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King Henry VI, Part 3

(Wars of the Roses #7)

3.75  ·  Rating details ·  3,533 ratings  ·  265 reviews
In their lively and engaging edition of this sometimes neglected early play, Cox and Rasmussen make a strong claim for it as a remarkable work, revealing a confidence and sureness that very few earlier plays can rival. They show how the young Shakespeare, working closely from his chronicle sources, nevertheless freely shaped his complex material to make it both theatrica
Paperback, 460 pages
Published November 1st 2001 by Bloomsbury Arden Shakespeare (first published 1591)
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Peter Castine Hard to really judge, because there is so much about Richard historians disagree upon. Perhaps worth keeping in mind that Shakespeare's histories are…moreHard to really judge, because there is so much about Richard historians disagree upon. Perhaps worth keeping in mind that Shakespeare's histories are really "docudramas" (even if the word hadn't been invented in Elizabethan English). And Shakespeare's histories were arguably written with a certain amount of "agenda." So the short answer is that historical accuracy was almost always trumped by either dramatic impact or what the governing leadership of the day wanted people to believe.

In any case, I understand there is now a fairly broad consensus that Richard was not as physically "misshapen" as Shakespeare (and many other 16th to 19th century writers) claimed. The claims of guile and deceitfulness are also questionable (but harder to ascertain one way or the other). And, yes, Richard *appears* to have remained loyal to Edward to the end… but that's what a deceitful charmer would want you to believe, isn't it? About the only thing there seems to be much agreement on is that Richard was an able strategist and warrior on the field.

So take Shakespeare's depiction with a few grains of salt. If you want a really full answer and are willing to wade through the differing views, you could start with the Wikipedia article and follow up with some of the references cited. You possibly only wanted a short answer, in which case two sentences from my first paragraph may be all you need. Apologies for going on so long.(less)

Community Reviews

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3.75  · 
Rating details
 ·  3,533 ratings  ·  265 reviews

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Barry Pierce
This one doesn't really have a plot, it's more a series of stabbings.
Bill  Kerwin
Jun 30, 2009 rated it really liked it

A thoroughly accomplished piece of playcraft and a significant work of literature, this complex account of civil war is filled with broken oaths, betrayals, and labyrinthine patterns of multi-generational revenge, and Shakespeare gives us a coherent thread of narrative to guide us through the bewildering crowd of incidents.

Also, by the middle of the play, Shakespeare's first great character--Richard of Gloucester (later Richard III)--has fully emerged, giving us a clear promise of the great wor
Ahmad Sharabiani
King Henry VI, Part 3 (Wars of the Roses #7), William Shakespeare
Henry VI, Part 3 (often written as 3 Henry VI) is a history play by William Shakespeare believed to have been written in 1591 and set during the lifetime of King Henry VI of England. Whereas 1 Henry VI deals with the loss of England's French territories and the political machinations leading up to the Wars of the Roses and 2 Henry VI focuses on the King's inability to quell the bickering of his nobles, and the inevitability of arme
João Fernandes
May 01, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: shakespeare, drama, war
Henry: Get off, that's my chair!
York: No, it's my chair
Henry: Okay, you can have it after I'm done playing with it.
Margaret: How dare you give away my... I mean our son's... I mean your throne!?
Henry: I'm just trying to avoid giving more suffering to our people!
Margaret: Wait, peasants have feelings? Uh, the more you know...
Clifford: Your dad killed my dad, so I'm gonna kill you.
Rutland: Mate, I'm just trying to learn some Latin to read that saucy book from The Name of the Rose.
Clifford: Sh
Jan 23, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
General Introduction
The Chronology of Shakespeare's Works
Introduction, by Gillian Day
The Play in Performance
Further Reading

--The Third Part of King Henry the Sixth

An Account of the Text
Genealogical Tables
Jason Koivu
Jun 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: play
This is that Empire Strikes Back time in the history plays where Henry is defeated and reeling. Ah, but he shall Return!
David Sarkies
Aug 26, 2012 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: History buffs
Recommended to David by: University
Shelves: historical
England in Flames
30 August 2012

As I read through this play I began to realise how closely connected it is to Richard III, which is not surprising since this play was written shortly after Henry VI. In many way, much of the action in Richard III, as well as a number of the characters, stem from this play. I remember watching the Ian McKellan version of Richard III and seeing this woman, Margaret, making an appearance and wondering about her connection to the play. After reading this play (as wel
Sep 01, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I'm very happy with this play. It's easily up to the standards we're used to in Shakespeare, proper, lifting us out of his early and unsure works into something very entertaining. Some people might disagree, but here's the fact: history was this fucked up.

Some liberties are made to make the play much more streamlined and dramatic, of course, but that's only to be expected when we're putting 30 years into the space of 3 plays. By this point in the action, though, we're steeped in nothing but acti
Feb 03, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017, shakespeare, drama
"The smallest worm will turn, being trodden on."
― William Shakespeare, Henry VI, Part 3


In the Henry VI trilogy, this is probably my least favorite. It wasn't bad and had some good lines (not enough great ones) and exciting sequences, but it just didn't have that extra-level, that super-float that Shakespeare sometimes gives his plays. This one just seemed a bit "bound" by this history. It was overshadowed by the other Henry VI plays, other Henry plays, other history plays, other Shakespeare play
Mar 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The third of Shakespeare's earliest plays, about the Wars of the Roses, concludes with the end of King Henry VI's reign and the rise of the York faction to the throne. Although the powerhouse of this historical collection of historical plays, Richard III, is yet to come (next), the third part of King Henry VI is the most exciting and dramatic of the three Henry plays, with power moving back and forth between Yorkists and Lancastrians almost by the scene. Shakespeare's skill as a writer and poet ...more
Sep 02, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The play begins with Henry VI and his queen being chased away by the victorious Yorkists after the first Battle of St. Albans.
Shakespeare makes a point of (accurately) displaying the original agreement between Henry VI and the Duke of York that Henry can remain king until his death, upon which the House of York (Richard, his son Edward and all his heirs) will reign permanently.
Margaret of Anjou, naturally, does NOT agree since she has given birth to a son and declares war on the Yorkists.

B. P. Rinehart
"Duke of York:
The army of the queen hath got the field.
My uncles both are slain in rescuing me;
And all my followers to the eager foe
Turn back and fly like ships before the wind,
Or lambs pursu'd by hunger-starved wolves.
My sons—God knows what hath bechanced them;
But this I know,—they have demean'd themselves
Like men born to renown by life or death.
Three times did Richard make a lane to me,
And thrice cried 'Courage, father! fight it out!'
And full as oft came Edward to my side
With purp
Jun 23, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: shakespeare
Update. First read this June 23, 2016. Reread Feb. 2, 2017, and it's only gotten better.

Okey doke! Now this is more like it! In Part 3 we get rousing action and great characters! Plus, more dramatic death scenes (I count six, where the person dying gets an exit speech, though there might be more) than you would imagine it was possible to cram into a three hour play.

Spoilers ahead.

Queen Margaret and Gloucester (Richard III) come in neck-and-neck for the title of Most Fi
Dec 19, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ugh. This was so boring in comparison to part one, I was actually disappointed. Nonetheless, I have to admit that the Bard's histories are starting to grow on me ... I find it fascinating that the Wars of the Roses can actually be read as one huge saga. It's so much fun to rediscover characters that we already know and see all of the dramas that they get themselves into.
My Crown is in my heart, not on my head:
Not deck'd with Diamonds, and Indian stones:
Nor to be seen: my Crown is call'd Conten
May 24, 2010 rated it it was amazing
This play, also sometimes titled “Richard Duke of York” or “The True Tragedy of Richard Duke of York and the Good King Henry the Sixth,” continues the story of the factions of York and Lancaster during the Wars of the Roses in England in the 15th century. As in the previous play in the series, “2 Henry VI,” King Henry continues to demonstrate a feebleness and lack of resolve that contributes to the encouragement of the kingly aspirations of Richard, who claims the right to the crown on the basis ...more
Clara Biesel
Jun 01, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Pretty striking anti-war literature, and I had forgotten how strong the writing is in this play. The paper crown, Richard gets his two big monologues, the wooing of Lady Grey, so many people changing sides, and hating each other so vehemently. It's forceful stuff.
What follows are the collective observations of the entire trilogy:

1 Henry VI -- 2.5 to 3 stars
2 Henry VI -- 3+ stars
3 Henry VI -- 4 stars

I don't have much to say about part 1 of Shakespeare's Henry VI. It's not a bad play; it's just not the Bard at his best. It has its moments but the impression I carry away from it is that Shakespeare either didn't care all that much about the project or he never found the time to polish it. (Interestingly, it was written several years after parts 2 and 3.)

Feb 08, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: plays, shakespeare
The concluding part of William Shakespeare's Wars of the Roses trilogy ends with Edward IV firmly in charge and with about half the cast of the play dead -- but with Richard Crookback in the wings waiting to make his own grab at the crown, which he will do in Richard III.

Henry VI, Part 3 is full of of "alarums and excursions" as the partisans of York and Lancaster find it out to the bitter end. The play is Shakespeare's lesson as to what happens to the kingdom when the king is weak. And Henry VI
Jun 19, 2009 rated it it was amazing
My favorite so far in this tetralogy. I found the vigorous seesaw of victories and defeats very compelling, as Henry dwindles to a mild nonentity, Richard of Gloucester hacks his way out of a metaphorical wood and into the spotlight, and many children are butchered along the way. I didn't expect to be so disturbed by the murdered children - in King John I found poor Arthur's death unexpectedly hilarious! - but both scenes, Rutland slaughtered in front of his pleading tudor and Edward tag-team-st ...more
Laura Martínez Gimeno
Jan 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
YORK: No eres tú soy yo, que soy mejor 😎
LANCASTER: ¿Alguien ha visto mi dignidad?, se me habrá caído junto con la corona 🤔
Traci at The Stacks
The first 1/2 of this play is so good and face paced but it fades a little toward act 4. Its full of drama and switching sides and Richard III gets he footing in this play which is fun to watch.
Mar 17, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Full well hath Clifford play'd the orator,
Inferring arguments of mighty force.
But, Clifford, tell me, didst though never hear
That things ill got had ever bad success?
And happy always was it for that son
Whose father for his hoarding went to hell?
I'll leave my son my virtuous deeds behind;
And would my father had left me no more!
For all the rest is held at such a rate
As brings a thousand-fold more care to keep
Than in possession any jot of pleasure.

With these words, Henry defies those who accuse him
Sep 27, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: literature
The last of the Henry VI plays in the very long sequence of histories around the war of the roses. It is surprising how few of these eight plays actually are about the king they are named after. I mean, neither of the Henry IV plays are really about him, the play with him as a major character is really Richard II. This play is about chaos more than anything else – nothing is stable, it is hard to know who is on which side. The expression, damned if you do and damned if you don’t came to mind rep ...more
Akemi G.
May 16, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: dramas, read-fiction
Well, say there is no kingdom then for Richard;
What other pleasure can the world afford?
I'll make my heaven in a lady's lap,
And deck my body in gay ornaments,
And witch sweet ladies with my words and looks.
O miserable thought! and more unlikely
Than to accomplish twenty golden crowns!

In the longest soliloquy Shakespeare ever wrote, Richard (Gloucester) reveals his ambition for the first time. It's almost an existential question, in which he questions why he was born-- he was born so ugly and defor
Ashley Jacobson
Feb 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-plays
Wow! That was fabulous! I think this is where Shakespeare hits his groove (assuming he wrote all these plays...). This had imagery and character development and surprises- things the earlier plays were lacking. This made the trilogy much better!
Henry VI's! They're like buses. You wait for ages, and then three come by at once.
Richard Agemo
Feb 03, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: shakespeare
Of all Shakespeare’s plays, perhaps only Titus Andronicus has more graphic violence than Henry VI, Part 3. In several scenes, a partisan in the War of the Roses is gang-stabbed by his enemies (à la Julius Caesar) after a defiant speech in defense of his cause. Even Edward, the boy prince, gets dispatched in this brutal manner. To me, dramatically, none of the violence seems gratuitous—this is war, after all—and Shakespeare makes sure we see the emotional toll of so much killing. For example, in ...more
Dario Andrade
Apr 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Uma das primeiras peças de Shakespeare - talvez a primeira - e foi lida em conjunto com Henrique VI, parte II e Henrique VI, parte III. Essas três peças formam, juntamente com Ricardo III, uma primeira tetralogia histórica escrita pelo inglês. Ele escreveria outra tetralogia e outras dramas históricos depois em sua carreira.
As três peças - e me parece recomendável lê-las em conjunto - formam um longo painel da história inglesa - uns 50 anos, pelo menos - que vai desde a parte final da Guerra dos
The link this makes between personal, selfish, revenge-driven motives and the futility and pain of a civil war creates a solid, well-rounded thematic center which is echoed in the best scenes, including Rutland's murder, the King with the father/son murders, and Richard's fantastic speeches. I wonder if I would have enjoyed this so much if I weren't familiar with & looking forward to Richard III, because he was absolutely my favorite thing about this play, but he's a great character regardle ...more
Eugenea Pollock
Oct 30, 2017 rated it liked it
I am not fond of the histories, but this one will be covered by an ASC program I will be attending in a few days. Therefore, I’m trying to do my part to maximize the experience. I hope that by learning more about it, I will be able to appreciate it better. Battle scenes on and off stage, treachery, wholesale and retail murder, shifting alliances, out-of-control lust for power, blood and more blood exemplified by the merciless killing of the 12-year-old Rutland...hard to take. On the battlefield, ...more
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William Shakespeare (baptised 26 April 1564) was an English poet and playwright, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world's pre-eminent dramatist. He is often called England's national poet and the "Bard of Avon" (or simply "The Bard"). His surviving works consist of 38 plays, 154 sonnets, two long narrative poems, and several other poems. His plays have been tr ...more

Other books in the series

Wars of the Roses (8 books)
  • Richard II
  • King Henry IV, Part 1
  • Henry IV, Part 2 (Wars of the Roses, #3)
  • Henry V
  • Henry VI, Part 1
  • King Henry VI, Part 2
  • Richard III
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