Study Guide

Henry VI Part 3 Weakness

By William Shakespeare

Weakness

Let's face it: there wouldn't be much to Henry VI, Part 3 if Henry were a strong king like his father or grandfather. What do we get here? Well, we get a dude who is ready to give away the crown and everything that goes with it in the very first scene. When he finally does give up the crown, he just ends up dying in prison.

On the opposite side of the spectrum, Richard is physically deformed, yet he seems strong in his ambition and cunning ways. This play asks us to think about some big questions when it comes to what makes a strong king and leader, and everyone seems to have an answer.

Would things be different if Henry were a stronger, more forceful king? That's possible, but it may be more complicated than that. Henry's a pretty decent guy, so would it actually be better if he were more like the nasty characters who put their ambitions before everything—and everyone—else? If Henry weren't surrounded by such nasty people, would things in his kingdom be pretty much okay? Is it just Henry's fault that things go wrong? Are people going to be better off with Richard?

They say that the people most fit to rule are those who least want to. If that's true, what does that tell us about Henry and his weaknesses?

Questions About Weakness

  1. Is it important for a king to appear strong to his people? What makes for a strong king?
  2. Henry is weak in warfare, but is he strong in other areas? Do people respect him or listen to his ideas?
  3. In what ways is Richard weak? How does his physical weakness make him into a bold guy?

Chew on This

Henry's apparent weakness makes him an easy target, but he's stronger than he appears.

If Richard were not physically weak, he would not deceive people.

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