditions. Nevertheless, the account here is an interesting case study in how the popular imagination recasts the narratives of problematic events.

Despite its chaos and ill-defined conclusion, this is often seen as the best part of the trilogy of Henry VI plays. For all that, it is occasionally tedious, and doesn’t offer the best of Shakespeare’s verse.

Productions of all the Henry VI plays are relatively scarce, and usually only produced by companies that are doing a larger sequence of plays; accordingly there are but few to watch and compare, but there are a few.