Often thought of as the most tragic of Wilson’s plays, King Hedley II is the ninth play in August Wilson’s Pittsburgh Cycle. The play follows King, an ex-con who is desperately trying to make $10,000 to open a video store by stealing stolen refrigerators. We also meet his mother Ruby, his wife, Tonya, his best friend, Mister, his next door neighbor, Stool-Pigeon, and Ruby’s ex-lover, Elmore. The play features characters from Wilson’s earlier work, Seven Guitars (Ruby and Canewell, known here as Stool-Pigeon) and mentions other characters from the rest of the cycle. King Hedley II is the son of Ruby and King Hedley I (known as simply Hedley in Seven Guitars), although the true identity of his biological father is unknown. The play takes place in the 1980s, a time of excessive violence amongst and against African-Americans. Touching many of the same themes that Wilson brings up in his other plays, King Hedley II explores what happens when black men feel worthless and black women feel forgotten. King spends a lot of the play scraping at the dirt, trying to plant seeds where nothing can grow: this becomes the perfect metaphor for his life as well as the general African-American experience of the time.
King Hedley II guide sections