Henry VI, Part 3 is set in England, at the height of the Wars of the Roses. Richard Duke of York has won a battle against King Henry VI, who is married to queen Margaret. Entering Parliament, Henry finds York on his throne. A dispute ensues and in a moment of weakness, Henry agrees to make York his heir in exchange for a peaceful reign. But Queen Margaret is furious when she hears about the deal. She storms out to the battlefield. York decides to fight for the crown again. The opposing armies of York and Lancaster battle, and Lancaster wins. York is taken prisoner, and Queen Margaret torments and kills him. The following is the speech that York makes as he sees the enemy approach…
The army of the queen hath got the field:
My uncles both are slain in rescuing me;
And all my followers to the eager foe
Turn back and fly, like ships before the wind
Or lambs pursued by hunger-starved wolves.
My sons, God knows what hath bechanced them:
But this I know, they have demean’d themselves
Like men born to renown by life or death.
Three times did Richard make a lane to me.
And thrice cried ‘Courage, father! fight it out!’
And full as oft came Edward to my side,
With purple falchion, painted to the hilt
In blood of those that had encounter’d him:
And when the hardiest warriors did retire,
Richard cried ‘Charge! and give no foot of ground!’
And cried ‘A crown, or else a glorious tomb!
A sceptre, or an earthly sepulchre!’
With this, we charged again: but, out, alas!
We bodged again; as I have seen a swan
With bootless labour swim against the tide
And spend her strength with over-matching waves.
A short alarum within
Ah, hark! the fatal followers do pursue;
And I am faint and cannot fly their fury:
And were I strong, I would not shun their fury:
The sands are number’d that make up my life;
Here must I stay, and here my life must end.
Enter QUEEN MARGARET, CLIFFORD, NORTHUMBERLAND, PRINCE EDWARD, and Soldiers