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Summary Act 4



The Dukes of Gloucester and Clarence are speaking of King Edward’s marriage to Lady Grey when the Duke of Somerset alerts them to the King’s approach. Taking notice of Clarence’s concern which is etched on his face, the King takes a survey of his lords’ opinions with regards his marriage to Lady Grey. For various reasons, everyone except Lord Hastings thinks that marrying Lady Grey wasn’t the wisest move the King could’ve made. Indeed, in addition to making an enemy of King Lewis, Clarence objects to the King’s decision to give Lord Bonville’s daughter’s hand in marriage to one of his Queen’s sons. Presently, the King assures Lady Grey, who is now Queen Elizabeth, that she need not fear the animosity that surrounds her when a messenger arrives with news which he is loath to deliver. The news is thus: King Lewis has proclaimed King Edward his enemy, Lady Bona has taken offense to Edward’s marriage to Lady Grey, and Queen Margaret and the Earl of Warwick have become allies vis-à-vis King Edward. Upon hearing that Warwick has pledged one of his daughters to be wed to the Prince of Wales as token of his allegiance to King Lewis and Margaret, Clarence decides to splinter off from the King so that he might claim Warwick’s other daughter as his own. Undaunted, the King dispatches Pembroke and Stafford to head off Margaret and Warwick’s forces’ arrival and procures Montague’s and Hasting’s word that they will stand by their King. Gloucester too swears his loyalty to the King albeit for an ulterior motive, i.e. to be close to the King in order to be close to the crown the acquisition of which is Gloucester’s ultimate goal.


Citing the support of the people who are aligning themselves with Warwick, the Earl of Warwick assures his men that things are going well when they are met by the Dukes of Clarence and Somerset who proclaim their allegiance to Warwick. Gladdened, Warwick pledges his other daughter’s hand in marriage to Clarence and tells his newly made allies of his plan to take King Edward hostage. On account of the darkness of the night which will provide good cover, and on account of the King’s lax security, Warwick is confident of success.


Three Watchmen who are assigned the task of keeping King Edward safely guarded discuss the current state of affairs which has the King making camp out in the open field while many of his followers are lodged comfortably in town. Watchman 3 can’t see the wisdom of doing this but Watchman 1 argues that as long as they do their jobs, the King will be safe and sound. Presently, the Watchmen succumb to Warwick and his men. The Duke of Gloucester and Lord Hastings get away, but the King is in custody. Arguing that King Edward has abused his authority and therefore that he no longer deserves to be king, Warwick removes Edward’s crown, proclaims him the Duke of York, and commissions Somerset to convey Edward to the Archbishop of York. Subsequently, Warwick and his men make plans to go into London and free Henry from the Tower.


Having heard of King Edward’s capture and of Warwick’s due arrival in London to free Henry, Queen Elizabeth, fearful for her and her unborn child’s lives (a child sired by Edward), decides to find safe haven lest she is taken prisoner by Warwick. Her brother Lord Rivers accompanies her.


The Duke of Gloucester, Lord Hastings, and Sir William Stanley manage to free King Edward from the Archbishop of York’s captivity as the King is being lightly guarded while taking his recreation with a huntsman in a wooded park. Subsequently, the King is told by Gloucester that the King will take asylum in Flanders. The huntsman joins the King as the alternative is to have his head chopped off.


Being freed from the Tower, King Henry thanks the Lieutenant of the Tower, who had made Henry’s stay there pleasant despite the circumstances, and Warwick for being the chief instrument of his emancipation. Presently, Henry announces his intention to resign from his official duties as King, delegating his governing authority to Warwick. Warwick objects, arguing that the Duke of Clarence should govern, but Clarence argues that Warwick should govern. Reluctantly, Warwick agrees to be Lord Protector provided Clarence agrees to join Warwick as England’s dual Lord Protector. Clarence agrees. By and by, the King asks his Lord Protectors to do one thing for him before they assume full authority: Reunite him with his wife and child Queen Margaret and the Prince of Wales who are still in France. Clarence assures Henry that that will be done. Presently, the King takes an interest in Henry, Earl of Richmond, a boy whom Somerset is doting on. In fact, the King is so impressed with the boy that he virtually proclaims Henry, Earl of Richmond England’s heir to the throne. Suddenly, a messenger arrives with bad news: King Edward has been freed from captivity and is being conveyed to Burgundy. As Henry and others retire for the day, Somerset and the Earl of Oxford, who’ve remained behind, decide to find safe haven for the boy Henry, Earl of Richmond lest Edward regain the throne, which he very well might, in which case the boy’s life would be in danger.


With the addition of forces provided by Burgundy, Edward has returned to England and seeks admittance to York the gates of which are locked. The Mayor of York explains that he serves King Henry now, and that he had been warned of Edward’s approach which is why the gates are locked. Edward argues, however, that he is the Duke of York and that he no longer seeks to be England’s king. Reluctantly, the Mayor admits Edward when forces of Sir John Montgomery is espied approaching. Gloucester rightly concludes that Montgomery is partial to Edward, but when Edward informs Montgomery that for now he is content to be the Duke of York, Montgomery withdraws his army, arguing that he would only fight on Edward’s behalf if Edward claims the crown. Though Edward is reluctant, urged on by Gloucester and Hastings to do otherwise, Edward proclaims himself king again and determines to wrest the crown from Henry. Consequently, Montgomery pledges his and his armies’ allegiance to Edward.


Apprised of Edward’s arrival in England with the backing of forces from Burgundy, Warwick dispatches the English peers to regions of the kingdom where they each will be able to assemble men on account of his influence and popularity. As for the King he is asked to remain in London. As Warwick and the rest of the English peers go their separate ways, the King confides in the Duke of Exeter who is worried of Edward’s popularity among the commoners. Henry argues that his kindness in addressing their concerns should incline the commoners more in his—Henry’s—favor than Edward’s when Edward and his men barge in and put King Henry under arrest. Edward proclaims Henry a usurper of the crown and orders him to be put in the Tower. Presently they decide to neutralize Warwick before he can consolidate his forces. 

William Shakespeare