Act Three, Scene Three: The Corleone All-Business Edition

Act Three, Scene Three of The Third Part of Henry the Sixth moves the action to the French court, where King Louis is giving audience to Margaret, who is pleading for military support to oust Edward and (presumably) to reseat Henry.  In the midst of her petition for “just and lawful aid” (III.iii.32), Warwick arrives to ask Louis for the hand of his sister-in-law Lady Bonne in marriage for Edward.

Margaret attempts to argue against this match, stating that “this league and marriage” would be a “danger and dishonor” to Louis, since Henry’s throne has been usurped by Edward (III.iii.74 and 75, respectively).  Her claim is backed by the Earl of Oxford, who–though he is a brother-in-law to Warwick–is a Lancastrian supporter.

Louis pulls Warwick aside to speak with him directly, asking him if Edward is the “true king” (III.iii.114), and if Edward has the will of the people (“gracious in the people’s eye” [III.iii.117]); with these assurances, as well as one for the “measure of (Edward’s) love” for Lady Bonne (III.iii.120), Louis is ready to align with Edward, and arrange the marriage.  Louis openly states that all of this is purely political (as Sonny Corleone would put it, “This is business”):

... if your title to the crown be weak,
As may appear by Edward’s good success,
Then ’tis but reason that I be released
From giving aid which late I promised.
Yet shall you have all kindness at my hand
That your estate requires and mine can yield.

— III.iii.145-150

We see here that marriages in the court (as well as all alliances) are matters of expediency, all business.

remember, however, the second half of Sonny Corleone’s statement: “…and this man is taking it very, very personal…”

Of course, business can change, as we see minutes later when a post from England arrives with messages for Margaret, Warwick and Louis; the messages are separate but carry the same news–Edward’s marriage to Lady Grey.  And the news affects each recipient: Margaret “smiles at her news… Warwick frowns at his… (and) Louis stamps” his foot at his (III.iii.168-169).

According to Margaret, this news “proveth Edward’s love and Warwick’s honesty” (III.iii.180).  Warwick immediately turns against Edward.  It would be tempting to say that Warwick does this only to save face with Louis, but the vehemence of his response destroys this notion:

No more my king, for he dishonors me,
But most himself, if he could see his shame.
Did I forget that by the house of York
My father came untimely to his death?
Did I let pass the abuse done to my niece?
Did I impale him with the regal crown?
Did I put Henry from his native right?
And am I guerdon’d at the last with shame?
Shame on himself, for my desert is honor.
And, to repair my honor, lost for him,
I here renounce him and return to Henry.

— III.iii.184-194

By the laundry list of wrongs Warwick has endured for Edward, it seems that the Kingmaker has been doing this only because of the political weakness of Henry.  It’s been all business.  He even craves a reconciliation with Margaret, now willing to become her “true servitor” (III.iii.196), and work to “replant Henry is his former state” (III.iii.198).

And out of expedience, too, Margaret’s “hate (is turned) to love” (III.iii.199).  Warwick goes as far as to offer the hand of his “eldest daughter” (III.iii.242) to young Prince Edward (Margaret and Henry’s son) for his bride, and the offer is accepted.

Louis, Lady Bonne, Margaret and Warwick all devise messages to send back to Edward, as they prepare to “cross the seas and bid false Edward battle” (III.iii.235).  When the others leave to finalize their plans, Warwick is left alone on stage to soliloquize over what has just transpired:

I was the chief that raised (Edward) to the crown,
And I’ll be chief to bring him down again:
Not that I pity Henry’s misery,
But seek revenge on Edward’s mockery.

— III.iii.262-265

So maybe it’s not just all business… it seems Warwick has taken this very, very personally.

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