Henry VI, Part 3 | Study Guide

William Shakespeare

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Henry VI, Part 3 | Act 5, Scene 2 | Summary

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Summary

The Battle of Barnet has begun. King Edward carries—or perhaps drags—a fatally wounded Warwick onto the stage, expressing his relief that Warwick will no longer torment the Yorkist faction. He leaves him there and runs off, seeking a fight with Montague. Alone onstage, Warwick gives a sad soliloquy about his own impending demise. He laments his sudden decline from power: "of all my lands/Is nothing left me but my body's length." Oxford and Somerset, Warwick's supporters, arrive with hopeful news for the dying earl: Queen Margaret has arrived from France with an army of her own, meaning the tide of the battle might yet be turned. Warwick, who does not now have long to live, calls out for Montague, but Somerset informs him that Montague is already dead. Upon learning this Warwick expires as well, leaving Oxford and Somerset to bear his body offstage.

Analysis

In this scene Warwick's kingmaking adventures are finally brought to an end. After a decades-long career at the summit of political power in England, his death is somewhat anticlimactic—all the more so for being prolonged and painful. Rather than praying for mercy (as the Duke of York does and King Henry will do) or hurling one last note of defiance at his enemies (like Clifford), Warwick dies in the middle of a morose—even nihilistic—reflection on his own mortality. In keeping with his character up to this point, the earthy Warwick makes no appeal to God or religion in his final moments: Warwick, in sharp contrast to the bookish Henry, has lived a life fixated on power, wealth, and prestige. Alexander the Great, it's said, wept when he realized there were no more worlds for him to conquer; Warwick grieves because his conquests are ultimately not his to keep.

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