Bard on the battlefield

Bard on the battlefield

On 29 March 1461, Edward IV of York fought against Henry VI of Lancaster in an epic battle in which a staggering 28,000 men were killed by arrows, axes and lances. The Battle of Towton was brutal, killing more men in one day than at any time in English history, and bringing about the downfall of Henry VI.

The battlefield today is a forgotten patch of land behind the Rockingham Arms pub in the Yorkshire village of Towton, with just a single stone cross commemorating the event. This summer, the Royal Shakespeare Company is bringing some drama back with a one-off performance of Henry VI, directed by Nick Bagnall.

It will be the first time Shakespeare’s trio of black comedies – Harry the Sixth, The Houses of York & Lancaster and The True Tragedy of the Duke of York – is performed on the site at which some of the play is set. Most memorably, Towton features in The True Tragedy of the Duke of York, Act II Scene V, when a lone Henry VI asks:

‘Would I were dead! If God’s good will were so
For what is in this world but grief and woe?’

Ti Green, who designed Richard III at the Royal Shakespeare Company theatre in Stratford, is responsible for the towering set; the audience are seated on the ground.

Tickets cost ?45 per person. To book, visit

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