Henry VI Part 3

by: William Shakespeare

Act V, Scenes v-vii

Edward enters the throne room with his queen, Lady Gray, and George, Richard, Hastings, and his infant son, Prince Edward. Edward sits on the throne again, speaking of the many nobles who died in the process of attaining it. Edward asks his brothers to kiss his child, which George willingly does, and Richard compares himself under his breath to Judas, who killed his master and, thus, pointed him out to his executioners.

Edward gladly relaxes in his throne. George asks what he wants to do with Margaret, as the French sent ransom for her. He tells George to send her back to France and suggests his new reign be blessed with festivals and shows for the pleasure of the court.


When Richard comes to kill Henry, the former king makes prophecies about Richard based on the bad signs observed when Richard was born. All of nature was in revolt when Richard was born, which forebode terrible things for the child. Henry accuses Richard of having been a child born with teeth, a particularly bad sign for Elizabethans.

Yet these are no new insults for Richard; he has already heard stories of his birth, and he decides to embrace his unnaturalness. If he has, thus, been cursed with such an unnatural body, then he will enthusiastically follow a monstrous path. He renounces his familial ties, denying any connection to father or brothers and discarding love. From here on, Richard is "myself alone."

In a society that defined people in terms of their place within familial structures and social hierarchies, Richard makes a unique gesture to separate himself from the bonds that allegedly hold society together. He will be an individual in a world where no one stands alone, without family or supporters or allies. Richard is far from the only character in this play whose ambition blurs the loyalties of blood and allegiance. However, his declared break with the social codes of his world most fully illustrates the monstrousness associated with the deforming influence of ambition and with those personalities who fell outside social structures.

Richard exclaims that he will break with the natural world because his physical body is so unnatural. He defines his actions as a necessary result of his unfair treatment by fate; he will strike back at mankind because he received such a bad set of physical characteristics from the heavens. But does he use his physical impediments as an excuse for his evil nature? Or is his unnatural body actually an outward manifestation of his inner rottenness? These are questions that Richard's behaviors bring up throughout his career, which continues in the bloody and stunning Richard III.

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