“Henry VI”¯ is one of the most popular plays written by Shakespeare. Through the depiction of the historic figures in his play, William Shakespeare had managed to convey different ideas, depicted various characters and raised diverse themes which disturbed the author at the epoch and which proved to be eternal themes which are relevant even in the present epoch. In fact, it is important to underline that the author pays a lot of attention to all the characters of the play and slightest details which are meaningful and important. In such a situation, it is impossible to ignore even minor characters since they affect the general perception of the play and the adequate interpretation of the original message of the author. In this respect, the Duke of Suffolk is one of the most noteworthy characters of the play. Even though he cannot be associated with the major character, still he can hardly be associated with a traditional villain-like character. In actuality, this character is very complicated and he is not an ordinary person, but he directs his resourcefulness, strength and all his efforts on the achievement of the power, which is his ultimate goal. In such a way, the author uses Suffolk as the character which helps better understand such themes as treachery and hypocrisy and the impact of power on a man, which Shakespeare skillfully conveys using this character even though Suffolk does not play the major part in the entire play.
On analyzing the Duke of Suffolk as one of the characters in the play, it is important to lay emphasis on the fact that this character seems to be quite controversial, especially at the beginning of the play, because it is impossible to clearly distinguish whether he is a positive or negative character. His actions at the beginning of the play seems to be rather positive than negative since he readily assists the King and it seems as if he does his best to please the King. In fact, the first impression Suffolk produces on a reader may be quite positive because he looks like a loyal servant of his King whose only purpose is his service to the King and to his country, which he associates with his King. In such a context, it is hardly possible to speak about Suffolk as about an ordinary villain, which he actually is by nature and judging by his further actions. In fact, Suffolk has managed to skillfully hide his real intention and his goals. This is why, at first, it is impossible to identify him as a villain character. In contrast, he may evoke certain sympathy as he attempts to arrange the marriage of King Henry and Margaret since the only thing he seems to care about is the happiness of the King and the future of his Kingdom. No wonder King Henry is delighted with the marriage arranged by Suffolk.
However, in actuality, the true intentions of the Duke of Suffolk are far from perfect and innocent. What is meant here is the fact that Suffolk uses the marriage of the King and Margaret in his own purposes. This marriage allows him getting a positive image and trust of the King, who is naturally grateful to a person who arranged his marriage with a beloved and beautiful woman. Nevertheless, his true intentions are extremely base since, in actuality, he covets the beautiful Margaret for himself. In such a way, the author raises a very important theme, the theme of hypocrisy which he conveys through the image of the Duke of Suffolk. Obviously, this presumably noble man, the Duke and “loyal”¯ servant of his King, Suffolk proves to be highly hypocritical as he pretends to be willing to arrange the marriage for the happiness of King, but, in actuality, he pursues his mercantile goals. It proves beyond a doubt that there could be hardly a more awful hypocrisy than the one of Suffolk because he plays with the almost sacred feelings of people such as love.
Moreover, he uses the marriage as a tool to achieve his purposes and he proves to be a covetous person since he also wishes to have relationships with Margaret, whom he also loves secretly. Though, his love to Margaret seems to be as hypocritical as his desire to serve to his King and make him happy arranging his marriage. In stark contrast, his love to Margaret rather resembles a primary instinct of a man who wants to have a love affair with a beautiful woman. In fact, he does not really have any serious feeling or true love. Instead, he just wants to make love with Margaret. This is another proof of his hypocrisy since even in his love he is not totally sincere. He pretends to love Margaret simply to make love with this woman. Anyway, he seems to be unable to have such feelings as love.
In such a context, the hypocrisy of the Duke of Suffolk, who pretends to be a loyal servant attempting to make his King happy and secure the future of his Kingdom, almost reaches its apogee when it gets to be clear that he intends to use the marriage of King Henry and Margaret and his contribution to this marriage to exert his power over the King and Margaret. In actuality, this means that Suffolk has great ambitions and he is apparently dissatisfied with his role of a noble man. Instead, he wants to be more powerful. It is even possible to estimate that he wants to be a puppeteer who wants to use the King and his wife as puppets that means that he wants to be the actual ruler of the country. This fact uncovers his real intentions and proves that he is not a loyal servant at all. In stark contrast, he is a very ambitious challenger, who wants to get all the power in the Kingdom. He pays little attention to feelings and sufferings of other people. He is ready to destroy the happiness of other people, even if it is his King and Queen, whom he is supposed to be obedient and loyal. The Duke of Suffolk always strives for more power and, in this regard, his hypocrisy gradually evolves into a stronger and more serious sin, for, eventually, he proves to be an extremely treacherous person.
In this respect, it is important to underline the fact that William Shakespeare skillfully uses the role of Suffolk to raise the theme of treachery. In fact, Suffolk is one of conspirators and one of the major inspirers of the plot. He, along with other conspirators liquidates the Lord Protector, Gloucester, who is next in the line to the throne, forcing him to resign. Buy even after the resignation of Gloucester Suffolk is not fully satisfied. He insists on the imprisonment of the Lord Protector accusing him of treason, which was probably the most serious accusation he could ever think of. At this point, it is necessary to lay emphasis on the fact that Margaret is among conspirators and, in this regard, it should be said that the role of Suffolk in the involvement of Margaret into the plot can hardly be underestimated. They are scheming together but it seems as if the true inspirer of the schemes is Suffolk, while Margaret may be viewed as a victim of his schemes and his hypocrisy. In a way, it is even possible to speak about genius of Suffolk as a gifted conspirator and a person who proves to be able to involve other important people into the plot. Obviously, Suffolk, being a minor character, produces a profound impact on the major characters, such as Margaret, and changes their role in the play completely as well as he produces a profound impact on the life and fate of the main characters, such as Lord Protector.
Suffolk steadily strives for power since, in the course of the play, he gets rid of another successor to the throne, the Duke of York. But he cannot ignore Gloucester, who is still alive and, therefore, can be a potential competitor in his struggle for the throne and power in the country. This is why Suffolk decides to hire two men to kill Gloucester. Even though his only goal is power this act, the killing of Gloucester, an innocent person who has a right to have the power in the country, raises the problem of the impact of the power on a man. Obviously, in his desire of power, Suffolk gets totally corrupted to the extent that he commits the most serious sin from the point of view of morale of that epoch ”“ he orders to kill a powerful person, who could be a King some day. At the same time, it is obvious that the next person whom Suffolk would like to eliminate would be the King as the major “obstacle”¯ on his way to the overwhelming power.
In such a way, William Shakespeare uncovers the treacherous character of Suffolk and he underlines that this character is an extraordinary villain who uses his brilliant intellect to get the power but to achieve this purpose he has to commit crimes, such as murder and treason, and, simultaneously, maintain a positive public image, which reveals his hypocrisy.
Thus, taking into account all above mentioned, it is possible to conclude that William Shakespeare uses such character as Suffolk to reveal the importance of all characters and all details in his play. In fact, it is obvious that the role of Suffolk is not really minor in the entire play because he produces a profound impact on the main characters of the play, while his scheming may be viewed as an excellent example of the genius villain. At the same time, Suffolk personifies such themes as hypocrisy and treason, which occupy central places in the entire play. Hence, Shakespeare manages to raise and present major themes using minor characters.