Henry VI Part 3

by: William Shakespeare

Act II, Scenes i-ii

Clifford and Richard continue to shout at each other, Edward and Warwick demand the crown from Henry, and Prince Edward urges his father to resist. Edward insults Margaret, saying that Henry married below his station when he was wedded to her. He declares that the cause of the present struggle is Margaret's pride; the Yorks would have pitied a gentle king if Margaret had not been so power hungry, but instead they felt the need to make their claim. Edward says he no longer wishes to try to confer with her, since she denies the king the right to speak, and he suggests that the dispute be resolved on the battlefield. Margaret tries to stop Edward, but he replies that her words will cause many deaths on the fields of war.


York's sons see three suns in the sky; Edward interprets it as a sign that the three remaining brothers (though they do not yet know Rutland is dead, and they do not seem that sad when they do hear) should be inseparable. Richard, however, does not seem to buy this meaning but does not suggest an alternate one. Richard's later behavior shows his ease working alone, without any genuine allies; perhaps he is not anxious to bond with his brothers because someday he plans to sever from them, in reaching for the throne. In his mind, three sons will become one, when he eliminates his brothers and becomes the single son, the king.

Clifford's speech to Henry about the natural world continues to emphasize the theme of natural versus unnatural familial relations. Clifford thinks fathers should pass on their successes to their sons, for to do otherwise is unnatural. But Henry is not sure he likes what he has gained from his father, such as a kingdom and responsibilities to appear strong and maintain conquered lands. Hence, he is not convinced that he should automatically pass what he has on to his son.

When Edward and his men enter to confer with Henry, an elaborate shouting match occurs. Richard and Clifford are instantly at each other's throat, shouting at each other over the other's discussions. Warwick and Margaret insult each other about successes in past battles. Edward and George accuse Margaret of being a low-born monstrosity. But when the king tries to speak, even Margaret hushes him.

Edward makes two unusual claims in this scene. First, he blames Margaret's pride for the fact that his family's claim to the throne came to light. He says that his family would have been happy to let a weak king like Henry rule, if only Margaret had not be so prideful--but she was a bad influence, therefore, the Yorks decided to try to get their throne back. Next, he says that their disagreement will have to be fought on the battlefield, since Margaret will not even let Henry talk.

Both claims are puzzling. York spent much of 2 Henry VI raging about the weakness of Henry and his unsuitability for the throne, which did not have much to do with Margaret. And while it is good that someone notices that Henry is unable to speak, it seems unlikely that Edward would attribute his attack on Margaret's forces to her silencing the king. Edward wants to be the king, yet he speaks as if he is Henry's champion, defending him from Margaret. Apparently he wants to justify his efforts to seize the crown by blaming the faults of the kingdom on Margaret, instead of on Henry's weak leadership. It would all have been fine, he claims, if not for the arrival of the unnaturally poor and monstrously efficient Margaret.

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