Henry 6, Part 3 Synopsis
Period written: 1590-1591
Known first performance:
The Yorkists, following their victories, meet Henry in London. York ascends the throne, and the rival parties debate their respective rights. Henry is allowed to stay king on condition that York and his heirs receive the crown after Henry’s death, much to the disgust of Henry’s supporters, and the anger of Queen Margaret and Prince Edward, who vow to fight on. York’s sons Edward, George, and Richard persuade their father that he should not wait, and he agrees, but they are surprised by the arrival of the Queen’s army. Rutland, York’s youngest son, is killed by Clifford. York is taken, humbled, and killed by the Queen and her followers.
Warwick offers support for the Yorkist cause, and a further confrontation takes place between the two sides. The Yorkists have setbacks, but resolve to fight on. Richard defeats Clifford, who dies from his wounds. Henry reflects on the nature of kingship, and grieves over civil war as he observes a son who has killed his father and a father who has killed his son. The Yorkists win, Henry flees to Scotland, and Edward plans his coronation and the installing of Richard as duke of Gloucester and of George as duke of Clarence. Henry is overheard reflecting on his fate by two keepers, who seize him. He is returned to London, and imprisoned. Richard reflects on his own ambitions for the crown.
Edward, now king, receives a petition from the widowed Lady Grey for the return of her husband’s lands. He agrees in the process persuading her to marry him. Margaret arrives in France to ask for help from King Lewis. Warwick also comes to France, with a request from Edward for marriage to Lady Bona, Lewis’s sister. Lewis is persuaded that Edward’s offer is genuine, and agrees, much to Margaret’s discomfiture. But the situation is reversed when news comes that Edward has married Lady Grey. Warwick, feeling betrayed, changes sides, and is provided with a French army.
News of the new alliance reaches Edward, and Clarence and Somerset decide to join with Warwick. Warwick captures Edward and frees Henry, who makes Warwick and Clarence joint Protectors. Lady Grey flies with her brother, Rivers. However, Richard and others manage to free Edward. Young Henry, Earl of Richmond and a Lancastrian hope, is sent abroad for his safety.
Edward reaches the city of York and is allowed to enter. Montgomery arrives in support, but refuses to join Edward if he is happy to remain as Duke. Edward reasserts his title, recaptures Henry, and confronts Warwick at Coventry. Oxford, Montague, and Somerset bring support for Warwick; but Clarence changes sides. At the battle of Barnet, Warwick is killed. The Queen’s army is defeated at Tewkesbury, and the Lancastrian leaders are taken prisoner. Richard kills Prince Edward in front of the Queen, then leaves for London, where he kills Henry and plots the removal of others between him and the throne. Margaret is banished to France. Edward and Lady Grey are established as king and queen. Their baby prince is welcomed by the peers, but Richard is already anticipating his death.
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