David Bruce: William Shakespeare’s 3 Henry VI: A Retelling in Prose — Cast of Characters and Act 1, Scene 1


Male Characters

King Henry VI.

Edward, Prince of Wales, King Henry VI’s son.

Louis XI, King of France.

Duke of Somerset. At the end of 2 Henry VI, the then Duke of Somerset is killed; at the beginning of 3 Henry VI, Richard is holding his severed head. This Duke of Somerset is the son of the earlier Duke of Somerset.

Duke of Exeter.

Earl of Oxford.

Earl of Northumberland.

Earl of Westmoreland.

Lord Clifford. This is the young Clifford of 2 Henry VI. His father was killed near the end of 2 Henry VI.

Richard Plantagenet, Duke of York.

Edward, Earl of March, afterwards King Edward IV, York’s son.

Edmund, Earl of Rutland, York’s son.

George, afterwards Duke of Clarence, York’s son.

Richard, afterwards Duke of Gloucester, York’s son; later, he becomes King Richard III.

Duke of Norfolk.

Marquess of Montague, the Earl of Warwick’s brother and the Duke of York’s nephew. The Duke of York and the Marquess of Montague sometimes call each other “brother” as a term of affection.

Earl of Warwick.

Earl of Pembroke.

Lord Hastings.

Lord Stafford.

Sir John Mortimer and Sir Hugh Mortimer, uncles to the Duke of York.

Henry, Earl of Richmond, a youth; later, he becomes King Henry VII. As King Henry VII, he will end the Wars of the Roses and will begin the Tudor Dynasty. He is a Yorkist, but he will marry a Lancastrian.

Lord Rivers, brother to Lady Elizabeth Grey.

Sir William Stanley.

Sir John Montgomery.

Sir John Somerville.

Tutor to Rutland.

Mayor of York.

Lieutenant of the Tower.

A Nobleman.

Two Gamekeepers.

A Huntsman.

A Son who has killed his father.

A Father who has killed his son.

Female Characters

Queen Margaret.

Lady Elizabeth Grey, afterwards Queen consort to Edward IV.

Lady Bona, sister to the French Queen.

Minor Characters

Soldiers, Attendants, Messengers, Watchmen, etc.




Lancastrians and Yorkists

King Henry VI is a Lancastrian; he is the Duke of Lancaster as well as the King of England.

The symbol of the Lancastrians is a red rose.

The Duke of York is a Yorkist.

The symbol of the Yorkists is a white rose.

The roses were worn in hats.


King Henry VI.

Edward, Prince of Wales.

Earl of Oxford.

Earl of Northumberland.

Lord Clifford.

Sir John Somerville.

Queen Margaret.


The Duke of York.

Edward, Earl of March, afterwards King Edward IV, York’s son.

Edmund, Earl of Rutland, York’s son.

Richard, afterwards Duke of Gloucester, York’s son; later, he becomes King Richard III.

Sir John Mortimer, uncle to the Duke of York.

Sir Hugh Mortimer, uncle to the Duke of York.

Duke of Norfolk.

Earl of Pembroke.

Lord Hastings.

Lord Stafford.

Lord Rivers.

Sir John Montgomery.

Tutor to Rutland.

Lady Elizabeth Grey.

Side Switchers

The Earl of Warwick switches from the Yorkist to the Lancastrian side.

The Marquess of Montague switches from the Yorkist to the Lancastrian side.

The Duke of Somerset switches from the Yorkist to the Lancastrian side.

George, afterwards Duke of Clarence, York’s son, at first is a Yorkist, but then he switches allegiance to the Lancastrians, and then he switches allegiance back to the Yorkists.

House of York, House of Lancaster

In this context, the word “House” means “Family.”

—1.1 —

The Duke of York, his sons Edward and Richard, as well as the Duke of Norfolk, the Marquess of Montague, and the Earl of Warwick entered the Parliament House in London. With them were some soldiers. They were wearing white roses, the symbol of the House of York.

The Earl of Warwick said, “I wonder how King Henry VI escaped our hands.”

The Duke of York said, “While we pursued the horsemen of the north,he slyly stole away and left his men.At that time the great Lord of Northumberland,whose soldierly ears could never endure the call to retreat,ralliedthe drooping army, and he himself,old Lord Clifford, and Lord Stafford, all abreast,charged our main army’s front lines, and after breaking throughwere slain by the swords of common soldiers.”

Actually, the Duke of York had himself killed old Lord Clifford, but he was insulting old Lord Clifford and the other two enemies by claiming that common soldiers had killed them. According to the protocol of chivalry, an honorable death for nobles in battle could occur only if nobles killed other nobles.

Edward said, “Lord Stafford’s father, the Duke of Buckingham,is either slain or dangerously wounded. I cleft his beaver — part of the face guard of his helmet — with a downward blow. So that you know this is true, father, behold his blood.”

Edward lifted his bloody sword.

The Marquess of Montague said, “And, brother, here’s the Earl of Wiltshire’s blood,whom I encountered as the armies met and fought.”

The Marquess of Montague was the Earl of Warwick’s brother and the Duke of York’s nephew.

Richard said to the bloody head — that of the Duke of Somerset — he was holding, “Speak for me and tell them what I did.”

Richard’s father, the Duke of York, said, “Richard has best deserved of all my sons.”

The Duke of Somerset had been one of the Duke of York’s greatest enemies.

The Duke of York then said to the bloody head, “But is your grace dead, my Lord of Somerset?”

The Duke of Norfolk said, “May all the line of John of Gaunt have such hope! May all of them end up dead!”

John of Gaunt had been the Duke of Lancaster, and now his descendants, the Lancastrians, including King Henry VI, were fighting a war against the Yorkists, who were led by the Duke of York.

Richard said, “Thus do I hope to shake King Henry VI’s head.”

He shook the Duke of Somerset’s head and then threw it on the floor.

“And so do I,” the Earl of Warwick said. “Victorious Prince of York, before I see you seated in that throne that now the House of Lancaster usurps, I vow by Heaven these eyes shall never close. This is the palace of the timid, frightened King Henry VI, and this is the regal seat.”

He pointed to the throne.

He then said, “Possess it, Duke of York, for this is your throne. It does not belong to the heirs of King Henry IV.”

“Assist me, then, sweet Warwick, and I will,” the Duke of York said, “for we have broken in here by force.”

“We’ll all assist you,” the Duke of Norfolk said. “Any man who flees shall die.”

“Thanks, noble Norfolk,” the Duke of York said. “Stay by me, my lords.

“And, soldiers, stay and lodge by me this night.”

The Duke of York and his relatives and close allies approached the throne, and the soldiers hid themselves.

The Earl of Warwick said, “And when the King comes, offer him no violence, unless he should seek to thrust you out by force.”

“Queen Margaret holds her Parliament here this day,” the Duke of York said. “But she little thinks we shall be part of her council. By words or blows, here let us win our right.”

“Armed as we are, let’s stay within this house,” Richard said.

“This shall be called the Bloody Parliament,” the Earl of Warwick said, “unless Plantagenet, Duke of York, becomes King, and easily intimidated Henry VI is deposed — Henry VI, whose cowardice has made us objects of scorn to our enemies. According to our enemies, we are bywords — notorious examples — of cowardice.”

“Then don’t leave me, my lords,” the Duke of York said. “Be resolute. I mean to take possession of my right; I am the rightful King of England.”

The Earl of Warwick said, “Neither King Henry VI, nor the man who loves him best, the proudest and bravest man who holds up and supports Lancaster, will dare to stir a wing, if I, Warwick, should shake my bells.”

He was referring metaphorically to the bells that were tied to the legs of a falcon. In this culture, people believed that the falcon’s prey was frightened when hearing the bells.

The Earl of Warwick continued, “I’ll plant Plantagenet, and root up anyone who dares to oppose him. Resolve yourself, Duke Richard of York, to claim the English crown.”

The Duke of York sat on the throne.

Trumpets sounded, and King Henry VI, Lord Clifford, the Earl of Northumberland, the Earl of Westmoreland, the Duke of Exeter, and others entered the room. They were wearing red roses, the symbol of the House of Lancaster.

Seeing the Duke of York sitting on the throne, King Henry VI said, “My lords, look where the sturdy rebel sits, even on the throne — the chair of state. Probably he intends, backed by the power of the Earl of Warwick, that false peer, to aspire to the crown and reign as King.

“Earl of Northumberland, the Duke of York slew your father. Lord Clifford, the Duke of York also slew your father. Both of you have vowed revenge on him, his sons, his followers, and his friends.”

“If I be not revenged on him, may the Heavens be revenged on me!” the Earl of Northumberland swore.

“The hope of getting revenge makes me, Clifford, mourn while wearing steel armor,” Lord Clifford said.

“Shall we endure this?” the Earl of Westmoreland said. “Let’s pluck the Duke of York down from his seat on the throne. My heart burns because of my anger; I cannot endure it.”

“Be patient, noble Earl of Westmoreland,” King Henry VI said.

Lord Clifford said, “Patience is for cowardly poltroons, such as the Duke of York. He would not dare to sit there, if your father, Henry V, had lived. My gracious lord, here in the Parliament let us assail the family of York.”

“Well have you spoken, kinsman,” the Earl of Northumberland said. “Be it so. Let’s do it.”

“Ah, don’t you know that the citizens of London favor them,” King Henry VI said, “and that they have troops of soldiers at their beck and call?”

“But when the Duke of York is slain, his troops will quickly flee,” the Duke of Exeter said.

“Far be from my, Henry’s, heart the thought of making a shambles — a meat market, a slaughterhouse — of the Parliament House,” King Henry VI said. “Kinsman of Exeter, frowns, words, and threats shall be the weapons of war that Henry means to use.

“You factious Duke of York, descend from my throne, and kneel for grace and mercy at my feet. I am your sovereign. I am your King.”

“I am yours,” the Duke of York said.

“For shame, come down,” the Duke of Exeter said. “Henry VI made you Duke of York.”

“The Dukedom was my inheritance, as the Earldom was,” the Duke of York said.

He had also inherited the title of Earl of March.

“Your father was a traitor to the crown, and so your Dukedom was given to you, and not inherited by you,” the Duke of Exeter said. Your father lost his title and lands because of his treason.”

“Exeter, you are a traitor to the crown in following this usurping Henry VI,” the Duke of Warwick said.

“Whom should he follow but his natural King?” Lord Clifford said.

The word “natural” means “legitimate, rightful, by birthright.”

“What you said is true, Clifford,” the Earl of Warwick said. “He should follow his natural King, and that is Richard, Duke of York.”

King Henry VI said, “And shall I stand, and you sit on my throne?”

“It must and shall be so,” the Duke of York said. “Content yourself. Be calm and accept it.”

The Earl of Warwick said to Henry VI, “Be Duke of Lancaster; let him be King.”

The Earl of Westmoreland said, “King Henry VI is both King of England and Duke of Lancaster, and that the Lord of Westmoreland shall maintain. Henry VI is my King.”

“And I, Warwick, shall disprove it,” the Earl of Warwick said. “You forget that we are those who chased you from the battlefield and slew your fathers, and with our battle flags unfurled, we marched through the city to the palace gates.”

“Yes, Warwick, I remember it to my grief,” the Earl of Northumberland said. “And, by my father’s soul, you and your House shall rue it.”

The Earl of Westmoreland said to the Duke of York, “Plantagenet, of you and these your sons, your kinsmen, and your friends, I’ll have more lives than drops of blood that were in my father’s veins.”

“Do not keep reminding me about the death of my father,” Lord Clifford said, “lest that, instead of words, I send you, Warwick, such a messenger as shall revenge his death before I stir.”

A basilisk can kill without stirring — moving. Merely seeing this mythological serpent kills. Another messenger of death from afar is an arrow. Yet another messenger of death is an exterminating angel.

“Poor Clifford!” the Earl of Warwick said. “How I scorn his worthless threats!”

Future events would show that Lord Clifford could kill important enemies.

Using the royal plural, the Duke of York said to King Henry VI, “Do you want us to show you the truth of our rightful title to the crown? If not, our swords in the battlefield shall plead my right to the crown.”

“What title do you, traitor, have to the crown?” King Henry VI said. “Your father was, as you are, Duke of York. Your grandfather was Roger Mortimer, the Earl of March.

“I am the son of King Henry V, who forced the Dauphin and the French to stoop in submission and who captured their towns and provinces.”

The Dauphin claimed to be King of France, but King Henry V of England disputed that claim.

“Don’t talk about France,” the Earl of Warwick said, “since you have lost it all.”

“The Lord Protector, not I, lost it. When I was crowned King of England, I was only nine months old.”

“You are old enough now, and yet, I think, you continue to lose,” Richard said.

He added, “Father, tear the crown from the usurper’s head.”

“Sweet father, do so,” Edward said. “Set it on your head.”

The Marquess of Montague said to the Duke of York, “Good brother, as you love and honor arms, let’s fight it out and not stand here disputing over details like this.”

Richard said, “If the drums and trumpets start playing, King Henry VI will flee.”

“Sons, peace!” the Duke of York said.

“Peace, all of you!” King Henry VI said. “Give King Henry the opportunity to speak.”

“Plantagenet — the Duke of York — shall speak first,” the Earl of Warwick said. “Hear him, lords.”

He then said to King Henry VI, “And be you silent and attentive, too, for he who interrupts the Duke of York shall not live.”

“Do you think that I will leave my Kingly throne, in which my grandfather and my father sat?” King Henry VI said. “No. Before that happens, war shall depopulate this — my — realm. Yes, and their battle flags, often borne in France, and now borne in England to our heart’s great sorrow, shall be my winding-sheet — my shroud.”

He said to his supporters, “Why are you losing courage, lords? My title to the crown is good, and far better than his.”

“Prove it, Henry,” the Earl of Warwick said, “and you shall be King.”

“My grandfather, Henry IV, got the crown,” King Henry VI said.

“It was by rebellion against his King,” the Duke of York objected.

This is true. King Henry IV had forced King Richard II to abdicate as King.

King Henry VI thought, I don’t know what to say; my claim to the crown is weak.

He said out loud, “Tell me, may not a King adopt an heir?”

“What of it?” the Duke of York asked.

“If he may, then I am your lawful King,” King Henry VI said. “For King Richard II, in the presence of many lords, resigned the crown to King Henry IV, whose heir my father was, and I am his.”

“Henry IV rose against Richard II, who was his sovereign,” the Duke of York said, “and by force made him resign his crown.”

“Suppose, my lords, that Richard II resigned the crown without being constrained,” the Earl of Warwick said. “Do you think it would be prejudicial to the Duke of York’s claim to the crown?”

“No,” the Duke of Exeter whispered to King Henry VI, “for Richard II could not so resign his crown unless the next heir should succeed him and reign as King. The crown must pass to the next in line to be King.”

Shocked at hearing this from a man whom he considered to a supporter, King Henry VI whispered to him, “Are you against us, Duke of Exeter?”

“The Duke of York is in the right, and therefore pardon me,” the Duke of Exeter whispered.

King Henry VI’s claim to the crown rested on his being descended from John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, who was the fourth son of King Edward III.

The Duke of York’s claim to the throne rested on his being descended from Lionel, Duke of Clarence, who was the third son of King Edward III. However, he was descended from females in that line, while Henry VI was descended only from males in his line.

The Duke of York asked, “Why are you whispering among yourselves, my lords, and not answering me?”

“My conscience tells me that the Duke of York is the lawful King of England,” the Duke of Exeter whispered.

King Henry VI thought, Everyone will revolt from me, and everyone will turn to the Duke of York.

The Earl of Northumberland said to the Duke of York, “Plantagenet, for all the claim to the crown you are making, don’t think that King Henry VI shall be so deposed.”

“Deposed he shall be, in spite of all,” the Earl of Warwick said.

“You are deceived,” the Earl of Northumberland said. “It is not your southern power of Essex, Norfolk, Suffolk, or of Kent — which makes you thus presumptuous and proud — that can set the Duke of York on the throne in spite — contemptuous dismissal — of me.”

Lord Clifford whispered, “King Henry VI, whether your claim to the throne is right or wrong, I, Lord Clifford, vow to fight in your defense. May that ground gape and swallow me alive, if and where I would kneel to that man who slew my father!”

Numbers 16:30 states, “But if the Lord make a new thing, and the earth open her mouth, and swallow them up with all that they have, and they go down quick into the pit: then ye shall understand that these men have provoked the Lord” (1599 Geneva Bible).

King Henry VI whispered, “Oh, Clifford, how your words revive my heart!”

The Duke of York said, “Henry of Lancaster, resign your crown. What are you muttering, or what are you conspiring, lords?”

The Earl of Warwick said, “Do right to this Princely Duke of York, or I will fill the house with armed men, and over the chair of state — the throne — where now he sits, I will write up his title with the blood of the usurper.”

He stamped with his foot and the soldiers who had been hidden showed themselves.

“My Lord of Warwick, hear me speak but one word,” King Henry VI said. “Let me for my lifetime reign as King.”

The Duke of York said, “Confirm the crown to me and to my heirs, and you shall reign in quiet while you live. But after you die, I will reign and after I die, my heirs will reign.”

“I am content,” King Henry VI said. “I agree. Richard Plantagenet, Duke of York, enjoy the Kingdom after my decease.”

Lord Clifford objected to the decision: “What a wrong is this to the Prince, your son!”

The Earl of Warwick approved of the decision: “What good is this to England and to Henry VI himself!”

The Earl of Westmoreland objected to the decision: “Base, dishonorable, frightened, and despairing Henry!”

Lord Clifford said, “How you have injured both yourself and us!”

The Earl of Westmoreland said, “I cannot stay to hear these legal articles that you two — York and Henry — will draw up between yourselves.”

“Nor can I,” the Earl of Northumberland said.

“Come, cousin, let us tell Queen Margaret the news,” Lord Clifford said.

The Earl of Westmoreland said, “Farewell, faint-hearted and degenerate King Henry VI, in whose cold, hopeless blood no spark of honor abides.”

The Earl of Northumberland said to King Henry VI, “May you be a prey for the House of York, and die wearing shackles for this unmanly deed of yours!”

Lord Clifford said to the King, “May you be overcome in dreadful war, or live abandoned and despised in peace!”

The Earl of Westmoreland, the Earl of Northumberland, and Lord Clifford exited.

King Henry VI watched them go.

The Earl of Warwick said, “Turn this way, Henry VI, and pay no attention to them.”

The Duke of Exeter said, “They seek revenge and therefore will not yield.”

“Ah, Exeter!” King Henry VI said.

“Why should you sigh, my lord?” the Earl of Warwick asked.

“I sigh not for myself, Lord Warwick, but for my son, whom I unnaturally and not like a father shall disinherit. But be it as it may.”

He said to the Duke of York, “I here entail the crown to you and to your heirs forever, on this condition, that here you take an oath to stop this civil war, and to honor me as your King and sovereign while I live, and neither by treason nor by hostility to seek to put me down and reign as King yourself.”

“This oath I willingly take and will perform,” the Duke of York said.

“Long live King Henry VI!” the Earl of Warwick said. “Plantagenet, embrace him.”

King Henry VI climbed up onto the platform on which the throne was placed, the Duke of York stood up, and King Henry VI and the Duke of York embraced.

King Henry VI said, “And long may you and your promising sons live!”

“Now York and the Duke of Lancaster — you, Henry — are reconciled,” the Duke of York said.

“May any man who seeks to make them foes be cursed!” the Duke of Exeter said.

“Farewell, my gracious lord,” the Duke of York said. “I’ll go to my castle.”

“And I’ll stay in London with my soldiers,” the Earl of Warwick said.

“And I will go to Norfolk with my followers,” the Duke of Norfolk said.

“And I will go to the sea from whence I came,” the Marquess of Montague said.

Everyone exited except King Henry VI and the Duke of Exeter and a few attendants.

King Henry VI said, “And I, with grief and sorrow, will go to the court.”

Queen Margaret and Edward, Prince of Wales, entered the room.

The Duke of Exeter said, “Here comes the Queen, whose looks reveal her anger. I’ll steal away.”

“Exeter, so will I,” King Henry VI said.

Too late.

Queen Margaret said to her husband, King Henry VI, “No, don’t go away from me! I will follow you!”

“Be patient and calm, my gentle, noble Queen, and I will stay,” King Henry VI said.

“Who can be patient in such extreme times?” Queen Margaret said. “Ah, wretched man! I wish that I had died a virgin maiden and never seen you, never borne you a son, seeing you have proven to be so unnatural a father. Has your son, the Prince of Wales, deserved to lose his birthright thus? Had you loved him only half as well as I do, or felt that pain which I did for him once in childbirth, or nourished him as I did with my blood in utero, you would have left your dearest heart-blood there, rather than have made that savage Duke of York your heir and disinherited your only son.”

“Father, you cannot disinherit me,” Prince Edward said. “If you are the King, why shouldn’t I succeed you as King?”

“Pardon me, Margaret; pardon me, sweet son,” King Henry VI said. “The Earl of Warwick and the Duke of York forced me.”

“Forced you!” Margaret said. “Are you King, and you will be forced? I am ashamed to hear you speak. Ah, timorous wretch! You have ruined yourself, your son, and me, and you have given to the House of York such power and strength that you shall reign only by their permission.

“To entail the crown to the Duke of York and his heirs, what is it but to make your sepulcher and creep into it far before your time?”

In this culture, people believed that the loss of a King’s life quickly followed the loss of his power.

Queen Margaret continued, “Warwick is Chancellor and the lord of Calais. Stern Falconbridge commands the narrow seas. The Duke of York has been made Lord Protector of the realm. And yet you shall be safe? Such safety finds the trembling lamb surrounded by wolves.

“Had I been there, I who am a defenseless woman, the soldiers would have impaled and carried me aloft on their pikes before I would have agreed to that act of Parliament which gives your enemies all that power.

“But you preferred your life before your honor, and seeing that you do, I here divorce myself, Henry, both from your table and your bed until that act of Parliament by which my son is disinherited is repealed.

“The northern lords who have forsworn your battle flags will follow mine, if once they see them unfurled, and unfurled they shall be, to your foul disgrace and the utter ruin of the House of York.

“Thus I leave you.

“Come, son, let’s leave. Our army is ready. Come, we’ll go after our enemies.”

“Stay, gentle, noble Margaret, and hear me speak,” King Henry VI said.

“You have spoken too much already,” Queen Maragret said. “Get you gone! Get lost!”

“Gentle son Edward, will you stay with me?” King Henry VI asked.

Queen Margaret said to her son, Prince Edward, “If you do, you will be murdered by your enemies.”

Prince Edward said, “When I return with victory from the battlefield, I’ll see your grace. Until then I’ll follow her.”

“Come, son, let’s go,” Queen Margaret said. “We cannot waste time here.”

Queen Margaret and Prince Edward exited.

King Henry VI said, “Poor Queen! How her love for me and for her son has made her break out into terms of rage! Revenged may she be on that hateful Duke of York, whose haughty spirit, winged with greed, will cost my crown, and like a hungry eagle tear and feast on the flesh of me and of my son!

“The loss of those three lords — the Earl of Westmoreland, the Earl of Northumberland, and Lord Clifford — torments my heart. I’ll write to them very courteously.

“Come, kinsman Exeter, you shall be the messenger.”

The Duke of Exeter said, “And I, I hope, shall reconcile them all to you.”


Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved


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