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Summary Act 1

 

ACT I

SCENE 1

Having been introduced to Margaret by William De La Pole, the newly made Duke of Suffolk, King Henry VI decides to marry her and to accept the terms of the new peace treaty between England and France, which stipulates that England let Reignier, Margaret’s father and the King of Naples, to retain sovereignty of the duchies Anjou and Maine. The terms of peace treaty comes as a shock to the Lord Protector Gloucester, and when the King takes his leave, Gloucester speaks of the effort that went into making the whole of France England’s and of how the King is practically giving it all away now. The earls of Salisbury and Warwick and the Duke of York share Gloucester’s concern but Cardinal Beaufort (the Bishop of Winchester) suspects that Gloucester, who is next in line to the throne, is scheming to usurp Henry by whatever means possible and vows to prevent him from doing so. The Duke of Buckingham agrees to help the Cardinal, but the Duke of Somerset advises Buckingham to be wary of the Cardinal, that the Cardinal is the one who is guilty of overweening ambition. Presently, critical of both the Cardinal and Somerset, the Earls of Salisbury and Warwick resolve to do all they can to preserve the integrity of the state. Alone, York ruminates that he has the most cause to lament as the young King is giving away that which should be York’s by birthright and vows that he will regain his crown from the House of Lancaster.

SCENE 2

The Lord Protector Gloucester explains to his wife Eleanor, the Duchess of York, of his depressed state which derives from a dream that he had had wherein his status as England’s Lord Protector is supplanted by Somerset and Suffolk. Subsequently, the Duchess tells Gloucester of her dream wherein Henry and Margaret kneel before the Gloucesters. At first Gloucester is scandalized but he comes around to the idea that they were only dreams so that he has nothing to be worried about. Presently, a messenger arrives from the King, asking Gloucester to join him and his queen for an outing involving hunting with hawks. Gloucester decides to go and asks Eleanor to join him. Eleanor consents and tells her husband to go ahead, that she’ll be right behind him. Alone, Eleanor summons John Hum, a priest who is supposed to have facilitated a meeting between the Duchess and witch Margery Jourdain and the conjurer Roger Bolinkbroke, through whom the Duchess hopes to make her husband king. Hum assures her that he’s done his part, but when the Duchess, assured of Hum’s assurance, leaves, Hum discloses his pact with the Duke of Suffolk and the Cardinal Beaufort, a pact to undermine the Duchess’ aspirations.

SCENE 3

Petitioners are gathered to make their respective complaints to the Lord Protector when one of them, mistaking the Duke of Suffolk as the Lord Protector, approaches Suffolk who is accompanied by the Queen Margaret. Subsequently, Suffolk and the Queen become privy to all their complaints, which include a complaint against Suffolk for cordoning off public land at the expense of the Melford citizenry and a complaint charging one Thomas Horner, an armorer, of treason. By and by, as the petitioners are dismissed, the Queen complains to Suffolk of England’s state of government the rule of which seems scattershot; of her husband Henry whose studious ways makes him more fit to be pope than king; and of the Duchess of York’s insufferable pride. Suffolk assures the Queen that by degrees that the impediments to her sovereignty will be swept away but for now to league herself with the Cardinal if only to undermine Gloucester’s power when they are joined by the King who is currently undecided if he should appoint the Duke of York or the Duke of Somerset the Regent of France. Warwick counsels the King to choose York while the Cardinal and Buckingham argue on behalf of Somerset. When Gloucester argues that the King is old enough to make up his own mind, the Queen, Suffolk, the Cardinal, Somerset, and Buckingham take turns censuring Gloucester, arguing that his rule as Lord Protector has proven to be disastrous for England. Determined to keep his temper, Gloucester goes for a walk. In the interim, the Queen manages to insult Eleanor by striking her under the pretext of mistaking her for an impertinent subordinate, and when Eleanor storms off, promising the Queen that she will get even, Buckingham chases after her, determined to take advantage of her volatile state and undermine her completely. Meanwhile, when Gloucester returns to advise the King to select York the Regent of France, Suffolk summons Peter, an assistant armorer, who has accused his master Thomas Horner of claiming that the Duke of York is the rightful king of England. Horner objects and pleads the King to allow him to defend his honor in combat. Advised by Gloucester, the King grants Horner his wish and selects Somerset to be the Regent of France.

SCENE 4

Having assembled the conjuror Bolingbroke, the witch Margery Jourdain, and the priests John Hum and John Southwell, the Duchess of York has them work their magic and sorcery to summon a spirit that will predict the very fate of England. Thus the summoned Spirit pronounces that Henry has yet to overcome a rival duke, and that if that duke manages to supplant Henry, then that duke will die a violent death; that the Duke of Suffolk will die by water; and that the Duke of Somerset would do well to stick to sandy plains and avoid castles. Presently, the Dukes of York and Buckingham enter and take into custody the Duchess of York and all the people she has assembled. They peruse the predictions and wonder what it could mean. Presently, Buckingham volunteers to apprise the King of this strange goings-on. Meanwhile, York orders a servant to go fetch the Earls of Salisbury and Warwick. 

William Shakespeare