Henry VI Part II, Act 4: Mobs and a Metaphor

“Was ever feather so lightly blown to and fro as this multitude?” Act 4 Scene 8 of Henry VI Part II

Cade’s Rebellion did not begin as a mob. It began as concerned subjects attempted to protect their country from evil men and practices that were destroying their area of England from the inside out:

“These be the points, cause and mischiefs of gathering and assembling of us, the king’s liege men of Kent, the 4th day of June the year of our Lord 1450, the reign of our sovereign lord the king 29th, which we trust to Almighty God to remedy, with the help and the grace of God and of our sovereign lord the king, and the poor commons of England, and else we shall die therefore…” Proclamation of Grievances by Jack Cade

While little seems to be known about who Jack Cade really was, it is doubtful that he was the loathsome character we meet in Henry VI Part II. That Henry and his court found him to be a threat is understandable, but his grievances and suggestions for their remedy were well considered.

I think part of what makes Act 4 so disturbing to read or to watch, is the level of brutality depicted there. I know that if I could go back in time, this is not the era or location I would choose, but, distressingly, in several areas of the world today, you wouldn’t have to time travel to experience these situations yourself. Beheadings by lawless individuals with or without cause still happen, and they are still publicized by the perpetrators, though in different ways than those who lived in the 1400s knew. Citizens attempt to clean their governments up through protests regularly. Some of these protests turn violent, some end tragically.

This is a long way of saying that Henry VI Part II, Act 4 still has relevance.

It also has a metaphor that I particularly like and will end with here:

“Knowledge the wing wherewith we fly to heaven.” Act 4 Scene 7 of Henry VI Part II


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Filed under Plays, Shakespeare's Histories

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