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The scene reveals most poignantly the King's gentle, generous and
pious nature, which is anathema to the bloodthirsty natures of the
people who surrounds him. At the sight of York's head, the King
prays and apologizes to God,
'Withhold revenge, dear God, tis not my fault,
Nor wittingly have I infring'd my vow'
Henry is the only one who does not participate in revenge although
rather than making him a hero, this attribute makes him an
ineffectual leader who cannot control the chaos around him. He
regrets deeply for what happened to York although his ambition
and greed for the crown has lead to this.
Clifford's reproach of Henry reveals his lack of faith in Henry's
leadership. He castigates him with animal metaphors and images
that are meant to reveal what the true nature of a king should be
even referring to animals that are meek in nature who become
violent when provoked. Clifford accuses Henry of being a mean,
unkind and shameful man who agreed to disinherit his own loving
son and make him lose his birthright. The King is portrayed as
being so pious that even his enemies are not able to display their
wrath against him.
The King's reply to Clifford is commendable and reveals his
insight into the current state of affairs in England. He says that all
evil deeds will not be successful. He realizes the misfortunes that
are occurring are a result of him being an unlawful heir yet he will
not fully abdicate from the throne, only make concessions that
make him appear weak.
Even at crucial moments the King remains calm and restrained. He
never breaks into stormy passions nor becomes emotional. He
strongly believes that virtue will triumph and vice will perish. All
his actions and thoughts are governed by that principle. When he
forwards knighthood to his son, he says 'Draw thy sword in right.'
The word 'right' has a great importance in his life, but he does not
practice what he preaches. He retreats from his role rather than
rallying his country around this principle.
Unlike his father, the Prince appears to be a bold, energetic and
enthusiastic young man. He says;
'My royal father, cheer these noble lords,
And hearten those that fight in your defense.
Unsheathe your sword, good father: cry, 'Saint George.'
In the verbal duel between Richard and Clifford, Richard calls
Clifford a butcher, child-killer, bastard and a treacherous coward.
This is in reference to Clifford's murder of Rutland and York. The
term is ironic coming from Richard, and shows the intensity of his
hatred towards Clifford. Another important point to be noted is that
Henry asks twice to be heard and is ignored. His minions as well as
the Queen prefer to speak for him. A reference is made that
Margaret is the cause of strife between the families and if not for
her foreign blood and lack of dowry, all would have been worked
out as to who rightfully should have ascended the throne. Yet this,
as many of the arguments, is a feeble attempt to justify the warfare
that will continue in the next scene. Such is the state of England
without a powerful royal presence that nothing will avert more
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