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MonkeyNotes-King Henry VI, Part 3 by William Shakespeare
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Notes

The play opens with allusions to the battle of St. Albans and the
victory of the Duke of York over his adversary, Henry VI. The
scene is set in the Parliament House in London where the Duke
thinks he will take over the crown. Before the King enters, York
and his men revel in how easily the King left the battlefield before
the battle had ended. This suggests that the King is weak and
fearful of death. They then rattle off the deaths of major figures of
the King's army and York's son, Richard shows York the head of
Somerset whom he killed. For this, his father tells him that he is
his favorite son. War and bloodshed are shown to be valiant acts
but in the exchange between the men, war appears as an act of
savagery and barbarism. Discussion then ensues about who is the
rightful heir to the throne. Warwick threatens to destroy anyone
who dares to interfere. He says,

'Neither the King, nor he that loves him best,
The proudest he that holds up Lancaster,
Dares stir a wing if Warwick shake his bells'.

'Shake his bells' is a metaphor from falconry. The bell was attached
to the falcon above the foot. Bird imagery, especially that of birds
of prey, are used to describe these warriors. Warwick's threats
reveal his ambitious temperament. He is as power-hungry as York
and knows that if York becomes king, that he too will gain power.
When the King and his retinue arrive, he refers to York as a 'sturdy
rebel,' which reveals his awe and possible fear of him as well as
addresses him as a rebel and not an heir to the throne. Clifford
points out that York wouldn't have dared to sit on the throne had
Henry V been alive and proclaims his intention to destroy the York
family. He vows to take revenge on his father's death which seems
more pertinent than his loyalty to the king. He says, 'The hope
thereof makes Clifford mourn in steel.' Both parties appear to have
ulterior motives in what they say.

When the King says proudly that he is the son of King Henry V,
who had seized the French territories, Warwick sarcastically asks
him to stop talking about France. This is in reference to the events
that occurred in Henry VI, Part 2, where the King loses his French
territories due to his marriage to Margaret. The proxy marriage that
took place at Nancy entailed the surrender of Anjou and Maine, the
French dominions. This shattered the loyalty of Warwick and his
father, Salisbury (the Nevilles) towards their king. The King's
helplessness is revealed when he says that the Lord Protector had
lost it, and he points out that he had been crowned king when he
was just nine months old. He tries to substantiate the fact that his
inability to be an able monarch is due to his inheritance of the
crown at a very young age.

A discussion about who should rightfully sit on the throne ensues
with both parties attempting to out-argue the other. A quick history
of how Henry V inherited the throne reveals that the question of
who should be king is a legitimate claim. Even the king expresses
the fact that his title is weak since his father took the throne
through conquest and not inheritance. So when Exeter expresses
trepidation about whether the King is the rightful heir, the King
immediately assumes that all will follow suit and so after more
threats to his men, he makes a rash deal with York. The King
humbly requests Warwick to let him reign as king for this lifetime.
York says that if the King resigns his crown to him and his sons,
he shall reign in quiet while he is living. Henry agrees to York's
proposal. This shows his cowardice and irresponsibility as a leader
although on the other hand it also reveals that he wants the warring
and bloodshed to be over. Yet his men are affronted and
immediately storm off and Westmoreland condemns the King as a
degenerate. Henry's true character is revealed here as he disinherits
his own son due to being effete.

The queen's reaction reveals that she is more of a game player than
the king. Lamenting her son's disinheritance, she castigates her
husband for being so ineffectual and transgressing the laws of
English rule which upholds the rights of inheritance to the first
born. She mocks the King's cowardice in preferring his life to his
honor and says that she would surely prefer death at the hands of
the enemy rather than do this cowardly and unmanly act. The
queen's daring nature and queenly quality is
displayed here as being more in line with how a king should act. In
fact, the social upheaval occurring at the time can be partly blamed
on a king who is indecisive and less in control of his kingdom than
his wife who proclaims as she leaves,

'Come son let's away;
Our army is ready; come, we'll after them'

The lines reveal her daring nature and her ability to face the
consequences in store for her. Unlike her husband, she is very
much concerned for her son's future and is determined to regain his
inheritance. Her maternal love and ambitious nature is highlighted
here.

Henry is shown to be almost encouraging her to seek revenge on
York as he says to her departing figure, "Revng'd may she be on
that hateful duke, Whose haughty spirit, winged with desire, Will
cost my crown..." His constant need to see himself as a victim of
circumstance reveals his inability to take responsibilty for his
actions and lead his country out of the mire of social unrest. He
would rather have someone else restore his kingdom than do it
himself.

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MonkeyNotes-King Henry VI, Part 3 by William Shakespeare
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