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MonkeyNotes-King Henry VI, Part 3 by William Shakespeare
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PLOT (Structure):

The play offers a clear account of aristocratic sedition and a
portrait of internal dissension and seditious squabbling among the
nobility that damaged England's power and authority abroad. Its
scope is ambitious in that it attends to the large and public
concerns of dynastic wars called the War of the Roses. The reign
of Henry VI was not a peaceful one nor was it dominated by the
personality of the monarch. It centered on personal ambition rather
than any desire for reform. The play's structure focuses on battle
scenes, scenes of squabbling between the two families, and deaths.
It is a bloody and turbulent play that often times is redundant in
action. A few soliloquies break up the action of the play, most
notably Richard, the Duke of Gloucester's as well as King Henry's
insightful ruminations about abandoning the crown.

The play begins with the victory of the first battle of St. Albans on
22 May 1455. York, after winning the battle, goes straight to the
Parliament House in London and proclaims himself the lawful heir
to the throne. Henry unnaturally yields the succession of the crown
to York and allows himself to be silenced whenever he tries to
intervene. This weakness of the King leads to anarchy and in turn
the freedom of the nobles to seek their personal interest and
indulge in revenge.

Edward introduces the theme of the play by persuading his father
York to go back on his oath and claim the throne by force.
Persuaded by his sons, York breaks his oath with Henry and tries
to win the crown by force. But York is defeated and killed at the
battle of Wakefield, a battle in which the barbarous Clifford plays
a prominent part on the side of the Lancastrians. York's son
Richard vows to take revenge on Clifford for killing his father.
One murder leads to another. Richard is now developed into the
most characteristic expression of singular ambition. His disregard
for all personal, political and family obligations is expanded in his
two long soliloquies. It is he who kills the prince and then King
Henry. The climax is reached in Richard's complete disregard of
any moral integrity by his final murder of Henry. This is the
supreme outrage against political order.

Act II ends with the fall of Clifford, who acts more like the King
than the King does and is the Queen's favorite. Warwick
announces the coronation of York's son, Edward and the scene
prepares the way for the next act -- Warwick's mission to France,
Edward's marriage and the consequences, cover the remaining half
of the play. Act III begins with a scene exploring the main general
Themes of the play - the divine rights of kings, the uses of
adversity, the inwardness of content, the fickleness of men and the
sanctity of oaths. The triumph of York on his way to coronation in
London is contrasted with the plight of Henry of Lancaster who is
coming to terms with his inabilities as a ruler in pastoral scene on
the field of battle. Henry is then captured and brought back to be
imprisoned in the Tower. The Act ends with the shattering of
Warwick's loyalty towards Edward because of Edward's
incontinence. Act IV ends with the defeat of Edward and his
imprisonment, then his escape. With the help of Montgomery, he
regains his lost strength and captures Henry again, who is set free
by Warwick. This is the main action leading to the climax of the
play. The climax of the play occurs in Scene 6 of the last act where
Richard murders Henry. The sequence ends with a brief
appearance of Edward's young son, later Edward V.

The reign of Henry IV is a pattern of disorder, a mirror on the
dynastic strife. It centers on personal ambition rather than any
desire for reform. Here is an up and down struggle in which York,
his son Rutland, Clifford, Prince Edward and Henry are the main
victims. The outcome is that Edward of York is crowned and
Margaret is banished yet Richard eagerly moves closer to the

The play is a study of perverse morality and ruthless ambitious
within the state, the family, and in the mind of the individual.
York's three sons are first united behind his ambition and then by a
common thirst for revenge. Edward alienates his brothers by his
obsession with the new queen and her family. Clarence deserts his
father-in-law (Warwick) at a critical moment that leads to his
downfall. A repeated theme is revealed most poignantly in the
morality tableau where the father unknowingly kills his son and the
son his father. Individual morality, custom, trust, duty self-control
are dissolving. Unreasoning, fury, anger, hate, pride lust and
ambition flourish. The climax is reached in Richard's complete
disregard after his father's death of all obligations whatever the
means and his lust for the crown. The play is an ironic commentary
on the woes of civil war, sat against a vision of the pastoral life of
England. The climax of the play occurs when Henry is murdered in
the Tower, and Edward is crowned as King Edward IV. Although
it is temporary, for the first time in the play disorder wanes and
order is restored.

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MonkeyNotes-King Henry VI, Part 3 by William Shakespeare

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