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MonkeyNotes-Henry VI, Part 1 by William Shakespeare

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Act III, Scene I

Summary

The Parliament is in session to settle the dispute between
Winchester and Gloucester. The two men are engaged in
exchanging bitter words, the young king asks them to put aside
their differences and become friends. The mayor enters with
the news of the fight between the two noblemenís servants. At
the Kingís request, Gloucester bids his men to stop fighting
and declares his peace with Winchester. Winchester agrees to it
openly, but secretly he is still resolved to destroy Gloucester.
The King makes Richard Plantagenet the Duke of York and the
whole inheritance of the house of York is restored to him. The
King leaves for France, where he is going to be crowned.
Exeter, left alone, prophesies trouble arising from the
dissension between the two English peers. He recalls the old
prophecy according to which Henry VI, the present king,
would lose all that his father won.

Notes

The meeting of the parliament has been called to establish
peace between Winchester and Gloucester. The scene then
opens on a note of irony when it shows these two noblemen
flinging abuse at each other. There is a notably sardonic quality
in the mutual abusing of the lords and churchmen who so
short-sightedly and rapaciously indulge their absorbing appetite
for power.

These attitudes are contrasted with the ineffective and
despairing commonsense which prompts the Mayor of London
to cry, "City the city of London, pity us!" The formal session of
the parliament is disturbed by back-stage shouts of "Down with
the tawny coats!" and "Stones! Stones!" the mayor complains
to the King that the factions, debarred the use of arms, are
knocking each otherís brains with pebble stones, and what is
worse, are breaking the windows of London shops. This part of
the scene is repetition of the humorous one in Act I, Scene III,
which also involves the mayor and two warring factions. The
humor is extended, when the factions enter "with bloody
pates," and "skirmish" in the very presence of the King until his
Majestyís piteous entreaty persuades their masters to shake
hands in a hollow peace. Thereupon the rioters disperse, some
to the surgeonís to have their pates dressed, one cheerful soul
to seek for "physic" in the tavern. This contributes to the lively
action that characterizes the sparse humor in this play.

This is a significant scene, in the sense that the king makes his
first appearance her. His youth is underlined in his own words,
"my tender years" as he pleads with the two angry noblemen
for reconciliation. He is shown as an ineffectual figure that has
no real command over his subjects, even though his intentions
are admirable. He only manages to establish a false amity
between the two peers. Then he makes the mistake of creating
Richard Plantagenet, who has just been privately advised by
Mortimer to make a bid for the crown, the Duke of York. This
is to restore him the full inheritance of the house of York, of
which his family had been deprived after his fatherís treason in
the previous reign.

When the parliamentary session is over, Henry VI is
credulously happy to have turned a quarrel into peace. He owes
naïve optimism while others are concealing dark thoughts
behind a display of backslapping bonhomie. But Exeter is not
deceived. His role is entirely choric. His comments reflect the
nature of the situation. Thus, it is he who stays behind to speak
the uneasy epilogue foretelling the internal disputes and
disastrous losses yet to come.

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MonkeyNotes-Henry VI, Part 1 by William Shakespeare
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