Henry VI, Part 3 is a history play by William Shakespeare believed to have been written in 1591, and set during the lifetime of King Henry VI of England. It was the success of this sequence of plays which firmly established Shakespeares reputation as a playwright, Henry VI, Part 3 features the longest soliloquy in all of Shakespeare, and has more battle scenes than any other of Shakespeares plays. The play begins where 2 Henry VI left off, with the victorious Yorkists pursuing Henry, upon reaching the parliamentary chambers in London, York seats himself in the throne, and a confrontation ensues between his supporters and Henrys. Margaret attacks Yorks castle at Wakefield, and the Yorkists lose the ensuing battle, during the conflict, Clifford murders Yorks twelve-year-old son, Rutland. However, George Plantagenet, Richard and Edwards brother, has vowed to join their cause, having been encouraged to do so by his sister, additionally, Warwick has been joined in the conflict by his own younger brother, Montague. The Yorkists regroup, and at the Battle of Towton, Clifford is killed, following the battle, Edward is proclaimed king, George is proclaimed Duke of Clarence and Richard, Duke of Gloucester, although he complains to Edward that this is an ominous dukedom. King Edward and George then leave the court, and Richard reveals to the audience his ambition to rise to power and take the throne from his brother, although as yet he is unsure how to go about it. After Towton, Warwick goes to France to secure for Edward the hand of Louis XIs sister-in-law, Lady Bona, thus ensuring peace between the two nations by uniting in marriage their two monarchies. Warwick arrives at the French court to find that Margaret, Prince Edward, just as Louis is about to agree to supply Margaret with troops, Warwick intervenes, and convinces Louis that it is in his interests to support Edward and approve the marriage. Back in England, however, the recently widowed Lady Grey has come to King Edward requesting her late husbands lands be returned to her, rather than granting her suit, however, captivated by her beauty Edward marries her, against the advice of both George and Richard. Shortly thereafter, George and Montague also defect to the Lancastrians, Warwick then invades England with French troops, and Edward is taken prisoner. Henry is restored to the throne, and appoints Warwick and George as his Lords Protector, soon thereafter, however, Edward is rescued by Richard, Hastings and Stanley. News of the escape reaches Henrys court, and the young Earl of Richmond is sent into exile in France for safety, meanwhile, Edward reorganises his forces, and confronts Warwicks army. At the Battle of Barnet, George betrays Warwick, and rejoins the Yorkists and this throws Warwicks forces into disarray, and the Yorkists win the battle, during which both Warwick and Montague are killed. Oxford and the Duke of Somerset now assume command of the Lancastrian forces, meanwhile, Henry sits on the molehill York was on and laments his problems. He is met by a father who has killed his son, Henry is captured by two gamekeepers loyal to Edward, and imprisoned in the Tower of London, while Edward goes to meet the Lancastrian/French force. In the subsequent Battle of Tewkesbury the Yorkists rout the Lancastrians, capturing Margaret, Prince Edward, Somerset, at this point, Richard goes to London to kill Henry. At Richards arrival at the Tower, the two argue, and in a rage Richard stabs Henry, with his dying breath, Henry prophesies Richards future villainy and the chaos that will engulf the country
First page of The third Part of Henry the Sixt, with the death of the Duke of Yorke from the First Folio (1623).
T. Brown engraving of The Death of the Earl of Warwick by John Adam Houston, from The Works of Shakespeare: Imperial Edition, edited by Charles Knight (1870)
Title page from the 1550 edition of Edward Hall's The Union of the Two Noble and Illustre Families of Lancaster and York.