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Summary Act 2



When the King praises the Lord Protector Gloucester for how high his hawk had soared in catching its prey, the Duke of Suffolk, the Cardinal Beaufort, and even Queen Margaret insinuate that Gloucester’s hawk’s lofty climb is a reflection of its master’s treacherous ambitions. The King puts a stop to the bickering, but covertly, between themselves, the Cardinal and Gloucester continue bickering to the point of appointing when and where they will face off against one another with swords. Sensing the continued strife, the King tries again to defuse the situation when a townsman appears shouting about a miracle. The townsman explains that one Saunder Simpcox, who was born blind, has suddenly and inexplicably gained his eyesight. Presently, Simpcox, who is seated as if on a palanquin and is accompanied by his wife, the Mayor of Saint Albans, and others, is brought before the King. Suspecting fraud, Gloucester interrogates Simpcox and concludes that Simpcox was never blind or paraplegic as he claims that he was and is. And to prove his point, Gloucester has the Mayor of Saint Albans summon a beadle who proceeds to whip Simpcox. Sure enough, Simpcox, who objects, gets up and runs away after sustaining a lash of the whip. Gloucester orders Simpcox and his crew to be whipped all throughout England until they are driven to their home in Berwick after which he resumes his quarrel with the Cardinal. Presently, the Duke of Buckingham arrives with news that dispirits Gloucester. Gloucester’s wife Eleanor has been taken into custody for consorting and conspiring with a witch and a conjuror, against the King.


As the Earls of Salisbury and Warwick listen, the Duke of York explains why he believes he should be the king of England. By law, the eldest male descendent of the eldest heir has exclusive rights to the throne. The current king’s lineage derives from John of Gaunt, the Duke of Lancaster who was fourth in line to the throne when Edward the Third died. However, through his mother Anne, York’s lineage derives from Lionel, the Duke of Clarence who was third in line to the throne once Edward the Third died. So by law York should be king. Both Salisbury and Warwick agree that York has a legitimate case. Indeed they pledge their allegiances to York. York advises them, however, to keep all of this a secret for the time being as their time will come when Suffolk, the Cardinal, and Buckingham, all obstacles to the crown, will undo themselves in their collective attempt to undermine the good Duke of Gloucester.


The conspirators against the King are sentenced thus: The witch will be burned, the conjuror hanged, and the Duchess of York banished. Despondent, the Duke of Gloucester excuses himself and is on the verge of leaving only to be summoned back and told the following: Gloucester will no longer need to be England’s Lord Protector as the King is now mature enough to discharge his duties on his own. Gloucester willingly resigns. Meanwhile the Duke of Suffolk and Queen Margaret are applauding this latest of developments when the Duke of York draws everyone’s attention to the duel of honor that will presently take place between Thomas Horner and Peter Thump. The respective supporters of Horner and Peter wish them well. Presently, they fight and contrary to expectations, Peter who was convinced that he wouldn’t live to see another day, triumphs. Subsequently, Horner admits his guilt of proclaiming York the rightful King of England before dying of his wounds. Peter is exonerated.


With his tears flowing, the Duke of Gloucester witnesses the Duchess of Gloucester being led through the streets of England to the commoner’s jeers and insults. When the Duchess sees her husband, she urges him to remove himself from the scene of abuse which he is presently exposing himself to by being with her. Gloucester assures her, however, that all of this will be forgotten soon enough, but the Duchess is inconsolable. She explains that she will always remember who she is and how far she has fallen, and she urges her husband to be unyielding to her foes who are many and who will eventually find a way to have him killed. Gloucester assures her, however, that his best defense is to be true and loyal, and as he is true and loyal she has nothing to worry about on his account. Presently, the King’s herald appears with a summons: Gloucester is to report to Parliament. Before leaving his wife for good, Gloucester has a word with Sir John Stanley who is to convey the Duchess to the Isle of Man and keep her there in custody: be good to the Duchess and one day Gloucester may do a good turn for Stanley. As husband and wife go their separate ways, the husband can only cry while the wife laments her fate. 

William Shakespeare