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Summary Act 5



The hour is late, prompting the Bishop of Winchester Gardiner to advise his Page that now is the time for meditation and repose, and not idle pleasures, when Sir Thomas Lovell pays Gardiner a visit. Lovell inquires about the King, and being told that he is up playing cards, prepares to leave only to be detained by Gardiner who learns that Lovell is on his way to inform the King of Queen Anne’s labor pains which threaten to end her life. Gardiner wishes the baby well, but admits that he wouldn’t mind if Anne’s life was shortened, along with the Archbishop of Canterbury Cranmer’s and Cardinal Wolsey’s former servant Cromwell’s. Lovell speaks of his fear of speaking out against Cranmer and Cromwell on account of their having the King’s confidence, but Gardiner assures Lovell that he has already spoken out against Cranmer, and that come tomorrow, Cranmer will have his day of reckoning.

Meanwhile, the King, who is too distracted to play as well as he is wont to do at cards, dismisses his playing partner the Duke of Suffolk. Presently, Lovell arrives to inform the King of Queen Anne’s seemingly life threatening labor pains. As Suffolk leaves, Sir Anthony Denny appears to inform the King that the Archbishop of Canterbury Cranmer has arrived. The King summons Cranmer and dismisses Lovell and Denny.

Presently, Cranmer, who goes to his knees, listens as the King informs him that the Council has leveled serious charges against him, and that Cranmer will have to answer them come tomorrow. Cranmer replies that he is innocent, but that he will submit himself to his fate even if that means accepting a false condemnation. Exhorting Cranmer to give everything he has to prove himself innocent, the King gives Cranmer a ring as a token of the King’s support. Grateful, and in tears, Cranmer leaves.

By and by, to the objection of one of the King’s men, Anne’s friend the Old Lady appears to inform the King that Anne is out of danger, and that she has delivered a girl whose likeness to the King is striking. Subsequently, the King tips the Old lady and goes to attend to his Queen. Meanwhile, the Old Lady who feels slighted by the paltriness of the King’s tip decides to appeal to the King for a bigger tip—and now while it isn’t too late.


The King’s physician Doctor Butts apprises the King of how the Archbishop of Canterbury Cranmer is being maltreated by the Council members, of how Cranmer is being kept waiting outside the Council-chamber doors as if he were a commoner. Indignant, the King decides to spy on the Council members, to see for himself the extent to which they will abuse their powers.

Presently, the Council members admit Cranmer to the Council-chamber, and led by the Lord Chancellor, they accuse Cranmer of espousing and disseminating heresies for which they intend to confine Cranmer to the Tower. However, arguing that there’s no servant more faithful to the King than him, Cranmer objects and demands that his accuser step forth and accuse him face-to-face. Though the Earl of Surrey objects to Cranmer’s demand, the Bishop of Winchester Gardiner obliges and accuses Cranmer. The King’s secretary Cromwell comes to Cranmer’s defense but to no avail. The Council condemns Cranmer to be confined to the Tower, prompting Cranmer to produce the ring which signifies the King’s position on the issue. Consequently,the Duke of Norfolk and the Lord Chamberlain lament that the King has always been biased to Cranmer, and that Cranmer will be spared the Council’s verdict on account of the King.

Suddenly, the King emerges from his concealment. Frowning, he dismisses Gardiner’s blandishments and censures the Council for treating a man who is their equal as if he were no better than a commoner. Indeed, the King strongly urges the Council to embrace Cranmer as a brother. The Council agrees to do so. As for Cranmer, he is in tears, grateful to the King for vindicating his name and being asked to be the King’s newly born daughter’s godfather.


The Porter blames his assistant the Man for failing to bar the surging crowd from encroaching upon the grounds where the King’s daughter, who has just been christened, will soon emerge. However, on account of the crowd’s unruliness and size, the Man argues that they have done as well as could be humanly expected of them. Presently, the Lord Chamberlain appears on the scene. He takes the porters to task for a job ill done and promises that he will personally see to their public humiliation if the King blames him—the Lord Chamberlain—for the mess.


The Archbishop of Canterbury Cranmer informs the King that the princess has been named Elizabeth. The King thanks Cranmer and the godmothers Duchess of Norfolk and the Marchioness Dorset for their generous gifts. Presently, Cranmer delivers a speech, presaging Elizabeth’s glorious future. According to Cranmer, Elizabeth will be England’s glory, and that when she dies, she will die a virgin and be an honor to God. Enraptured, the King thanks Cranmer, and in honor of his daughter, proclaims the day a holiday.

The Epilogue is an apology for having performed a play that many in the audience will be less than satisfied with. It argues, however, that if any group will unanimously appreciate the play, then that group will be the women. And if the women like the play, the men will be bound to clap in appreciation at the end of the play, at the women’s behest. 

William Shakespeare