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Act III, SCENE 1
The scene begins with a chase in the north of England by two
gamekeepers who come upon the king who is disguised yet
lamenting his plight. He says his Queen and son have gone to
France to seek help and Warwick has gone to propose to the
French King's sister. The King says Warwick is a good orator and
can easily win over King Lewis who succumbs to moving words.
Henry hopes that Margaret also may win sympathy of the King
with her sorrowful sighs and tears, which will pierce his marble
heart. When Margaret mourns, even the tiger may become mild.
But Margaret has gone to beg and Warwick has gone to give; she
asking for help for Henry and he asking for a wife for Edward.
When she weeps and says Henry is deposed, he will smile and say
that Edward is installed in the throne. The King expresses his
sympathy for Margaret because he is sure that Warwick will
deviate the King's attention towards him with his arguments. The
second keeper shows himself and asks the King why is he talking
about kings and queens in a kingly manner. Henry replies that he is
a King in mind and it is usual for men to speak of kings.
When the keeper asks him where his crown is, Henry replies that
his crown is a peculiar one seldom enjoyed by other kings. It is not
on his head but in his heart and is not decorated with diamonds and
Indian stones. The second keeper says that if he is a contented
king, then he should be contented to go with them since they
consider him as the enemy of their King Edward. Henry reveals
that recently they were supporters of him, but now the tide has
changed since Edward crowned himself. The keepers agree this is
so and arrest him. The King humbly agrees to their proposal and
The scene serves as a general overview of some of the main
general Themes of the play--the divine right of kings, the uses of
adversity, the passivity of content, the fickleness of men and the
sanctity of oaths. Henry is in disguise and enters England. The
triumph of Edward now on his way to his coronation in London is
contrasted with the plight of Henry who seeks a contemplative
existence in the woods. He is more comfortable here than he is
holding a scepter.
The keepers recognize Henry as their one time King and silently
hear Henry speak about the loss of his crown and land. He says
that sweet are the uses of adversity.
'Let me embrace thee, sour Adversity,
For wise men say it is the wisest course'
Only in times of adversity can men judge others and realize who
their true friends are. The realities of life, its evil nature, and harsh
truths are visible only when one passes through a phase of
adversity. He has retreated from the crown because he is timid and
lacks the necessary ambition. His reply to the gamekeepers about
who he is reveals his own self-awareness and lack of ruling
abilities. "More than I seem, and less than I was born into."
Although he questions the gamekeepers' ability to transfer their
loyalty to him over to Edward, he ultimately complies to their
wishes and is arrested. Henry cites the example of a feather that
sways to the side as it is blown and when the air pushes, it comes
back to his side again. It is always commanded by the greater gust.
Although this is an accurate analogy of the commoners' ability to
change their loyalties, it also comments on the nobles' inability to
be stable rulers.
In the course of his conversation, Henry reveals Margaret's
character to be more vulnerable than what she presents in the field
of battle or in enmity with the Yorkists. This image of her is
contrasted to what the audience has seen so far and makes Henry
out to be even more of a dupe or that Margaret has great acting
abilities and powers of persuasion.
Amongst the other characters, Henry appears as an anomaly. He
lacks a fighting spirit or one prone to powermongering. His piety
underscores a fatalism that does not lend any credence to his
powers as a ruler. The religious quietism of Henry is a contrast to
the prevailing atmosphere of blood and revenge in the play.
By 'breaking oaths' Henry means breaking the oath the common
people have taken to Henry on his accession. The people have
forgotten about their oaths taken at the coronation of Henry. Now,
they put their faith in the present King, Edward.
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