Henry VI, Part 3 | Study Guide

William Shakespeare

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

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Summary

At King Edward's camp, three watchmen stand at their posts, exchanging remarks about the king's bravery—or rashness—in traveling with so light a guard. They are ambushed by Warwick, Clarence, Oxford, and Somerset, along with a troop of French soldiers. Edward comes rushing out of the tent in his pajamas while Richard and Lord Hastings flee across the stage. Warwick and his party seize the king and lead him on a forced march to London—where, Warwick announces, they will free Henry from the Tower and immediately reinstall him as king.

Analysis

This is another point at which the timeline becomes a bit tangled. Historically, Warwick had broken ranks with Edward years before the king was captured, and long before Henry was restored to the throne. Moreover, Edward's capture was not the result of a single ambush undertaken just after landing in England but the product of a protracted series of battles fought over multiple years—including a popular uprising that is wholly omitted from Henry VI, Part 3. In rearranging and compressing these events, Shakespeare is doing more than merely "trimming the fat" from a lengthy historical treatise; he is establishing a suspenseful rhythm of surprise attacks and sudden reversals. Although audiences know the overall outcome in advance, the Wars of the Roses are of greater dramatic interest when presented as a taut tug of war between York and Lancaster—rather than as a series of loosely connected rebellions and counter rebellions, punctuated by long intervals of peace.

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