The Duke/Earl of Somerset is a significant character in William Shakespeare's play, Henry VI, Part 1. This historical play is the first installment in Shakespeare's trilogy about the famous English king, Henry VI. The character of Somerset is based on a real historical figure, Edmund Beaufort, who was an influential nobleman during the tumultuous period of the Wars of the Roses.
Somerset is portrayed as a proud and ambitious nobleman who plays a crucial role in the power struggles and political intrigues of the play. He is a staunch supporter of the Lancastrian faction, which is represented by King Henry VI. Somerset's loyalty to the Lancastrians is unwavering, and he becomes one of their most trusted advisors.
One of the defining moments for Somerset in the play is the Battle of St. Albans. This battle marks the beginning of the Wars of the Roses and sets the stage for the conflict between the Lancastrians and the Yorkists. Somerset's role in the battle is significant, as he leads the Lancastrian forces against their Yorkist rivals. However, despite his efforts, the Lancastrians are defeated, and Somerset is taken prisoner by Richard, Duke of York.
Throughout the play, Somerset's ambition and thirst for power are evident. He is constantly caught up in the power struggles between the nobles, particularly the rivalry between the houses of Lancaster and York. Somerset's ambition leads him to make questionable decisions, such as his involvement in the murder of the Duke of Gloucester, which further fuels the tensions between the factions.
Despite his flaws, Somerset is also depicted as a skilled and charismatic leader. His loyalty and dedication to the Lancastrian cause make him a formidable adversary to the Yorkists. He is known for his eloquent speeches and his ability to rally his troops in times of crisis.
In conclusion, the character of the Duke/Earl of Somerset in Henry VI, Part 1 is a complex and multi-dimensional figure. He embodies the political and personal conflicts of the time, as well as the ambitions and loyalties of the noble class. Somerset's role in the play serves as a reminder of the turbulent and violent period in English history known as the Wars of the Roses.