Study Guide

Henry VI Part 3 What's Up With the Title?

By William Shakespeare

What's Up With the Title?

The title seems pretty straightforward. Henry VI, Part 3? Yeah, we know what we're getting into: this is the third installment in a series of plays that cover the reign of King Henry VI.

The titles of Shakespeare's plays weren't always this simple, though. If we were to pick up one of the first published editions of this play, we'd get a lot more information. Why is that? Well, Elizabethan publishers were always taking it upon themselves to add a little something extra to spice up title pages. The 1595 Octavo, for example, reads like this:

The True Tragedie of Richard Duke of Yorke, and the death of good King Henrie the Sixt, with the Whole Contention betweene the two Houses Lancaster and Yorke, as it was sundrie times acted by the Right Honorable the Earl of Pembroke his servants.

This extra information could be useful, don't you think? From that title, we get a whole synopsis of the play: Henry dies; Richard, Duke of York (that's Richard, Sr., who begins the play as York and gets killed by Margaret) is involved in some kind of tragedy; and to top it all off, the Lancasters and Yorks are duking it out… again. Plus, there's a little performance history to sweeten the deal.

Who knew you could learn so much about a play just by reading a title?

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