Henry VI, Part 2 | Study Guide

William Shakespeare

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Henry VI, Part 2 | Act 4, Scene 6 | Summary

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Summary

Jack Cade and his rebels have arrived in Cannon Street, the site of the famous London Stone. Cade strikes the stone with his staff and declares himself "lord of this city." He further decrees that it will be an act of treason (i.e., a capital offense) for anyone to call him by any name other than Lord Mortimer. A hapless soldier rushes onstage calling for Jack Cade—and is promptly killed in compliance with the new law. Dick takes a paper from the soldier and reads that an army has gathered in Smithfield. Cade urges his troops to "go fight with them," but only after they have set fire to London Bridge and the Tower.

Analysis

Cade is growing ever more irrational and violent as his rebellion gathers steam. He now executes people not just for being literate (as in Act 4, Scene 2), but for failing to use a title he has just bestowed upon himself. Cade's other decrees further the impression of a man mad with power: he commands that the water in the "Pissing Conduit," a small, freshwater channel near the London Stone, be replaced with claret (an imported French wine). (The conduit's nickname, by the way, comes from the small volume of water it carried, not from any sanitary use.)

For those following the play by play from Act 4, Scene 5, the scene change to Cannon Street shows that the rebels have done just as Scales predicted, reversing their course from the Tower and marching westward along the north bank of the Thames. If they continue along the riverbank as far as the Palace of Westminster, Cade and his followers are going to find that nobody is at home to greet them.

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