Study Guide

Henry VI Part 3 Duty

By William Shakespeare

Duty

So many characters hear the call of duty in Henry VI, Part 3, and just like in the video game, they kill a bunch of people in war as a result. The play wants to get us thinking about what each person's duties are. Do these characters have a duty to their families? To personal allegiances? To themselves?

Think of all the duties Henry faces. He owes something to his dad and his grandpa, who fought for the crown and passed it down to him. He owes something to his son, who's next in line to be king. He owes something to his people, who rely on him to keep the country stable and running. Finally, he owes something to himself: he's got his own goals and desires, and he won't be happy unless he can fulfill them.

Even the characters who seem like they're just in it for themselves struggle with duty. Like Henry, they find that some of their duties cancel each other out; they can't fulfill one without failing to fulfill another.

Questions About Duty

  1. Does Richard feel any duty toward his brothers? Why doesn't he tell them he's turning against them?
  2. Why does Henry feel a duty to his dad and grandpa when they are long dead? What does he owe them? What does he owe to his son?
  3. How do the subjects perceive their duty to their king? Do they view Henry or Edward as king? Does this change over the course of the play?
  4. Which characters in the play feel no duty to anyone?

Chew on This

Even the most independent characters feel duty to their families.

Richard feels duty to no one but himself.