Study Guide

Henry VI Part 1 Act 3, Scene 1

By William Shakespeare

Act 3, Scene 1

Read the full text of Henry VI Part 1 Act 3 Scene 1 with a side-by-side translation HERE.


  • You can probably guess what's going to happen in this one just by reading the stage direction. Where there's Gloucester and Winchester, there's going to be a quarrel—and in Parliament, no less. It's like if Obi-Wan and Anakin Skywalker started quarrelling in the vast galactic Senate meeting. But without the hovercraft, unfortunately.
  • Gloucester is trying to bring up a bill listing Winchester's bad behavior in Parliament.
  • Winchester grabs the paper from his hands, and—no kidding—complains that he wrote out what he wants to say. Picky, picky. Winchester says if Gloucester is going to accuse him, he should do it on the spot without planning ahead; apparently Winchester really respects improv. And guess what? He thinks he's pretty darn good at it: He says he'll answer Gloucester without having to plan it.
  • Gloucester says he may have written down Winchester's crimes, but he's also perfectly able to recite them from memory.
  • Then he gets going on everything that's wrong with Winchester. He throws the book at him, calling his actions "pestiferous" and "dissentious" (3.1.16).
  • Gloucester accuses Winchester of basically being a loan shark, an enemy to peace, and lustful. This is pretty strong stuff anyway, but it's particularly pointed because Winchester is a priest in the Catholic Church and is doubly not supposed to be doing all this stuff.
  • Gloucester finishes it off with the most dangerous accusation of all: Winchester is a traitor and has laid traps to kill Gloucester. Not only that, but Gloucester even suspects him of trying to kill the King. We know from the story of Richard's father that traitors can be executed, so Winchester can't be happy to be called one by the Lord Protector.
  • Winchester says none of these accusations are true, and Gloucester just wants to run the Kingdom by influencing the young king.
  • Gloucester interrupts to shout that Winchester is a "bastard" descended from his grandfather. We at Shmoop try not to use strong language, especially in Parliament, but Gloucester apparently has no such scruples.
  • Winchester accuses Gloucester of pushing people around under the cover of King Henry VI's authority.
  • Gloucester points out that he is officially the Protector of the realm, and Winchester points out that he's pretty high up in the Church (which was quite politically powerful in the time and sometimes challenged kings).
  • Gloucester and Winchester continue to bicker.
  • Warwick and Somerset get in on the action, trying to settle the dispute.
  • Richard says he has to hold his tongue and not interfere in the debate just now (before being restored to his title), but otherwise he'd argue with Winchester.
  • The young King Henry VI makes a moving appeal to Gloucester and Winchester to make peace. There's a commotion outside as he speaks.
  • The Mayor turns up again. This guy has a hard job—and last time he told Gloucester and Winchester that their men couldn't carry weapons, so now they're throwing stones. They really are like squabbling kids. He asks the lords and the king to stop the fight. Windows are getting knocked out in the city, and shops have to close.
  • The King tells the men to stop fighting, and they say, "Tough luck! We're going to keep fighting even if we have to use our teeth." Or something like that. They go back to fighting.
  • Gloucester tells his men to stop. One of his servants says they're fighting so Gloucester won't be disgraced, though, and another expresses enthusiasm—and then they start fighting again.
  • Gloucester tells them to stop, the King pleads with Winchester to back off (not all that kingly, possibly), and Warwick appeals to both the feuding nobles to make peace.
  • Winchester says he won't yield. Gloucester says he'll stop for the King, but that's the only reason.
  • Gloucester does try to make peace, but Winchester brushes him off.; finally the King and Warwick convince him to shake hands with Gloucester.
  • Gloucester doubts that Winchester's sincere, but tries to convince Parliament and the public that the two are at peace.
  • The King says how happy he is and tells the servants to stop fighting now that their lords have agreed. The servants head off to find a doctor.
  • Warwick now introduces the topic of Richard becoming Duke of York again. Gloucester, the King, and Warwick all like the idea, and Winchester agrees to go along with it.
  • The king says that he'll restore all of York's lost inheritance to Richard if Richard will be loyal to him.
  • Richard vows obedience and service up to death. No small promise, that.
  • They do the ceremony that makes Richard Duke, and the lords welcome Richard as one of them.
  • Well, mostly. Somerset mutters to the audience: "Perish, base prince, ignoble Duke of York" (3.1.180). Apparently he's not of the forget-and-forgive school.
  • Gloucester says to the king, "Hey, let's go get you crowned in France."
  • The King says something like, "Whatever you say, my friend." Gloucester is still kind of running this show, even if it is Henry who's about to be crowned; Gloucester's even got the ships ready to go. But his advice is good, as Henry says (3.1.187).
  • Exeter is pretty worried about the feuds among the nobles. He says it's like a fire hidden under ashes that will break out into a flame, or like an infection slowly rotting away a sick person's body. Then he quotes a prophecy that Henry born at Monmouth (Henry V) would win all, while Henry born at Windsor (Henry VI) would lose all.
  • Exeter is loyal, even if he doesn't expect things to go well. He says he wishes he would die before these bad things happen.