Act Four, Scenes One through Six: Big Wheel Keeps on Turnin’ (or: Meet Edward IV, the Repo Man)

At the end of Act Three of The Third Part of Henry the Sixth, Warwick vows revenge for the wrongs he perceives King Edward has done to him (primarily through the marriage of Lady Grey, and not Lady Bonne, as Warwick had travelled to France to negotiate).  In Act Four, we see the fallout.

The first scene of the act begins with the king’s brothers, Richard and Clarence verbally tiptoeing around the subject of their brother’s marriage to Lady Grey.  She has become the first “commoner” to be married as Queen of England; that’s the elephant in the room.  They seem like two boxers testing each other in the opening round of a heavyweight bout, each using tempered language to get the other to state his view first.  By Edward’s entrance, however, Richard has Clarence to the point at which he “mind(s) to tell (Edward) plainly what (he) think(s)” (IV.i.8).

He doesn’t have to say a word, however, since his face gives everything away: Edward notices that Clarence is “pensive, as half malcontent” (IV.i.10). The brothers talk through the decision and the implications, and Clarence announces his displeasure, Edward is imperious and arrogant (“I am Edward // Your king and Warwick’s, and must have my will” [IV.i.15-16]), and Richard is relatively ambivalent (which is interesting since someone with his ambitions might be tempted to be openly contrary at this time).

Into this contentious episode comes the messenger from France, with the responses from Louis, Lady Bonne, Margaret, and Warwick.  The messenger announces that “young Prince Edward marries Warwick’s daughter” (IV.i.115).  And at this news, Clarence states that he will marry Warwick’s other daughter and he promptly leaves his brother’s court.

This response feels much more like something Richard would do… but it’s Clarence… hmmmm

Edward confers with his new adviser Hastings, and they decide that they are in the right (like THAT was in doubt, in their minds), and together with Richard, they ready to “meet Warwick with his foreign power” (IV.i.146).

As the very short Scene Two begins, we’re already on the field of battle, where Warwick greets Clarence, and then gives a pep talk to his troops for the battle to come.  The plan is to “seize (Edward)… not ‘slaughter him'” (IV.ii.24), so they can put Henry back onto the throne.

Scene Three is another short scene, in which we meet the watchmen who guard Edward’s tent, and we see Warwick attack the watchmen, and send them fleeing.

In the ensuing (Scene Four [NOTE: in some editions, Scenes Three and Four are combined into a single scene]) action, Edward is captured, but Richard and Hastings escape.  Warwick then in his historical role of “Kingmaker” un-makes Edward as King of England.  His reason is bluntly stated:

Alas! how should you govern any kingdom,
That know not how to use ambassadors,
Nor how to be contented with one wife,
Nor how to use your brothers brotherly,
Nor how to study for the people’s welfare,
Nor how to shroud yourself from enemies?

–IV.iv.8-13

Righteous, and fairly correct, given what we’ve seen in the rule of Edward (of course, was Henry ANY better???).  Edward is to be sent to Warwick’s “brother, Archbishop of York” (IV.iv.26), for safekeeping.  And Warwick and his troops head to London “to free King Henry from imprisonment // And see him seated in the regal throne” (IV.iv.36-37).

In Scene Five, as Warwick’s Lancastrian forces descend upon London, we find Edward’s Queen Elizabeth discussing the worsening situation with her brother Earl Rivers (Anthony Woodville).  We learn that she is now pregnant with “Edward’s offspring in (her) womb” (IV.v.18).  (So this is going to complicate an already complex line of succession situation)  Queen and brother then flee the palace.

In Scene Six, Richard (with Hastings, Stanley and some soldiers) wait in the Archbishop of York’s hunting grounds to seize upon Edward as he takes his daily hunting excursion.  It seems that the Archbishop of York as a little too lax in his care of Edward… though he was to be watched and not imprisoned, this seems just a little too easy.  So easy, in fact, that Edward even greets his brother/rescuer with a quip: “Now, brother Gloucester… Stand you thus close to steal the bishop’s deer?” (IV.vi.16-17). While Richard would love to trade jokes all day, he realizes “‘Tis no time to talk” (IV.vi.25), and they all head off in hopes that Edward “may repossess the crown” (IV.vi.30).

Edward is the Repo Man.

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