The Whole Contention betweene the two Houses, Lancaster and Yorke

The Whole Contention brought together two plays which had previously been published separately; in the 1623 Folio, which arranged the history plays in chronological order, these two were described as the Second and Third Parts of Henry VI, and they were printed immediately following the play there designated the First Part. But they were first performed in 1591 and 1592, and were undoubtedly written before their 'prequel'.

Henry VI Part 2 was published in a quarto edition in 1594, and a second quarto based on this edition appeared in 1600. Henry VI Part 3 first appeared, unusually, in the smaller octavo format in 1594, and a regularised text was published in quarto six years later. They were combined together for the first time by Thomas Pavier in his 1619 collection of Shakespeare plays. Giving them a new title, and a shared titlepage, suggests that these works were meant to be bound and read together. They were also printed continuously with Pavier's quarto edition of Pericles, an unrelated play, perhaps implying that the three texts were intended to be bound into a single volume, one part of a projected 'collected works'.

 

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Further Study

This copy is in the National Library of Scotland, shelfmark NLS Bute.532. For the textual and publication history of the play, see Andrew Murphy, Shakespeare in Print (Cambridge, 2003) and Stanley Wells, Gary Taylor, John Jowett and William Montgomery, eds, William Shakespeare: A Textual Companion (Oxford, 1987).