Please wait

The text you requested is loading.
This shouldn't take more than a minute, depending on
the speed of your Internet connection.

progress graphic

Let me take you a button-hole lower.

      — Love's Labour's Lost, Act V Scene 2


Plays  +  Sonnets  +  Poems  +  Concordance  +  Advanced Search  +  About OSS

History of Henry VI, Part III

Act I

print/save print/save view

Scene 1. London. The Parliament-house.

Scene 2. Sandal Castle.

Scene 3. Field of battle betwixt Sandal Castle and Wakefield.

Scene 4. Another part of the field.


Act I, Scene 1

London. The Parliament-house.

      next scene .


  • Richard Plantagenet (Duke of Gloucester). While we pursued the horsemen of the north,
    He slily stole away and left his men: 5
    Whereat the great Lord of Northumberland,
    Whose warlike ears could never brook retreat,
    Cheer'd up the drooping army; and himself,
    Lord Clifford and Lord Stafford, all abreast,
    Charged our main battle's front, and breaking in 10
    Were by the swords of common soldiers slain.
  • King Edward IV (Plantagenet). Lord Stafford's father, Duke of Buckingham,
    Is either slain or wounded dangerously;
    I cleft his beaver with a downright blow:
    That this is true, father, behold his blood. 15
  • Marquess of Montague. And, brother, here's the Earl of Wiltshire's blood,
    Whom I encounter'd as the battles join'd.

[Throwing down SOMERSET's head]

  • Earl of Warwick. And so do I. Victorious Prince of York,
    Before I see thee seated in that throne 25
    Which now the house of Lancaster usurps,
    I vow by heaven these eyes shall never close.
    This is the palace of the fearful king,
    And this the regal seat: possess it, York;
    For this is thine and not King Henry's heirs' 30

[They go up]

  • Earl of Warwick. And when the king comes, offer no violence,
    Unless he seek to thrust you out perforce.
  • Earl of Warwick. The bloody parliament shall this be call'd,
    Unless Plantagenet, Duke of York, be king,
    And bashful Henry deposed, whose cowardice 45
    Hath made us by-words to our enemies.
  • Earl of Warwick. Neither the king, nor he that loves him best,
    The proudest he that holds up Lancaster, 50
    Dares stir a wing, if Warwick shake his bells.
    I'll plant Plantagenet, root him up who dares:
    Resolve thee, Richard; claim the English crown.
    [Flourish. Enter KING HENRY VI, CLIFFORD,]
  • Henry VI. My lords, look where the sturdy rebel sits,
    Even in the chair of state: belike he means,
    Back'd by the power of Warwick, that false peer,
    To aspire unto the crown and reign as king.
    Earl of Northumberland, he slew thy father. 60
    And thine, Lord Clifford; and you both have vow'd revenge
    On him, his sons, his favourites and his friends.
  • Earl of Westmoreland. What, shall we suffer this? let's pluck him down: 65
    My heart for anger burns; I cannot brook it.
  • Henry VI. Be patient, gentle Earl of Westmoreland.
  • Lord Clifford. Patience is for poltroons, such as he:
    He durst not sit there, had your father lived.
    My gracious lord, here in the parliament 70
    Let us assail the family of York.
  • Henry VI. Ah, know you not the city favours them,
    And they have troops of soldiers at their beck?
  • Henry VI. Far be the thought of this from Henry's heart,
    To make a shambles of the parliament-house!
    Cousin of Exeter, frowns, words and threats
    Shall be the war that Henry means to use.
    Thou factious Duke of York, descend my throne, 80
    and kneel for grace and mercy at my feet;
    I am thy sovereign.
  • Earl of Warwick. Exeter, thou art a traitor to the crown
    In following this usurping Henry.
  • Henry VI. And shall I stand, and thou sit in my throne?
  • Earl of Westmoreland. He is both king and Duke of Lancaster;
    And that the Lord of Westmoreland shall maintain. 95
  • Earl of Warwick. And Warwick shall disprove it. You forget
    That we are those which chased you from the field
    And slew your fathers, and with colours spread
    March'd through the city to the palace gates.
  • Earl of Northumberland. Yes, Warwick, I remember it to my grief; 100
    And, by his soul, thou and thy house shall rue it.
  • Earl of Westmoreland. Plantagenet, of thee and these thy sons,
    Thy kinsman and thy friends, I'll have more lives
    Than drops of blood were in my father's veins.
  • Lord Clifford. Urge it no more; lest that, instead of words, 105
    I send thee, Warwick, such a messenger
    As shall revenge his death before I stir.
  • Henry VI. What title hast thou, traitor, to the crown?
    Thy father was, as thou art, Duke of York;
    Thy grandfather, Roger Mortimer, Earl of March:
    I am the son of Henry the Fifth,
    Who made the Dauphin and the French to stoop 115
    And seized upon their towns and provinces.
  • Henry VI. The lord protector lost it, and not I:
    When I was crown'd I was but nine months old.
  • Marquess of Montague. Good brother, as thou lovest and honourest arms,
    Let's fight it out and not stand cavilling thus.
  • Henry VI. Peace, thou! and give King Henry leave to speak.
  • Earl of Warwick. Plantagenet shall speak first: hear him, lords;
    And be you silent and attentive too,
    For he that interrupts him shall not live. 130
  • Henry VI. Think'st thou that I will leave my kingly throne,
    Wherein my grandsire and my father sat?
    No: first shall war unpeople this my realm;
    Ay, and their colours, often borne in France,
    And now in England to our heart's great sorrow, 135
    Shall be my winding-sheet. Why faint you, lords?
    My title's good, and better far than his.
  • Henry VI. Henry the Fourth by conquest got the crown.
  • Henry VI. [Aside] I know not what to say; my title's weak.—
    Tell me, may not a king adopt an heir?
  • Henry VI. An if he may, then am I lawful king;
    For Richard, in the view of many lords, 145
    Resign'd the crown to Henry the Fourth,
    Whose heir my father was, and I am his.
  • Earl of Warwick. Suppose, my lords, he did it unconstrain'd, 150
    Think you 'twere prejudicial to his crown?
  • Duke of Exeter. No; for he could not so resign his crown
    But that the next heir should succeed and reign.
  • Henry VI. Art thou against us, Duke of Exeter?
  • Henry VI. [Aside] All will revolt from me, and turn to him.
  • Earl of Northumberland. Plantagenet, for all the claim thou lay'st,
    Think not that Henry shall be so deposed. 160
  • Earl of Northumberland. Thou art deceived: 'tis not thy southern power,
    Of Essex, Norfolk, Suffolk, nor of Kent,
    Which makes thee thus presumptuous and proud,
    Can set the duke up in despite of me. 165
  • Lord Clifford. King Henry, be thy title right or wrong,
    Lord Clifford vows to fight in thy defence:
    May that ground gape and swallow me alive,
    Where I shall kneel to him that slew my father!
  • Henry VI. O Clifford, how thy words revive my heart! 170
  • Earl of Warwick. Do right unto this princely Duke of York,
    Or I will fill the house with armed men,
    And over the chair of state, where now he sits, 175
    Write up his title with usurping blood.
    [He stamps with his foot and the soldiers show]
  • Henry VI. My Lord of Warwick, hear me but one word:
    Let me for this my life-time reign as king. 180
  • Henry VI. I am content: Richard Plantagenet,
    Enjoy the kingdom after my decease.
  • Earl of Westmoreland. Farewell, faint-hearted and degenerate king,
    In whose cold blood no spark of honour bides.
  • Lord Clifford. In dreadful war mayst thou be overcome,
    Or live in peace abandon'd and despised!


  • Henry VI. Not for myself, Lord Warwick, but my son,
    Whom I unnaturally shall disinherit.
    But be it as it may: I here entail 205
    The crown to thee and to thine heirs for ever;
    Conditionally, that here thou take an oath
    To cease this civil war, and, whilst I live,
    To honour me as thy king and sovereign,
    And neither by treason nor hostility 210
    To seek to put me down and reign thyself.
  • Henry VI. And long live thou and these thy forward sons!

[Sennet. Here they come down]

  • Marquess of Montague. And I unto the sea from whence I came.
    WARWICK, NORFOLK, MONTAGUE, their Soldiers, and
  • Henry VI. And I, with grief and sorrow, to the court. 225


  • Duke of Exeter. Here comes the queen, whose looks bewray her anger:
    I'll steal away.
  • Henry VI. Be patient, gentle queen, and I will stay.
  • Queen Margaret. Who can be patient in such extremes?
    Ah, wretched man! would I had died a maid
    And never seen thee, never borne thee son,
    Seeing thou hast proved so unnatural a father 235
    Hath he deserved to lose his birthright thus?
    Hadst thou but loved him half so well as I,
    Or felt that pain which I did for him once,
    Or nourish'd him as I did with my blood,
    Thou wouldst have left thy dearest heart-blood there, 240
    Rather than have that savage duke thine heir
    And disinherited thine only son.
  • Prince Edward. Father, you cannot disinherit me:
    If you be king, why should not I succeed?
  • Henry VI. Pardon me, Margaret; pardon me, sweet son: 245
    The Earl of Warwick and the duke enforced me.
  • Queen Margaret. Enforced thee! art thou king, and wilt be forced?
    I shame to hear thee speak. Ah, timorous wretch!
    Thou hast undone thyself, thy son and me;
    And given unto the house of York such head 250
    As thou shalt reign but by their sufferance.
    To entail him and his heirs unto the crown,
    What is it, but to make thy sepulchre
    And creep into it far before thy time?
    Warwick is chancellor and the lord of Calais; 255
    Stern Falconbridge commands the narrow seas;
    The duke is made protector of the realm;
    And yet shalt thou be safe? such safety finds
    The trembling lamb environed with wolves.
    Had I been there, which am a silly woman, 260
    The soldiers should have toss'd me on their pikes
    Before I would have granted to that act.
    But thou preferr'st thy life before thine honour:
    And seeing thou dost, I here divorce myself
    Both from thy table, Henry, and thy bed, 265
    Until that act of parliament be repeal'd
    Whereby my son is disinherited.
    The northern lords that have forsworn thy colours
    Will follow mine, if once they see them spread;
    And spread they shall be, to thy foul disgrace 270
    And utter ruin of the house of York.
    Thus do I leave thee. Come, son, let's away;
    Our army is ready; come, we'll after them.
  • Henry VI. Stay, gentle Margaret, and hear me speak.
  • Henry VI. Gentle son Edward, thou wilt stay with me?
  • Prince Edward. When I return with victory from the field
    I'll see your grace: till then I'll follow her.


  • Henry VI. Poor queen! how love to me and to her son
    Hath made her break out into terms of rage!
    Revenged may she be on that hateful duke,
    Whose haughty spirit, winged with desire, 285
    Will cost my crown, and like an empty eagle
    Tire on the flesh of me and of my son!
    The loss of those three lords torments my heart:
    I'll write unto them and entreat them fair.
    Come, cousin you shall be the messenger. 290


. previous scene      

Act I, Scene 2

Sandal Castle.

      next scene .


[Enter YORK]

  • King Edward IV (Plantagenet). Now you are heir, therefore enjoy it now:
    By giving the house of Lancaster leave to breathe,
    It will outrun you, father, in the end.
  • Richard III (Duke of Gloucester). An oath is of no moment, being not took
    Before a true and lawful magistrate,
    That hath authority over him that swears:
    Henry had none, but did usurp the place;
    Then, seeing 'twas he that made you to depose, 320
    Your oath, my lord, is vain and frivolous.
    Therefore, to arms! And, father, do but think
    How sweet a thing it is to wear a crown;
    Within whose circuit is Elysium
    And all that poets feign of bliss and joy. 325
    Why do we finger thus? I cannot rest
    Until the white rose that I wear be dyed
    Even in the lukewarm blood of Henry's heart.
  • Richard Plantagenet (Duke of Gloucester). Richard, enough; I will be king, or die.
    Brother, thou shalt to London presently, 330
    And whet on Warwick to this enterprise.
    Thou, Richard, shalt to the Duke of Norfolk,
    And tell him privily of our intent.
    You Edward, shall unto my Lord Cobham,
    With whom the Kentishmen will willingly rise: 335
    In them I trust; for they are soldiers,
    Witty, courteous, liberal, full of spirit.
    While you are thus employ'd, what resteth more,
    But that I seek occasion how to rise,
    And yet the king not privy to my drift, 340
    Nor any of the house of Lancaster?
    [Enter a Messenger]
    But, stay: what news? Why comest thou in such post?
  • Messenger. The queen with all the northern earls and lords
    Intend here to besiege you in your castle: 345
    She is hard by with twenty thousand men;
    And therefore fortify your hold, my lord.
  • Richard Plantagenet (Duke of Gloucester). Ay, with my sword. What! think'st thou that we fear them?
    Edward and Richard, you shall stay with me;
    My brother Montague shall post to London: 350
    Let noble Warwick, Cobham, and the rest,
    Whom we have left protectors of the king,
    With powerful policy strengthen themselves,
    And trust not simple Henry nor his oaths.
  • Marquess of Montague. Brother, I go; I'll win them, fear it not: 355
    And thus most humbly I do take my leave.
    Sir John and Sir Hugh Mortimer, mine uncles,
    You are come to Sandal in a happy hour; 360
    The army of the queen mean to besiege us.

[A march afar off]

  • Richard Plantagenet (Duke of Gloucester). Five men to twenty! though the odds be great,
    I doubt not, uncle, of our victory. 370
    Many a battle have I won in France,
    When as the enemy hath been ten to one:
    Why should I not now have the like success?

[Alarum. Exeunt]

. previous scene      

Act I, Scene 3

Field of battle betwixt Sandal Castle and Wakefield.

      next scene .

[Alarums. Enter RUTLAND and his Tutor]

  • Edmond, Earl of Rutland. Ah, whither shall I fly to 'scape their hands?
    Ah, tutor, look where bloody Clifford comes!

[Enter CLIFFORD and Soldiers]

  • Lord Clifford. Chaplain, away! thy priesthood saves thy life.
    As for the brat of this accursed duke, 380
    Whose father slew my father, he shall die.
  • Tutor of Rutland. Ah, Clifford, murder not this innocent child,
    Lest thou be hated both of God and man! 385

[Exit, dragged off by Soldiers]

  • Lord Clifford. How now! is he dead already? or is it fear
    That makes him close his eyes? I'll open them.
  • Edmond, Earl of Rutland. So looks the pent-up lion o'er the wretch
    That trembles under his devouring paws; 390
    And so he walks, insulting o'er his prey,
    And so he comes, to rend his limbs asunder.
    Ah, gentle Clifford, kill me with thy sword,
    And not with such a cruel threatening look.
    Sweet Clifford, hear me speak before I die. 395
    I am too mean a subject for thy wrath:
    Be thou revenged on men, and let me live.
  • Lord Clifford. In vain thou speak'st, poor boy; my father's blood
    Hath stopp'd the passage where thy words should enter.
  • Lord Clifford. Had thy brethren here, their lives and thine
    Were not revenge sufficient for me;
    No, if I digg'd up thy forefathers' graves
    And hung their rotten coffins up in chains, 405
    It could not slake mine ire, nor ease my heart.
    The sight of any of the house of York
    Is as a fury to torment my soul;
    And till I root out their accursed line
    And leave not one alive, I live in hell. 410

[Lifting his hand]

  • Edmond, Earl of Rutland. But 'twas ere I was born.
    Thou hast one son; for his sake pity me,
    Lest in revenge thereof, sith God is just, 420
    He be as miserably slain as I.
    Ah, let me live in prison all my days;
    And when I give occasion of offence,
    Then let me die, for now thou hast no cause.
  • Lord Clifford. No cause! 425
    Thy father slew my father; therefore, die.

[Stabs him]


  • Lord Clifford. Plantagenet! I come, Plantagenet! 430
    And this thy son's blood cleaving to my blade
    Shall rust upon my weapon, till thy blood,
    Congeal'd with this, do make me wipe off both.


. previous scene      

Act I, Scene 4

Another part of the field.


[Alarum. Enter YORK]

  • Richard Plantagenet (Duke of Gloucester). The army of the queen hath got the field:
    My uncles both are slain in rescuing me;
    And all my followers to the eager foe
    Turn back and fly, like ships before the wind
    Or lambs pursued by hunger-starved wolves. 440
    My sons, God knows what hath bechanced them:
    But this I know, they have demean'd themselves
    Like men born to renown by life or death.
    Three times did Richard make a lane to me.
    And thrice cried 'Courage, father! fight it out!' 445
    And full as oft came Edward to my side,
    With purple falchion, painted to the hilt
    In blood of those that had encounter'd him:
    And when the hardiest warriors did retire,
    Richard cried 'Charge! and give no foot of ground!' 450
    And cried 'A crown, or else a glorious tomb!
    A sceptre, or an earthly sepulchre!'
    With this, we charged again: but, out, alas!
    We bodged again; as I have seen a swan
    With bootless labour swim against the tide 455
    And spend her strength with over-matching waves.
    [A short alarum within]
    Ah, hark! the fatal followers do pursue;
    And I am faint and cannot fly their fury:
    And were I strong, I would not shun their fury: 460
    The sands are number'd that make up my life;
    Here must I stay, and here my life must end.
    PRINCE EDWARD, and Soldiers]
    Come, bloody Clifford, rough Northumberland, 465
    I dare your quenchless fury to more rage:
    I am your butt, and I abide your shot.
  • Lord Clifford. Ay, to such mercy as his ruthless arm,
    With downright payment, show'd unto my father. 470
    Now Phaethon hath tumbled from his car,
    And made an evening at the noontide prick.
  • Richard Plantagenet (Duke of Gloucester). My ashes, as the phoenix, may bring forth
    A bird that will revenge upon you all:
    And in that hope I throw mine eyes to heaven, 475
    Scorning whate'er you can afflict me with.
    Why come you not? what! multitudes, and fear?
  • Lord Clifford. So cowards fight when they can fly no further;
    So doves do peck the falcon's piercing talons;
    So desperate thieves, all hopeless of their lives, 480
    Breathe out invectives 'gainst the officers.
  • Richard Plantagenet (Duke of Gloucester). O Clifford, but bethink thee once again,
    And in thy thought o'er-run my former time;
    And, if though canst for blushing, view this face,
    And bite thy tongue, that slanders him with cowardice 485
    Whose frown hath made thee faint and fly ere this!
  • Lord Clifford. I will not bandy with thee word for word,
    But buckle with thee blows, twice two for one.
  • Queen Margaret. Hold, valiant Clifford! for a thousand causes
    I would prolong awhile the traitor's life. 490
    Wrath makes him deaf: speak thou, Northumberland.
  • Earl of Northumberland. Hold, Clifford! do not honour him so much
    To prick thy finger, though to wound his heart:
    What valour were it, when a cur doth grin,
    For one to thrust his hand between his teeth, 495
    When he might spurn him with his foot away?
    It is war's prize to take all vantages;
    And ten to one is no impeach of valour.

[They lay hands on YORK, who struggles]

  • Queen Margaret. Brave warriors, Clifford and Northumberland, 505
    Come, make him stand upon this molehill here,
    That raught at mountains with outstretched arms,
    Yet parted but the shadow with his hand.
    What! was it you that would be England's king?
    Was't you that revell'd in our parliament, 510
    And made a preachment of your high descent?
    Where are your mess of sons to back you now?
    The wanton Edward, and the lusty George?
    And where's that valiant crook-back prodigy,
    Dicky your boy, that with his grumbling voice 515
    Was wont to cheer his dad in mutinies?
    Or, with the rest, where is your darling Rutland?
    Look, York: I stain'd this napkin with the blood
    That valiant Clifford, with his rapier's point,
    Made issue from the bosom of the boy; 520
    And if thine eyes can water for his death,
    I give thee this to dry thy cheeks withal.
    Alas poor York! but that I hate thee deadly,
    I should lament thy miserable state.
    I prithee, grieve, to make me merry, York. 525
    What, hath thy fiery heart so parch'd thine entrails
    That not a tear can fall for Rutland's death?
    Why art thou patient, man? thou shouldst be mad;
    And I, to make thee mad, do mock thee thus.
    Stamp, rave, and fret, that I may sing and dance. 530
    Thou wouldst be fee'd, I see, to make me sport:
    York cannot speak, unless he wear a crown.
    A crown for York! and, lords, bow low to him:
    Hold you his hands, whilst I do set it on.
    [Putting a paper crown on his head] 535
    Ay, marry, sir, now looks he like a king!
    Ay, this is he that took King Henry's chair,
    And this is he was his adopted heir.
    But how is it that great Plantagenet
    Is crown'd so soon, and broke his solemn oath? 540
    As I bethink me, you should not be king
    Till our King Henry had shook hands with death.
    And will you pale your head in Henry's glory,
    And rob his temples of the diadem,
    Now in his life, against your holy oath? 545
    O, 'tis a fault too too unpardonable!
    Off with the crown, and with the crown his head;
    And, whilst we breathe, take time to do him dead.
  • Richard Plantagenet (Duke of Gloucester). She-wolf of France, but worse than wolves of France,
    Whose tongue more poisons than the adder's tooth!
    How ill-beseeming is it in thy sex
    To triumph, like an Amazonian trull,
    Upon their woes whom fortune captivates! 555
    But that thy face is, vizard-like, unchanging,
    Made impudent with use of evil deeds,
    I would assay, proud queen, to make thee blush.
    To tell thee whence thou camest, of whom derived,
    Were shame enough to shame thee, wert thou not shameless. 560
    Thy father bears the type of King of Naples,
    Of both the Sicils and Jerusalem,
    Yet not so wealthy as an English yeoman.
    Hath that poor monarch taught thee to insult?
    It needs not, nor it boots thee not, proud queen, 565
    Unless the adage must be verified,
    That beggars mounted run their horse to death.
    'Tis beauty that doth oft make women proud;
    But, God he knows, thy share thereof is small:
    'Tis virtue that doth make them most admired; 570
    The contrary doth make thee wonder'd at:
    'Tis government that makes them seem divine;
    The want thereof makes thee abominable:
    Thou art as opposite to every good
    As the Antipodes are unto us, 575
    Or as the south to the septentrion.
    O tiger's heart wrapt in a woman's hide!
    How couldst thou drain the life-blood of the child,
    To bid the father wipe his eyes withal,
    And yet be seen to bear a woman's face? 580
    Women are soft, mild, pitiful and flexible;
    Thou stern, obdurate, flinty, rough, remorseless.
    Bids't thou me rage? why, now thou hast thy wish:
    Wouldst have me weep? why, now thou hast thy will:
    For raging wind blows up incessant showers, 585
    And when the rage allays, the rain begins.
    These tears are my sweet Rutland's obsequies:
    And every drop cries vengeance for his death,
    'Gainst thee, fell Clifford, and thee, false
    Frenchwoman. 590
  • Richard Plantagenet (Duke of Gloucester). That face of his the hungry cannibals
    Would not have touch'd, would not have stain'd with blood:
    But you are more inhuman, more inexorable, 595
    O, ten times more, than tigers of Hyrcania.
    See, ruthless queen, a hapless father's tears:
    This cloth thou dip'dst in blood of my sweet boy,
    And I with tears do wash the blood away.
    Keep thou the napkin, and go boast of this: 600
    And if thou tell'st the heavy story right,
    Upon my soul, the hearers will shed tears;
    Yea even my foes will shed fast-falling tears,
    And say 'Alas, it was a piteous deed!'
    There, take the crown, and, with the crown, my curse; 605
    And in thy need such comfort come to thee
    As now I reap at thy too cruel hand!
    Hard-hearted Clifford, take me from the world:
    My soul to heaven, my blood upon your heads!
  • Earl of Northumberland. Had he been slaughter-man to all my kin, 610
    I should not for my life but weep with him.
    To see how inly sorrow gripes his soul.
  • Queen Margaret. What, weeping-ripe, my Lord Northumberland?
    Think but upon the wrong he did us all,
    And that will quickly dry thy melting tears. 615
  • Lord Clifford. Here's for my oath, here's for my father's death.

[Stabbing him]

[Stabbing him]


  • Queen Margaret. Off with his head, and set it on York gates;
    So York may overlook the town of York.

[Flourish. Exeunt]