This month, I read Henry VI Part 3 for my #ShakeTheStacks Challenge. The book is part three is a four part series that fictionalizes The War of the Roses in medieval England. If you’ve been following along with my Shakespeare reading you know that I was not a huge fan of Henry VI Part 1 or Part 2, however, Part 3 is good.
The first three acts of Henry VI Part 3 are fantastic. The acts are filled with fights over who is heir to the throne, who succeeds who, and how that can all be change. The scenes are smart and occupied with ruthless characters unafraid of hurling insults and doing much worse. Richard (soon to be Richard III) and Queen Margaret stand out as the leaders of their sides, and the most cutting with their words and deeds. As the play moves toward its conclusion there is more focus on preparation for The War of the Roses and less attention to interpersonal fighting. The first part of this play stands out more, for being high stakes and deeply emotional.
I read the majority of this play out loud to myself, and the use of verse drives the speed of this play. There where moments when I heard the words I was saying and got chills from their power. There are a few speeches in this play that truly stand out to me. One is from the elder Edward, Duke of York (Act I.4), where he mourns the death of his son. There is devastation and curses and deviance and rage. It is a beautiful speech. Another is from Richard, Duke of Gloucester (Act III.2) where he speaks directly to the audience, telling us of his plans to become king. This soliloquy is self loathing mixed with raw ambition. It is masterful and you can’t look away. When done right, it becomes the turning point in the entire play, in the entire tetralogy.
I was less than impressed with the first two parts of this tetralogy, but Henry VI Part 3 did not disappoint, and makes me even more excited to read Richard III next month.
- Paperback: 176 pages
- Publisher: Penguin; Subsequent edition (December 1, 2000)
- 3/5 stars
- Buy Henry VI Part 3 on Amazon
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