Act 2, scene 5 is a miniature masterpiece–its first 124 lines anyway. It begins with King Henry going to sit by himself on a hill, after his wife has sent him away from the battle. There he thinks over his unhappy life, wishing he were a shepherd.
Thereby to see the minutes how they run:
How many makes the hour full complete,
How many hours brings about the day
How many days will finish up the year,
How many years a mortal man may live.
When this is known, then to divide the times:
So many hours must I tend my flock,
So many hours must I take my rest…
Ah, what a life were this! How sweet, how lovely!
Then, at one door, a son comes in carrying a body.
Who’s this? O God! It is my father’s face,
Whom in this conflict I unawares have killed…
And I, who at his hands received my life,
Have by my hands of life bereaved him.
Then, at another door, a father comes in carrying a body.
But let me see: is this our foeman’s face
Ah, no, no, no, it is mine only son!
O, boy, thy father gave thee life too soon [readily],
And hath bereft thee of thy life too late [recently]!
Henry alone upon a hill. To one side, a son has unknowingly killed his father; to the other, a father has unknowingly killed his son.
Was ever son so rued a father’s death?
Was ever father so bemoaned his son?
Was ever king so grieved for subjects’ woe?
Henry VI, Part Three is (at least approximately) the third play Shakespeare wrote. Genius.