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Summary Act 5



At Coventry, the Earl of Warwick consults various messengers as to the whereabouts of the Earl of Oxford, the Marquess of Montague, the Duke of Clarence, and their respective forces. Presently, espying an approaching army, Warwick infers it to be the Duke of Clarence and his forces arriving from Southam. However, he is contradicted by the messenger Somerville who notes that the army is approaching from Warwickshire. By and by, the approaching army reveals itself to be Edward led, compelling Warwick to curse it and defy it. Indeed, Warwick reminds Edward that it was he—Warwick--who had made Edward king, and that it is Warwick again who has made Henry king at Edward’s expense. Subsequently, Edward informs Warwick that Henry has been taken prisoner, and that it won’t be long before Edward will have Warwick’s head when Oxford, Montague, Somerset, and their respective forces approach and are welcomed by Warwick. Presently, Clarence, leading a mighty army, is espied approaching in the distant. Warwick welcomes Clarence, but Clarence, expressing remorse at having turned against his own, proclaims Warwick his avowed enemy. Emboldened, Edward taunts Warwick, daring him to engage in armed combat now. Warwick doesn’t shun the challenge. The armies will face off at Barnet.


Having mortally wounded the Earl of Warwick, Edward goes to find and kill Warwick’s brother the Marquess of Montague. Meanwhile Warwick, realizing that the Yorks have triumphed, reflects on his life which at its height was a bulwark on which the mightiest of kings have depended on but which is now mere food for worms. He is presently joined by the Duke of Somerset and the Earl of Oxford. Somerset laments Warwick’s imminent death, saying how if Warwick was well they would yet defeat the Yorks what with Queen Margaret’s arrival from France with a mighty army. Warwick for his part expresses his wish to behold his brother Montague, but when told that Montague has died, Warwick wishes Oxford and Somerset well before dying himself. Bearing Warwick’s body, Somerset and Oxford go to join the Queen.


Though having triumphed at Barnet, Edward advises caution on account of Queen Margaret who has arrived on England’s shores with a formidable army. Despite Gloucester’s concern that the Queen’s army when combined with the forces of Somerset and Oxford will equal Edward’s, Clarence is confident that a quick strike will prove decisive for Edward. To that end, Edward deploys his army to Tewkesbury where the Queen’s army is reported to be encamped.


Arguing that Somerset and Oxford can ably act in Warwick and Montague’s stead, and that they have nothing to lose what with seeking mercy from the Yorks would only lead to having one’s head chopped off, Queen Margaret exhorts her army to take courage and to face the enemy with equanimity. The Prince of Wales adds that any man who is faint of heart ought to go home as his lack of spirit may affect others at the most critical moment. Thus advised by a woman and a child, Oxford and Somerset argue that it would be an unbearable shame for any man to be anything but brave. Presently, a messenger arrives to apprise them of Edward’s army’s approach. The Queen exhorts her army to fight bravely as does Edward exhort his.


The Yorks having triumphed, King Edward orders that the Earl of Oxford be held in captivity and the Duke of Somerset beheaded. He reminds his men that the man who captures Edward, the Prince of Wales alive will be handsomely rewarded when soldiers arrive with the captured Prince. Presently, Edward, who is allowed to speak, defies his captors to the extent that they take turns stabbing him to death. Defeated beyond consolation, Queen Margaret begs her captors to kill her as well, but the King and the Duke of Clarence refuse. As for the Duke of Gloucester who would have gladly killed Margaret if the King would’ve let him, the King, noticing his absence, asks Clarence of his whereabouts and is told that Gloucester has repaired to the Tower most likely to kill King Henry. Presently, the King expresses the hope that when he repairs to London that Queen Elizabeth will greet him with a newborn son.


Having arrived at the Tower, the Duke of Gloucester dismisses the Lieutenant so that he may have a private word with King Henry. Henry wonders if Gloucester has come to kill him, compelling Gloucester to accuse Henry of being paranoid. Citing his son’s murder, Henry argues that he has reason to be paranoid. Henry then recounts the circumstances surrounding Gloucester’s birth—being born feet first and with teeth—that presaged an ill omen when Gloucester stabs Henry to death. Claiming that love is entirely alien to him as is remorse, Gloucester tells the dying King that as the omens are true killing Henry was the least he could do if only to assure that the crown stays in the house of York. Presently, Gloucester speaks of his dastardly plan to usurp the crown for himself. He will make his brother Edward fearful of Clarence and then kill Clarence to rid Edward of his fear.


Enumerating the brave adversaries who were overcome to reclaim the crown, King Edward speaks of his contentment as he has his brothers Clarence and Gloucester swear fealty to him and his new born son Young Ned. Clarence swears fealty but Gloucester does so only for show, vowing that Edward’s rule won’t last long if he can help it. Presently, Clarence addresses Margaret’s fate. Her father Reignier has offered King Edward Sicils and Jerusalem to have his daughter ransomed. Arguing that now is the time to enjoy the fruits of peace, King Edward orders that Margaret be returned to France and her father. 

William Shakespeare