Henry VI, Part 3 | Study Guide

William Shakespeare

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Henry VI, Part 3 | Act 4, Scene 2 | Summary

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Summary

Warwick and Oxford have arrived in Warwickshire, England. They have brought with them an army of French soldiers, augmented by recruits from the common folk of the region. Somerset and Clarence join them onstage; Warwick has apparently already learned of their defection from the Yorkist cause. He now unfolds his plot to catch King Edward by surprise while the king is "carelessly encamped" near the town of Warwick. The other three men agree to the plan and make their way toward the king's camp "in silent sort."

Analysis

Warwick wastes no time attempting to confirm the loyalty of Somerset and Clarence, even though the latter is the brother of King Edward. This is an uncharacteristically trusting move for the unpredictable nobleman, who justifies his faith in Clarence by saying:

I hold it cowardice
To rest mistrustful where a noble heart
Hath pawned an open hand in sign of love;
Else might I think that Clarence, Edward's brother,
Were but a feignèd friend to our proceedings.

In fact Warwick should be suspicious of Clarence, notwithstanding the reassuring speech and the firm handshake; one might suppose that, given his own shifting loyalties, Warwick would cast a more skeptical eye on Clarence's intentions in abandoning his own brother. Clarence, it is true, is no "feignèd friend"—not yet anyway. From this scene onward he remains a loyal Lancastrian for the entirety of Act 4, a considerable length of time in a play where allegiances shift like the beads of an abacus. Still he ultimately returns to his brother's faction at an extremely inopportune moment (Act 5, Scene 1), a decision that leads directly to Warwick's defeat and death. Alas, poor Warwick!

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