King Henry VI, Part Three: It had to Come to This
I’ve finished the King Henry VI trilogy and just reviewed my notes on King Henry VI, Part Three. I was surprised at how few I’d made, which probably means the play didn’t impress me much.
I suppose I had to read it (besides reading it to finish all of Shakespeare by his 450th birthday) to find out how many terrible things can happen to bad guys. “What of the heroes…the good guys,” you ask? What heroes? What good guys? There weren’t any among the nobility. You were expecting perhaps The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly? (Which I’ve never seen, by the way.) This ain’t it. This is a collection of the ugly (Gloster and future Richard III) and the bad (nearly everyone, including Gloster). A “clueless” is thrown in for the pleasure of all the malicious ones.
I presumed when I started reading the play the king, clearly out of his league (the clueless), would die. He did, after losing, then regaining through no interest or effort of his own, the crown. But I was fascinated that he gave away his son’s birthright so quickly, long before his death. The philosopher king didn’t seem to muster energy enough to do anything—good, bad or otherwise. Henry employed himself only in making nice sounding phrases.
The Second Part of Henry VI forebode continued bloodletting, and Part Three delivered it in rushing torrents of “noble” English blood as conspiracies rose and fell and their participants shifted allegiance between contenders for the throne. In the end, just about everyone dies.
Various Shakespeare kings envy the sleep of the common man, but this king is jealous of their simple life routines. He craves the commoner’s life he defines as:
So many hours must I tend my flock; So many hours must I take my rest; So many hours must I contemplate; So many hours must I sport myself.
All the while, the world is in chaos because he refuses to lead.
This a play of revenge and the heart break of innocents. The sons of nobility are continually promising to avenge the death of their fathers—only to be slaughtered in that effort. A commoner son kills his own father in a battle without knowing him; a commoner father kills his own son in a battle without knowing him. When the mighty are at their blood sport, the common man suffers, or as the king puts it, “Whilst lions war, and battle for their dens, poor harmless lambs abide their enmity.”
I’m glad I read Henry VI, Part Three so I could see what happens to everyone and just to get to know the despicable new Gloster (future Richard III), but it wasn’t my favorite, so I’m listing it as a one Bard show:
Henry VI, Part Three quotes I liked for various reason:
King Henry: Gives not the hawthorn bush a sweeter shade to shepherds, looking on their silly sheep, than doth a rich embroider’d canopy to kings that fear their subjects’ treachery”
King Henry: Let me embrace these sour adversities: for wise men say it is the wisest course.
King Henry: My crown is called content.
King Henry: Now join your hands, and with your hands your hearts, that no dissension hinder government.
King Edward: When we grow stronger, then we’ll make our claim: Till then,’tis wisdom to conceal our meaning.
Warwick: What is pomp, rule, reign, but earth and dust! And, live we how we can, yet die we must.
Next Up: Richard III (I can hardly wait to find out how he got under that parking lot.)