Henry VI Part 1: Act 5, Scene 6
Act 5, scene 6
Henry VI enters with Suffolk, Gloucester, and Exeter. Henry tells Suffolk that Suffolk has convinced him of Margaret’s virtues and beauty and is in love with her. Suffolk says that she is in fact superior to any praises that he can utter, and humble into the bargain, being eager to love and honor Henry. Henry orders Gloucester to arrange the marriage.
Gloucester reminds Henry that he is already betrothed to the daughter of the Earl of Armagnac and it would be dishonorable to break that contract. Suffolk says that she is only the daughter of a poor earl and that the contract may be broken without offence. Gloucester protests that Margaret’s father is no better than an earl. Suffolk says he is King of Naples and Jerusalem (titles that in reality carried no economic power) and has such authority in France that the marriage between Margaret and Henry would ensure the continued allegiance of the French. Gloucester says Armagnac would also fulfill this last function, and Exeter says he is wealthier and would give a bigger dowry. Suffolk says that Henry is rich enough not to need a dowry and should marry whom he wishes. As Henry prefers Margaret, he should marry her.
Henry says he is worried about many matters and has no experience of love. He orders Suffolk to go to France and bring Margaret to England, where she will be crowned his queen. He further orders Suffolk to raise the funds needed for the trip by levying a tax on his subjects of a tenth of their income. Henry tells Gloucester not to be offended by his decision but to excuse all on the basis of his youth and inexperience.
Left alone on stage, Suffolk reveals his true motives in organizing this marriage: Margaret will control Henry, and Suffolk will control Margaret, thus controlling the entire kingdom of England.
Suffolk’s motives in arranging Henry’s marriage with Margaret, previously obscure, are now made clear. He means to control Margaret, who in turn will control the king. Therefore Suffolk will become, in effect, England’s ruler.
Henry is shown as weak and easily influenced, going along with another man’s choice even in the matter of whom he marries. In accepting Margaret as his queen, he takes a woman with a smaller dowry than the Earl of Armagnac’s daughter and with less influence in France. The king’s worried state also bodes ill for England. He is not confident about his own or his nation’s future and has given over power to one of his self-seeking nobles, Suffolk.