For Shakespeare, the mastery of language, speech, and rhetoric is closely aligned with authority and control. Language is powerful in Henry VI, Part 3. Sometimes, it's linked with rebellion and resistance to authority. When York out-argues Henry in the discussion about who deserves the crown, he essentially wins the right to that crown.
That's why Margaret gets up in Henry's grill so often for not being able to speak up and command respect; she knows that the guy who can argue better will be the one people will think of as king.
At other times, language is associated with manipulation and deceit. Richard is a prime example of this: he lies all the time in order to get people to do what he wants. In this play, language is power: it can be used for good or for bad, but you can't get much done unless you've first mastered your words.
Questions About Language and Communication
- How does a debate of words help us understand who deserves the crown more? Do we agree that the mastery of words is equivalent to power?
- Why does everyone want to argue or debate all the time, instead of fight?
- How does Richard use his ability with language to get what he wants? How will language assist him with his future plans?
Chew on This
Richard's language is his greatest weapon in outsmarting his brothers.
In Henry VI, Part 3, your ability to control language is a sign of your ability to lead or govern.