Henry VI, Part 3 | Study Guide

William Shakespeare

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Henry VI, Part 3 | Act 4, Scene 5 | Summary

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Summary

King Edward has been placed under house arrest at Middleham Castle in Yorkshire, but he is allowed to go hunting in the neighboring woods as a form of exercise. Taking advantage of this fact, Richard has organized a jailbreaking crew, consisting of himself, Lord Hastings, and Sir William Stanley. The three wait for Edward to arrive at an agreed-upon meeting point in the woods outside the castle. He enters, accompanied by a huntsman, and is swiftly intercepted by Richard and the rest. The five men—including the huntsman, who does not wish to be hanged for helping Edward escape—decide to make for the port city of Lynn, there to catch a ship for Flanders.

Analysis

In rescuing his brother from captivity, Richard may seem to be breaking with his previous bad-guy behavior and doing something nice for once. A more plausible explanation is that Richard frees Edward to ensure his own survival: if Queen Margaret and the Lancastrians secure their hold on the throne, Richard will almost certainly be second on the chopping block, preceded only by the "usurper" Edward. Richard, as revealed in his self-interested speech from Act 3, Scene 2, has no real interest in Edward's long-term viability as a ruler. Rather, he needs Edward to reign for just long enough to establish a Yorkist monarchy, clearing the path for Richard's later acceptance as king.

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