Saturday, June 29, 2019

Edward III by William Shakespeare

Edward III by William Shakespeare 

For, from the instant we begin to live,
We do pursue and hunt the time to die: ~ Lord Audley

The Raigne of King Edward the Third commonly referred to simply as Edward III is a play at least partially attributed to Shakespeare. It was written late 16thCentury and concerns King Edward III of England, 14thCentury.

But in my opinion it is more about his son, Prince Edward, the Black Prince who is nearly as prominent in the play, and much more noble than his father.

The play has two distinct plots. Acts I and II concern a conflict with the Scotts, but are really about a dalliance Edward attempts. Acts III – V, cover an English foray into France. There is very little connecting the two plots. Edward does not come off very well in either.

In the first part, after putting down a Scottish uprising and rescuing the Countess of Salisbury, Edward is enamored with the Countess and attempts to seduce her. The Countess puts up a brilliant defense.
     But that your lips were sacred, my Lord,
     You would profane the holy name of love.
     That love you offer me you cannot give,
     For Caesar owes that tribute to his Queen;
     That love you beg of me I cannot give,
     For Sara owes that duty to her Lord.

When Edward persists, and determines to have the Queen and Count killed, so that he may have the Countess, she rebukes him
     Either swear to leave thy most unholy suit
     And never hence forth to solicit me;
     Or else, by heaven this sharp pointed knife
     Shall stain thy earth with that which thou would stain,
     My poor chaste blood. Swear, Edward, swear,
     Or I will strike and die before thee here.

That does the trick. Edward repents in shame and that’s the end of that.

Next, the English invade France – all part of Edward's belief that King John of France is a usurper and that he, Edward, is the rightful King of France. In this section of the play, Prince Edward comes to the fore and outshines his father.

The English advance along several fronts, and Prince Edward is hopelessly outnumbered, 8,000 against 60,000. Count Artois, urges the King to send reinforcements to the prince. Edward answers curtly
     Tut, let him fight; we gave him arms to day,
     And he is laboring for a knighthood man.

When an emissary from King John offers to spare Prince Edward his life if he surrenders, Prince Edward rebuffs
     I will not give a penny for life,
     Nor half a halfpenny to shun grim death,
     Since for to live is but to seek to die,
     And dying but beginning of new life.
     Let come the hour when he that rules it will!
     To live or die I hold indifferent.

Somehow Prince Edward prevails, but King John, ever haughty, complains
     They fortune, not thy force, hath conquered us.

Prince Edward replies
     An argument that heaven aides the right.

I liked this play, and would be very near loving it, but for one major flaw – the parts are so without transition; it hardly seems like a single play. But there is some great dialogue in each, (duh…it’s Shakespeare). 

It leaves me thinking it’s a shame Prince Edward never took the throne. (in true English history, he died before his father, but his son, Richard II did wear the crown.)



  1. I had not heard of this one, by Shakespeare. and it's not in my Complete Illustrated Shakespeare. But probably that is bc it is somewhat attributed to him. ??? Nonetheless, a great study of history, it may be. I'd like to read it one of these days.

    1. It isn't in many published "complete works of W.S." volumes. I'm not Shakespeare scholar, but as I understand it, it was not included in the First Folio...but now, many if not most Shakespeare scholars think he wrote at least part of it, and it is commonly mentioned in many lists of Shakespeare's plays. Regardless, it's very good, and I recommend giving it a read.

  2. Thank you for interesting post. The play might be too much for me to read. I will read King John, but have not yet started. Since it is quite difficult to keep track of all the English kings and queens, I looked up Edward III in David Loades excellent overview of the dynasties in England, 'The Kings & Queens of England, the Biography. '
    It reminded me that I have read a historical fiction on Alice Perrers, 'The King's Concubine' by Anne O'Brien, where you also get a good glimpse of Edward III. Troubled times indeed.

    1. I found this one easier to read than King John. Yeah, there are some...characters, putting it kindly, in the royal line.


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