Bruce's Reviews > King Henry VI, Part 3

King Henry VI, Part 3 by William Shakespeare
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May 24, 2010

it was amazing
Read in May, 2010

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 of the fact that his ancestor was the third son of Edward III, whereas Henry’s was the fourth son. Henry’s pusillanimity alienates his followers, and when he bargains away his own son’s rights to succeed him for a guarantee that Richard’s line will not gain the crown until after Henry’s natural death, the Queen Margaret becomes enraged and abandons him too. Indeed, it is interesting to see Margaret become harder, more vicious and “masculine” as Henry becomes softer, more compliant, and more “feminine.” It is hard to feel sorry for such an ineffectual ruler, especially one whose claim to the throne is ambiguous, but it equally hard to feel sympathy for the opposing factions, both of whom are characterized by unscrupulous self-interest and duplicitous behavior.

Ultimately, after double-dealing on both sides, Henry VI and his son and heir are killed, Edward IV, the son of Richard Duke of York, assuming the throne. But even at the end of the play the dark cloud on the horizon is Edward’s brother Richard, Duke of Gloucester, who aspires to the throne himself, a throne he will win and lose in the sequel, Richard III.
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