Study Guide

Henry VI Part 1 Act 5, Scene 4

By William Shakespeare

Act 5, Scene 4

Read the full text of Henry VI Part 1 Act 5 Scene 4 with a side-by-side translation HERE.


  • Where was the King during that peace negotiation? Not there. He's not there a lot, Henry VI. Now we see him having a conference with Suffolk, who's trying to convince him to marry Margaret.
  • It seems to be going well. Possibly forgetting that he's already agreed to marry a noblewoman with a big dowry, Henry VI seems pretty convinced by Suffolk's speeches about Margaret.
  • Suffolk says there's lots more to tell about how great she is, and on top of that she's happy to obey Henry and be his wife. (The men in this play aren't so hot on gender equality.)
  • The King asks Gloucester to give consent to the marriage, but Gloucester points out, inconveniently, that the King is already engaged.
  • Suffolk says that's no problem—the other girl is only an earl's daughter, so it's fine to break a promise to her.
  • But Gloucester says that Margaret's father might have more impressive titles, but he's really no higher up than an earl.
  • Suffolk and Gloucester then debate whether Margaret's father or the father of Henry's current fiancée is likely to do them more good as an ally.
  • Exeter points out that the father of the current fiancée, Armagnac, is wealthy and likely to give a great dowry, which is not so likely with Margaret's father. Sounds like he might be poor and stingy, which is not so good from the perspective of the English nobles looking to fill the crown's pockets.
  • Suffolk says the king doesn't need a dowry, and can marry whomever he likes for love.
  • He gives a really long speech arguing that Margaret is a better match for the King, the King is really in love with her, and so on. This is pretty ludicrous, because the King hasn't even met either woman, so he's not actually in love with either of them. It's kind of like saying, "I read two profiles on Match.com, and I'm sure I'm in love with this one."
  • All the same, the King seems convinced. He's not sure whether it's Suffolk's praise or the fact that he's never been in love before, but he's sick with hope and fear until he can marry Margaret.
  • He even tells Suffolk he can levy a special extra tax for expenses. You know how much people like extra taxes.
  • Henry asks his uncle to remember what young love was like and not be offended. Gloucester mutters that this will likely cause grief, and we can just see how unconvinced he is.
  • Suffolk ends the play with a little speech where he describes himself as being like Paris, the Trojan prince who married the most beautiful woman in the world. He also hopes that he will be able to influence the king by influencing Margaret, thus ruling the realm behind the scenes.
  • There are so many ominous things about this six line speech it's hard to know where to start. For one, Paris didn't really have great success. Yes, he did marry the most beautiful woman in the world, but only after stealing her from her husband, who came and besieged Paris's city of Troy for ten years. And that's just the beginning. Paris was also widely scorned by his countrymen for causing so much trouble, and he was eventually killed in the fighting over Troy. Not to mention that Troy fell completely to the Greeks and was obliterated.
  • Suffolk sort of recognizes this—he says he hopes to prosper more than Paris—but it's still a really bad comparison. He's saying, "Sure this character steals someone else's wife, is hated by most of his friends, causes the downfall of his entire homeland, and dies in the process. But I think I can emulate him and have better luck."
  • And that's the end of the play.
  • This play begins with the funeral of one of England's greatest heroes and ends with a rash nobleman hoping he can run the kingdom by having an affair with the queen and influencing the king through her. Not so good. It's all looming, kind of the way the threat of Darth Vader is looming when you see that cute kid Anakin.