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Summary Act 5

 

SCENE 1

Encamped between Saint Albans andd London, the Duke of York contemplates his rightful claim to England’s throne when the Duke of Buckingham’s approach forces him to pretend otherwise. Indeed, when Buckingham asks what the rationale is for deploying such a mighty force before the King’s doorstep, York replies that he has no other objective than to uproot the Duke of Somerset who, as far as York is concerned, is a traitor. Buckingham assures York that his concerns have been addressed; the King has imprisoned Somerset in the Tower. Consequently, York dismisses his forces and goes with Somerset to greet the King. Upon meeting the King, York apologetically explains that he had amassed his forces to oppose Somerset and to quell Jack Cade’s rebellion if it was necessary. Presently, Alexander Iden appears with Cade’s lopped off head, explaining that it was he who had vanquished Jack Cade. At Buckingham’s suggestion, the King knights Alexander Iden who vows to do all that he can to live up to the honor. At this point the Queen, in defiance of the King’s warning, appears with Somerset by her side. Incensed, the Duke of York repudiates his allegiance to the King and asserts that he himself deserves to be king. Somerset tries to arrest York for treason, but York summons his sons Edward and Richard to be his bail. The Queen summons Lord Clifford to have York’s bail denied. York, however, as another card up his sleeve, summoning the Earls of Salisbury and Warwick on his behalf. Incredulous, the King asks Salisbury how he and his son, who have given their oaths to King Henry, could turn their backs on their king. Salisbury replies that it was wrong of them to take those oaths on account of the truth which justifies the Duke of York’s claim that he is the rightful king of England. Thus the lines are drawn so that on one side there are the King, the Queen, Somerset, Buckingham, Clifford, and Clifford’s son, and on the other York, his sons Edward and Richard, Salisbury, and Warwick. An armed battle ensues.

SCENE 2

The Earl of Warwick is eager to square off against Lord Clifford who is nowhere to be found when the Duke of York appears to inform Warwick of how he and Clifford had encountered one another and of how they both managed to kill the others’ horse. Presently, Clifford appears. Warwick is eager to engage, but he is dissuaded from doing so as York insists on the honor. Thus York engages Clifford and manages to kill him. Meanwhile, Clifford’s son is lamenting the cruel, random nature of war when he finds his father’s dead body. Cursing York, Clifford vows to be cruel and merciless to anyone belonging to the House of York to the extent of instantly putting to death a baby were it of the House of York. On another part of Saint Albans, near an alehouse, York’s son Richard slays Somerset. Meanwhile, Queen Margaret urges the King to make a hasty escape to London where his popularity may save him and turn the tide against the York faction. Presently, they are met by Clifford’s son who is bearing his father’s dead body and who likewise advises the King to run and live to fight another day.

SCENE 3

The York faction has won the day, but York is reluctant to proclaim victory until the old man Salisbury is alive and well. York’s son Richard relates how thrice the old man’s life was on the very precipice of death but how on each occasion, despite Richard’s plea to retire, the old man plunged himself into teeth of the enemy. Presently, Salisbury appears. He is alive and well. He mentions that some of the enemy has made an escape. York remarks that the King has gone to London to lobby Parliament and that it would be good idea to head him off. Warwick agrees. 

William Shakespeare