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Shakespeare's Sources for King Henry VI, Part 2

As with the first part of Henry VI, Shakespeare relied upon Holinshed's Chronicles (second edition, 1587) in his construction of Henry VI, Part II and Hall's The Union of the two noble and illustre famelies of Lancastre and Yorke, written in 1550. Although he followed both chronicles very closely, and created no characters not found in actual history, he added multiple lines of original dialogue and developed the psychology of each main character. The death of Jack Cade is reported in Hall's work, but Shakespeare makes it a far more important event, granting it double the lines than does Hall. Here is a brief excerpt from Hall:
Eyden: Nay, it never shall be saide whilst the world doth stand, that Alexander. Eyden an Esquire of Kent, tooke odds to combat with a famisht man, looke on me, my limmes are equall vnto thine, and euery way as big, then hand to hand, ile combat thee. Sirrha fetch me weapons, and stand you all aside.
Cade: Now sword, if thou doest not hew this burly-bond churle into chines of beefe, I beseech God thou maist fal into some smiths hand, and be turned to hobnailes.
Eyden: Come on thy way.
(They fight, and Cade falls downe)
Cade: Oh villaine, thou hast slaine the floure of Kent for chiualrie, but it is famine & not thee that has done it, for come ten thousand diuels, and giue me but the ten meals that I wanted this fiue daies, and ile fight with all of you, and so a pox rot thee, for Iacke Cade must die.
Eyden: Iack Cade, & was it that monsterous Rebell which I haue slaine....Ile drag him hence, and with my sword cut off his head and beare it to the King.
Compare the above excerpt to the scene of Jack Cade's death in Act IV, Scene X and you will see Shakespeare's dramatic alterations. Shakespeare also used the fourth edition of John Foxe's Book of Martyrs, written in 1583. From this work Shakespeare took the episode of Simpcox's pseudo miracle.

How to cite this article:
Mabillard, Amanda. Shakespeare's Sources for King Henry VI, Part 2. Shakespeare Online. < >.


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