Edward IV

This page has information on Shakespeare's character of Edward IV. For information on the historical king click here.

The older brother of Richard and Clarence, and the king of England at the start of the play. Edward was deeply involved in the Yorkists' brutal overthrow of the Lancaster regime, but as king he is devoted to achieving a reconciliation among the various political factions of his reign. He is unaware that Richard attempts to thwart him at every turn

Edward first appears in Henry VI part 2 with his brothers George and Richard. He helps his father in the war effort after it breaks out. He is depicted as a good military leader, not a brilliant tactician like Richard, but an overall good leader. He makes a fatal mistake, however, that costs him both of his brother’s loyalty. In Henry VI part 3 Lady Elizabeth Grey comes to petition the king to receive her late husband’s land back. Edward’s lust for Lady Elizabeth leads him to choose to marry her, which is not a good political move for a king. The result is that he alienates a powerful ally, Warwick the Kingmaker, who was wooing the French princes as his bride. As Edward’s brother George of Clarence is married to Warwick’s daughter, he chooses to side with Warwick and leaves the York faction. Richard seems to remain loyal to Edward, but it is after this scene that we begin to see Richard plotting to get the crown. He sees his brother’s marriage as the act of an ignorant ruler. Historically this marriage lead to Richard seizing the thrown out of protection for himself, and the young princes as the Greys were a manipulative and power-hungry family.

Edward is depicted as a stalwart young man in the earlier plays, but by Richard III he is sick and is not long for this world. He is desperate to preserve the peace and broker agreements between old enemies in England. Ultimately he is so sick that when Richard brings word that Clarence has been “accidently” put to death by the King the shock kills him.

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