Thursday, January 27, 2011

Henry VI - Learn to Govern Better!

Henry VI. Was never subject long'd to be a king
As I do long and wish to be a subject.

Come, wife, let's in, and learn to govern better;
For yet may England curse my wretched reign.

(Henry VI part 2, Act 4.9.2834-5, 2883-4)

These rather pathetic quotes from Shakespeare's poor King Henry VI would be hilarious if the consequences in this play resulting from the king's incompentence - serious loss of English blood and treasure - were not so devastating. It's ridiculous really - Henry is surrounded by crowds of kinsmen, all of whom want a piece of his power. Some give their loyalty to him, others (York, anyone?) crave the power of the kingship for themselves. And York longs to be king so badly! What an irony that the one man who has the prize doesn't really want it; unlike his politically-minded great-uncle the Bishop of Winchester, Henry VI actually seems genuinely interested in the church and his Christian faith, preferring to spend his time puttering around at home rather than prosecuting wars like his father Henry V. Unfortunately for him, he lives in a world where the expectation for kings is closer to the sentiment expressed by Richard Plantagenent the Younger:

Sword, hold thy temper; heart, be wrathful still:
Priests pray for enemies, but princes kill.

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