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Compared to the scenes that have come before it, this scene stands
out for its somewhat tranquil and tragic Mood. It offers a reprieve
from the war-like atmosphere and is called the 'stop-gap' scene,
meaning the characters comment on the action and theme of the
play. King Henry sits down ironically enough on the same molehill
where York had been set and stands aloof from the chaos and
vengeful acts that surround him.
The scene begins with Henry's interpretation of the war as a sea
during a storm where the wind and sea battle against each other yet
it is the same sea and same wind that are in conflict with each
other. He says both forces participating in the war are equal in
strength and tugging to be victors yet there seems to be no purpose,
nor any resoluton. He thinks that what God wills, will happen and
wishes for a more simple life than that of king. This is in direct
contrast to Edward and Richard as well as the Queen who are all
vying for the crown and the power that comes with it. He compares
the life of a shepherd to that of a king and his lack of ambition for
power makes him a sympathetic figure. Yet he lacks tragic stature
as he is too ineffectual a leader and is a victim of circumstance
who cannot navigate in the world he is part of.
When a son enters carrying the body of his father whom he has
accidentally killed, the king is appalled. This is a piece of dramatic
symbolism suggesting the unnatural conflict in which the son
fought against his father. Although somewhat heavy-handed, this
scene suggests that destruction of families is not just limited to the
two warring families but to all families in England. The blind rage
that makes men kill results in unexpected results that on a personal
level may be disastrous. Henry's reaction is moving,
"Whiles lions war and battle for their dens,
Poor harmless lambs abide their enmity."
These are the unfortunate circumstances of war. Regardless of
where it takes place, the innocent suffer for the ambitions of a few.
Although Henry is a lame ruler, his perception of the evils of war
are on target.
Next comes a Father carrying the body of the son who he has
killed unknowingly. Recognizing the body of the dead man as his
son, the father breaks down and starts weeping. He curses the
miserable age and its unnatural, mutinous, erroneous and butchery
happenings and refers to the battle as "a deadly quarrel," which
suggests how extreme is the animosity between the two families
has wrought. No one in England is exempt from the cruel nature of
war. Shakespeare is ironically commenting on the unnatural
conflict going on and emphasizing the disruption of all normal
relations. The inability of the monarch is the most important factor
that has led to this sedition. Henry realizes this, when he says,
'How will the country for these woful chances
Misthink the King and not be satisfied!'
The king realizes the fact that his inability to be an ideal monarch
has led to civil war, chaos and confusion and discontent. He is so
helpless and desperate that he wishes that he were dead.
The tranquil Mood is disturbed by the entrance of the Prince who
cries to his father to escape quickly from the hands of Warwick.
This reveals the unnatural relationship between prince and king as
it is the prince who is protecting his father rather than the other
way around. Henry is not only an ineffectual leader but also a
weak father. This scene, more than any in the play, reveals the true
cause of the strife that has overtaken England. Without a
courageous and just leader, England is beset with chaos and family
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