Henry VI, Part 2 | Study Guide

William Shakespeare

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Henry VI, Part 2 | Act 3, Scene 3 | Summary

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Summary

King Henry enters the Cardinal's bedchamber, accompanied by Salisbury and Warwick. The Cardinal is distraught and does not even recognize Henry at first, but his ravings about poison amount to a confession of his role in Gloucester's death. Henry attempts to comfort his dying uncle and offers prayers on his behalf, but the Cardinal expires in a fit of anguish. Warwick opines that the Cardinal's miserable death is evidence of "a monstrous life"; Henry, however, urges the earl not to judge, "for we are sinners all."

Analysis

In earlier scenes Henry's pious pronouncements often seem out of touch. He praises God for a miracle that turns out to be a farce (Act 2, Scene 1), then ascribes the result of a botched duel to divine justice (Act 2, Scene 3). Here, however, Henry's priestly demeanor appears in a more sympathetic light: the Cardinal, whatever his crimes, is now dying in agony, and Henry prays simply that he will be relieved from his suffering. As always, however, Henry is on the lookout for hints of divine favor, only to be frustrated when they do not appear: he asks the Cardinal to hold up his hand as a sign of faith and is disappointed when the dying man does not do so.

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