NOTE: The following plot summary pertains to Bare Theatre’s production of Henry VI: The War of the Roses. This condensed presentation focuses solely on the War of the Roses storyline throughout William Shakespeare’s Henry VI, Parts 1, 2, and 3.
We begin with an argument between York and Somerset about whether York, whose father was executed as a traitor by Henry V, should be restored to his title and lands. The two pick white (York) and red (Somerset) roses and encourage their friends to follow suit to display their allegiences.
Meanwhile, Suffolk has gone to France where she meets and falls in love with Margaret. Unable to take Margaret for herself, she brings her to Henry VI to be his queen. Henry accepts Margaret. This angers Gloster who had other ideas and he storms off.
The other lords, weary of Glosters influence over Henry and hoping for their own advancement, conspire to have Gloster killed. During their plotting, a messenger arrives from Ireland with the news that the Irish are revolting against their English Lords. York is sent to put down the revolt, but he intends to more than simply conquer Ireland.
At the connivance of Suffolk and Winchester, Gloster is murdered. When Henry learns of this, and of the populace’s suspicion that Suffolk is to blame, he banishes Suffolk from England. Suffolk doesn’t make it off the island before being killed by pirates.
Henry receives news that York has returned from Ireland with an army. He is claiming that Somerset is a traitor and his army is to remove Somerset from Henry’s court. Henry sends Somerset to the tower to avoid war with York.
Upon hearing that Somerset is prisoner, York dismisses his army and promises allegience to Henry. But disavows that promise when he sees Somerset has been set free. A battle begins between the House of Lancaster (Henry VI) and the House of York (York).
York’s forces defeat the Lancasters and York declares himself King and sits upon Henry’s throne. When Henry arrives with his nobles and finds York on his throne, he calls him a traitor and seeks to convince him to step down. The two argue over who is the rightful King. Finally Henry agrees to name York and his sons his rightful heirs if York will allow Henry to reign in peace until his death. York agrees and peace is declared.
However, this arrangement doesn’t sit well with Margaret and she goes forth to rally the Northern Lords against the House of York.
Meanwhile, the sons of York urger their father to betray his oath to Henry and claim the throne now. Just as York agrees to this, word comes that Margaret leads an army to beseige York’s castle. York and his followers prepare for war.
Margaret’s forces win the day. York’s youngest son, Rutland, is killed by Clifford. York is captured by Clifford and Northumberland and is mocked and then beheaded by Clifford and Margaret.
When York’s sons learn of their brother Rutland’s and their father’s deaths, they vow to avenge them and claim the throne for the House of York.
When Henry arrives at the scene of victory, he expresses dismay at seeing York’s head on the gate. Shortly, Edward arrives with the followers of York to avenge their father and claim the crown.
The forces engage again and during this battle, Clifford is killed and Henry is captured. Margaret leaves for France to ask King Louis for aid against York.
After the battle, Warwick heads to France to arrange a marriage for Edward to rekindle the tie between England and France.
The Lady Gray comes to Edward to ask the her husband’s lands be restored to her. Edward is attracted to her, and when she refuses to yield to her advances, asks her to be his queen.
The marriage of Edward and Lady Gray is met with opposition from Edward’s brother Clarence, the King of France, and Warwick, who feels Edward has dishonored him. Warwick joins with Margaret to defeat Edward and Clarence decides to follow Warwick and leave his brother.
In the ensuing battles, Edward is captured and Henry freed to reclaim the throne. He does not keep the throne long for Edward is quickly freed and comes to kill Exeter (Henry’s advisor) and return Henry to the tower.
In the final battle, all of the Lancastrians, except for Margaret and Prince Edward (and most of the Yorks) are slain. Margaret and Prince Edward are captured and Edward is killed by the three York brothers. Richard then goes to the tower and murders Henry VI.
Edward claims the throne and Kingdom.
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