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Henry VI, Part 2 | Study Guide

William Shakespeare

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Henry VI, Part 2 | Act 4, Scene 8 | Summary



Jack Cade continues to lead the march through London, urging his men to slaughter all who oppose them. Lord Clifford enters, accompanied by the Duke of Buckingham; the two announce that King Henry is willing to pardon any rebels who will "forsake [Cade] and go home in peace." At first Cade's followers waver, but Clifford wins them over with a stirring speech about the evils of civil war. Seeing that he has lost the crowd's favor, Cade runs offstage, and Buckingham declares a 1,000-pound bounty for the rebel leader's head.


Like the Commons in Act 3, Scene 2, Cade's followers generally act as an undifferentiated mob, quickly stirred up but just as quickly placated. Their shallowness is evident in the ease with which both Clifford and Cade persuade them: all Clifford has to do is mention the famous warrior-king Henry V, and the crowd is ready to side with Henry VI, the elder Henry's son. Cade finds he can just as easily sway them by suggesting that Clifford is lying, leading to an apparent stalemate between the royalist and rebel leaders. Ultimately, what seems to have the greatest effect is the promise of real, paying work in the king's army: Why pillage England, Clifford argues, when King Henry will pay for you to plunder France? With this stroke, Cade realizes he has lost his followers for good; on his way offstage he resentfully likens them to a "feather ... lightly blown to and fro."

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