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Henry VI Part 1

William Shakespeare

Act V, Scene vii

Act V, Scene vi

Analysis and Themes

Summary

Suffolk arrives at the palace to confer with Henry, Gloucester, and Exeter. Henry tells Suffolk that his account of the lovely Margaret has convinced him that she would be a good bride for him. Suffolk speaks further of her virtue and loveliness, and Henry asks Gloucester (as Protector of the Realm) to give him consent to marry Margaret. Gloucester reminds him that he is already engaged to the daughter of the Earl of Armagnac, and it would damage his honor to break that contract.

Suffolk says that a daughter of a poor earl such as Armagnac is nothing special, and she can suffer the contract to be broken without offense. Gloucester points out Margaret, too, is no more than an earl's daughter, but Suffolk insists she is the child of the king of Naples, a man who has such authority in France that to marry her would mean continued French allegiance. Gloucester says that such a plan was exactly what he had in mind with his suggestion of the Earl of Armagnac's daughter, except his plan will work better since the Earl of Armagnac is actually related to Charles. Exeter adds that Margaret's father René has no dowry to offer, but Suffolk notes that the king is rich enough without one. Henry can enrich his queen; only peasants worry about dowries.

Suffolk urges the lords to understand that they can't make the decision, rather, the king should choose the woman he prefers: married life contains trials enough; one should at least like one's bride. And the daughter of the King of Naples will get along wonderfully with the king of England, Suffolk says. Henry says he can't tell if it's due to Suffolk's description or his inexperienced youth, but he's interested in Margaret, and he tells Suffolk to go to France to order her return to be crowned as queen. He asks Gloucester to forgive him, and the lords depart. Suffolk remains, saying that he has prevailed. Now he looks forward to the wedding; once married, he says, Margaret will rule Henry, and because Suffolk himself rules Margaret, he will, therefore, effectively control the king and the entire kingdom, as well.

Commentary

Suffolk shows his intentions to be worse than previously imagined. He wishes Henry to marry Margaret not so that he can continue to appreciate her beauty but because he intends to use her to gain control over the king and the nation. Moreover, he exhibits a sneaky hypocrisy: he tells the lords that they can't choose a queen for Henry, and yet this is precisely what he does.

So, too, does this scene show us how young Henry still is--how easily swayed, impulsive, and inexperienced. Gloucester and the other lords try to urge Henry not to be swayed by Suffolk's enthusiastic accounts of Margaret and to remember that he has already made marriage arrangements with a woman who will offer more dowry and better connections than Margaret. Yet Henry is carried away by Suffolk's coy rhetoric, and he makes an unwise decision.

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A Young King and the Dangers of a Power Vacuum

by ReadingShakespearefor450th, April 30, 2013

I finished reading and blogged on Henry VI, Part One in effort to read all Shakespeare by April 2014. If it's of interest, my blog link follows:

http://ow.ly/kA2g5

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