Henry VI, Part 3 | Study Guide

William Shakespeare

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

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Summary

With the Battle of Barnet won, King Edward pauses a moment to congratulate his brothers on a battle well fought. His only concern, he tells Clarence and Richard, is the "black suspicious threat'ning cloud" of Queen Margaret's army, which is marching toward the Yorkist forces. Clarence dismisses the "cloud" as a small matter, but Richard is more worried: he points out that Queen Margaret is estimated to have 30,000 troops, not counting those who survived the Battle of Barnet and have since joined her ranks. Edward has learned that the queen's army is headed for Tewkesbury and plans to meet her there.

Analysis

King Edward's younger brothers are in sharp disagreement about the threat posed by Margaret's forces. If the queen had indeed brought 30,000 troops with her to Tewkesbury, the Yorkists would not have stood a chance; in fact, Towton (Act 2) was the only battle of the war to witness a deployment of this size on either side. More to the point, Clarence's optimism and Richard's pessimism continue a pattern that has been in development since the beginning of the play: Clarence is sentimental and naive, while Richard is calculating and wary. These differences in character are driven home even more forcefully in this play's sequel, Richard III: there Richard exploits Clarence's trusting nature to effectively sentence his brother to death.

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