Henry VI, Part 3 | Study Guide

William Shakespeare

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

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Summary

While the Yorkists triumph in England, Queen Margaret has made her way to France, accompanied by Prince Edward and the Earl of Oxford. She is greeted by King Lewis (i.e., Louis XI) and his sister-in-law Lady Bona. Margaret tells Lewis of her husband's overthrow and asks for the French king's aid in reclaiming England for the House of Lancaster. Lewis is considering her request when Warwick arrives with a petition of his own: making good on his promise from Act 2, Scene 6, Warwick has come to ask Lady Bona to be the bride of Edward IV.

Margaret warns the French royals that Edward has no "honest love" for Bona but is seeking to marry her purely as a matter of political convenience. Warwick dismisses this as a lie and begins bickering with Oxford about Edward's claim to the throne. Lewis interrupts their fighting and asks Warwick, point blank, about Edward's intentions in marrying Bona. After receiving assurances that Edward's love is pure and steadfast, Lewis grants Warwick's request: "our sister [i.e., sister-in-law] shall be Edward's." At this point it looks like Queen Margaret has lost any hope of gaining any military support from France.

Then, however, a Post (i.e., messenger) arrives with letters announcing Edward's marriage to Lady Grey. The two French royals are, understandably, offended by this news: Didn't Warwick just say Edward was madly in love with Bona? Warwick is, if anything, even angrier, since the king has made him look ridiculous in front of a foreign monarch. In an instant Warwick renounces his allegiance to Edward, symbolically removing the white Yorkist rose from his garment. He pledges to help Margaret reclaim the throne for Henry, a project to which Lewis promises his full support.

Analysis

This scene is, frankly, a bit unfair to Warwick, who comes across as rash to the point of childishness. Edward, it is true, has left Warwick in a humiliating predicament by gainsaying his own promise of marriage to Lady Bona. Historically, however, there is much more to the Warwick/Edward feud than this short exchange suggests. Almost from the moment Edward acceded to the throne, he and Warwick had begun drifting apart: the earl wished to control the kingdom, and the king was loath to be controlled by anyone, least of all one of his own subjects. Still Warwick's ultimate decision to defect was not as spur of the moment as it appears here: Edward married Lady Grey in 1464, and Warwick did not abandon the Yorkist cause until 1467. His reconciliation with Margaret, here presented as a sudden change of heart, took place only in 1470, when Edward had already expelled Warwick. In compressing these events down to a few scenes, Shakespeare introduces an element of hotheadedness to Warwick's character, making him one more volatile element in a play of shifting loyalties and sudden reversals.

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