The Henry plays — and a great deal of Shakespeare’s history plays — were written prior to 1594. These are Shakespeare’s early attempts and a lot of critics have pointed out: it shows.
Henry VI, Pt 2, is definitely rough. There are a crap-ton of characters, some of whom only show up once for a couple lines and then disappear. In a production of these plays, a lot of these roles would be doubled-up. The result is a somewhat chaotic read, though I bet it’s much easier to follow on stage.
All I really have to say about this play is: Early Shakespeare is Still Shakespeare!
And I think Shakespeare might’ve missed his true calling: dark–Kill-Bill-style comedy.
Yes, I think Shakespeare and Quentin Tarantino should get together. Wait, scratch that. They’d never shut up so they’d never get anything done. Both are kind of long winded.
However! Jack Cade, the badass-but-not-too-bright leader of the rebels, who appears near the end of the play, is the epitome of a Tarantino talky-crazed bad guy. He makes decapitated heads kiss each other. He kills people for calling him the wrong name. He proclaims random laws. His scenes are straight out of Pulp Fiction. It’s a good thing Shakespeare didn’t have access to needles. (Or, maybe, a bad thing.)
Some of that shit was so disturbing I laughed out loud.
Do the nobles plot for an unreasonable amount of time? Yes.
Is it sometimes difficult to follow characters and their motivations? Sometimes. Yes.
But I liked it way more than I thought I would.