No Regrets: An Examination Of Static Morality And The Disruption Of Normal Order In The History Plays Of William Shakespeare

2368 words - 9 pages

In a scholarly journal article authored by Robert Y. Turner the writer notes that "the major figures in [William Shakespeare's] Henry VI undergo no moral change of character" (241). In the series of plays these major figures, all of whom are nobilities, serve as archetypal representatives of the disorder that disrupts the normal order of the noble society. In his article Turner refers to a host of characters possessing stagnant moralities and presents the idea that ethical stagnation in Shakespeare's history plays could only be eliminated if motive is differentiated from character (243). The corruption that exists amidst the bard's characters contrasts the implied honor of their positions in the royal court, however it is a direct reflection of the characters' moral fibers and the disorder of the normal order of the noble society.An individual for whom analysis is deemed appropriate is the Duke of Suffolk. Let it be recalled that Suffolk is one of the conspirators responsible for the death of Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester. In order to adequately evaluate the static morality of the Duke of Suffolk the actions that place his morality in question must be examined. Now, all of Suffolk's actions are carried out in a spirit of manipulation, more specifically, the manipulation of Queen Margaret and King Henry VI. Eventually, the scheming of Suffolk escalates into the murder of the Duke of Gloucester. After the killing of Gloucester is carried out in Act III scene ii, part two of Henry VI, Suffolk gives the following response to the murderers: "Go, get you to my house;" he tells them. "I will reward you for this venturous deed." This quotation serves as an excellent tool to delve into the mindset of Suffolk. It is clear from Suffolk's reaction to the successful carrying out of Gloucester's murder that he is a ruthless man. Employing the hands of hit men to commit murder surely brings the Duke of Suffolk's morality into question. Suffolk never shows remorse for his actions, not even before his own death, thus his tainted moral standards remain true to form.Margaret, the Queen of England, is another key figure in the second part of Henry the Sixth that demands examination. Unbeknownst to her, she is a tool being manipulated by the clever ruses of Suffolk, but she also has some schemes of her own. In Queen Margaret, Shakespeare develops a character who is pitiless and cruel, a character who is determined to seize and exercise power (Lee 183). Her husband, the King, is a weak ruler, perhaps better suited for a position as a clergyman. Conversely, she is strong-willed and thirsty for the monarchal power held by the King, but she is also a woman. The aforementioned qualities assigned to Queen Margaret are not typical qualities of a woman of the period, thus "Margaret and Henry represent the reversal of the natural order of male/female and husband/wife as well as subject/sovereign relationships" (Lee 217). This is not only true of their internal qualities, but...

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