Study Guide

Henry VI Part 3 Warfare

By William Shakespeare

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Since Henry VI, Part 3 opens during the Wars of the Roses, we're not surprised when there's a bunch of talk of warfare. The entire play focuses on a series of nasty civil wars that had the Lancasters and the Yorks, two branches of the Royal House of Plantagenet, vying for the English crown. What's a family squabble without severed heads and fields full of dead bodies?

So, okay, we get it: there's a lot of war going here. But, hey, it's war: what is it good for? Well, some characters think it's a necessary evil; others don't want it to happen at all; and still others seem to revel in it. Even though the play seems to conclude on a happy note, warfare lurks behind the scenes and threatens to make sure the peace is only short-lived.

Questions About Warfare

  1. Why don't we believe the characters when they claim that they've agreed to be peaceful? In the beginning, York and Henry agree on a truce, and Edward boldly proclaims peace at the end. What do these two situations have in common?
  2. How does Shakespeare remind us of the consequences of war throughout the play?
  3. Compare and contrast the military styles of Edward and Henry.
  4. Does warfare excuse the malicious actions of all of the characters? What actions go beyond warfare and into a realm of unnecessary cruelty?

Chew on This

All is fair in love and war. Because they're at war, everything the characters do is justified.

Henry is opposed to war in all circumstances.

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