Henry VI, Part 3 | Study Guide

William Shakespeare

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Henry VI, Part 3 | Act 4, Scene 7 | Summary

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Summary

King Edward has returned to the city of York, accompanied by Richard and Lord Hastings. Finding the city gates locked against him, he demands entrance, and the mayor of York appears on the walls to declare that the city is loyal to Henry. Edward protests that he is coming not as a rival to Henry but merely as the Duke of York—a title to which, as the mayor acknowledges, Edward has an undisputed claim. Hastings further declares that Edward and his party are "Henry's friends," thereby convincing the mayor to open the gates.

As soon as he enters Edward takes the keys to the city from the mayor. He is greeted by Sir John Montgomery, who is dressed for battle and wishes to help Edward reclaim the throne. When Edward insists he is merely Duke of York, Sir John starts to walk away in disgust; "Why shall we fight," he asks, "if you pretend no title?" Seeing that he is about to lose a powerful supporter, Edward openly declares himself king of England, to the acclaim of Sir John and the townspeople. Tomorrow, Edward announces, his army will march on London, there to defeat the usurper Henry once and for all.

Analysis

Like the father and son in Act 2, Scene 5, the mayor of York and his colleagues find themselves caught in the crossfire of the York/Lancaster quarrel. If they welcome King Edward, they are traitors to King Henry, who (for the moment, anyway) is on the throne once more. If they deny him entrance, they are likely to find themselves under siege in short order. Perhaps in recognition of their plight, Edward provides them with a way out of this predicament: he claims to seek entrance only in his lawful capacity as the duke and not as a (potentially treasonous) pretender to the throne.

The mayor does not likely believe this fib any more than Edward does; nor does he likely take Hasting's protestations of friendship at face value. He is, as Hastings acknowledges, simply a "good old man" who "would fain that all were well/So 'twere not long of him." In other words the mayor wants everything to work out for the best, but he does not want to be blamed for his decision either way. Plausible or not, Edward's pledge of loyalty gives the mayor an excuse for opening the city gates. If the Yorkists win, the mayor will not be punished for attempting to obstruct them; if the Lancastrians remain in control, he can argue that Edward sought entrance under false pretenses.

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