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Summary Act 5

 

SCENE 1

Gloucester, the Lord Protector, agrees with King Henry VI that it would be wise for England to accept the pope and the Earl of Armagnac’s proposal which if agreed to would bind England and France to a truce. The King decides to accept the proposal even after being informed by Gloucester that part of the proposal entails the King taking the Earl of Armagnac’s daughter as his bride. When the pope’s and the Earl of Armagnac’s ambassadors, among whom in attendance is Winchester who is now decked out in a cardinal’s robe, are summoned for, the Duke of Exeter inly speculates, as Henry V had speculated long time ago, that Winchester will now think himself the King’s equal. Presently, the King commissions Winchester to deliver England’s agreement of the proposal to the pope and Armagnac. As the assembly disperses, Winchester vows that with his new position as cardinal he will eventually force Gloucester to submit to his will.

SCENE 2

The news that Parisians are up in arms against their English rulers is a source of encouragement to the French who have had cause to be discouraged what with the continued English opposition. Presently, a French Scout reports that the English have consolidated their forces and are determined to head off the French forces which are presently headed for Paris. Undeterred, Burgundy and Pucelle encourage Charles to meet the English head on. Charles decides to do just that.

SCENE 3

As the French retreat, Joan La Pucelle invokes supernatural spirits to aid her in defeating the English but to no avail. Indeed, the supernatural spirits abandon Pucelle, and she eventually finds herself a prisoner of the Regent of France York. Meanwhile, the Earl of Suffolk has not only taken Margaret, Reignier’s daughter, prisoner but has fallen in love with her. Margaret demands to be ransomed, but Suffolk makes a proposal: If Margaret consents to be Suffolk’s lover, then he will have her married to King Henry VI, making her effectively the Queen of England and France. She agrees to accept Suffolk’s proposal, provided her father will agree to it. Presently, Suffolk repeats his proposal to Margaret’s father (omitting the part about Suffolk taking his daughter as his lover) Reignier who can’t help but be impressed. Indeed, he accepts the proposal, and by and by Suffolk leaves for England, confident that he can persuade the King to take Margaret as his queen. As to making Margaret his clandestine lover, Suffolk is mad enough to risk it, so smitten is he with Margaret.

SCENE 4

As Joan La Pucelle is brought to the stake to be burned, an old Shepherd, who identifies himself as Joan’s father, laments for her daughter only to be repulsed by Joan who claims that the English had assigned an anonymous shepherd to be her father so as to deny her her true noble heredity. Indignant on account of her filial ingratitude, the Shepherd censures Joan and exhorts the English to burn her. The English are about to oblige the Shepherd when Pucelle wonders if the English would dare to burn a woman and her child, indicating she is pregnant. York surmises that if Pucelle is indeed pregnant then she is pregnant with Charles’ child. Pucelle denies that Charles is the father, however, and mocks the English, by asserting then denying that the father is Alencon, and then asserting again that the father is Reignier. Having had enough of her, the English decide to burn her regardless of whether she is pregnant or not. Pucelle continues to be defiant, however, promising the English that her death will only prove to be the Englishman’s bane. Presently, the Cardinal Winchester arrives with news of the King’s decision agreeing to a truce vis-à-vis the French. The news doesn’t please York who cites how far the English have suffered in terms of cost and lost lives and how they would be meaningless if peace was now agreed to. Warwick assures York, however, that the peace terms the English would impose on the French would make it worthwhile. By and by, Winchester spells out the peace terms: Charles must concede Henry as his rightful king, while accepting the title of viceroy for himself. At first Charles rejects the offer, arguing that his position as it stands is far more advantageous. But upon Alencon and Reignier’s counsel, Charles decides to accept the peace terms and swears allegiance to King Henry VI.

SCENE 5

Having heard the Earl of Suffolk’s praise of Margaret, King Henry VI decides to make Margaret his wife. Gloucester objects, wondering how the King could wed Margaret and not damage his reputation when he has given his word to wed the Earl of Armagnac’s daughter. Suffolk argues that Henry being a king can nullify an oath especially as Armagnac is only an earl. When Exeter objects, arguing that Margaret’s puny dowry would hardly make it the King’s worthwhile to marry her, Suffolk argues that a happy marriage has more to do with emotional harmony than the acquisition of wealth. Persuaded, the King orders Suffolk to go to France and fetch Margaret to Gloucester's intimations of things turning for the worse. 

William Shakespeare