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Summary Act 2

 

SCENE 1

Having enlisted the Duke of Austria’s aid on behalf of Arthur, King Philip of France urges Arthur to embrace Austria even though it was Austria who is known to have vanquished Arthur’s father King Richard Cordelion, a.k.a. Geffrey. Arthur obliges King Philip. Subsequently, Arthur’s widowed mother Constance likewise embraces Austria’s alliance.

However, when King Philip prepares his army for its assault on Angiers, one of the towns that France had demanded of King John on Arthur's behalf, Constance urges the French king to forebear ‘til they get definitive word of England’s reply to France’s demands. After all, if England has complied, it would be folly to spill blood to gain that which has already been gained.

As if on cue, the French ambassador to England Chatillion arrives on the scene. He has dire news: England has rejected France’s demands, and to that end an English army, comprised of every able bodied Englishman, including the dregs of their society, has already landed in France’ shores and will shortly arrive in Angiers to confront King Philip. King Philip is somewhat distressed by the news, but Austria persuades him that all is for the best.

Presently, the English, led by King John, arrive on the scene. King John urges the French to avoid resorting to arms as the English claim to Angiers is just and as an armed confrontation will end badly for the French. King Philip argues, however, that the French taking up arms on behalf of Arthur is a just cause as Arthur, being the son of King Jonh’s older brother, Geffrey, who was John’s predecessor to England’s throne, is the rightful king of England, meaning King John has usurped the crown. The dispute is then taken up by King John’s mother Elinor and Geffrey’s widow and Arthur’s mother Constance who each accuse the other’s son of being a bastard. When Austria demands silence and appeals to King Philip to come to a resolution, Philip the Bastard, joined by Blanch of Spain, mock Austria for presuming to be the better man to one who has proven himself to be mightier than a lion (Richard Cordelion).

The verbal wrangling continues between the two sides when King Philip decides to have the town of Angier be the arbiter. King John is the first to make his case. He argues that the French have deployed their army to take Angiers by force, but that the English have arrived to defend Angier from the French. King Philip argues, however, that the rightful king of England is Geffrey’s son Arthur and as Angiers is England’s rightful claim, it should open its gates to Arthur and the French forces. Subsequently, speaking on behalf of Angiers, Hubert de Burgh has this to say: That Angiers belongs to England is true, but that as the people of Angiers are unsure as to which side is actually England, they will bar the gates from both sides until it becomes unequivocally clear as to which side is England’s true representative.

Consequently, the English and the French engage in battle to settle the dispute. Heralds from both sides are deployed to Angiers to once again demand Angiers to acknowledge his side as England’s true representative, but once again Hubert replies that the gates of Angiers will be barred from both as neither side has given Angiers any reason to open its gates without fear of regretting its decision. Presently, Philip the Bastard makes a daring proposal: King John and King Philip should unite their forces to overcome Angiers. Then when Angiers is under their dual power, the two contending sides should decide once and for all which side is entitled to England’s throne. The proposal is agreed to on both sides, but as they make preparations for assaulting Angiers, Hubert offers a counter proposal. Why not make peace between the two contending sides by having King John’s niece Blanch of Spain wed the Dolphin of France Lewis? Arguing that adopting the counterproposal will strengthen their claim to the English throne, Elinor advises her son to accept it and to negotiate with the French now when they seem favorably inclined to it as well.

As it turns out, the Dolphin of France Lewis conveys his approval of Blanch. Indeed, he is enamored with her. As to Blanch, she gives her consent to be wedded to Lewis if her uncle King John would have it so. Thus it’s agreed that the two young people will be married for England and France’s sake; Blanch’s dowry will be the provinces Volquessen, Touraine, Maine, Poictiers, and Anjou. Yet there is one aspect of the issue that the two sides realize may not be so easily resolved: Arthur’s mother Constance who is currently sulking in her tent. Consequently, King John resolves to make her son Arthur the Duke of Britain and the Earl of Richmond if only to sweeten the pill.

Meanwhile, Philip the Bastard cannot believe that the two sides have resolved their difference by compromising. Whatever happened to principle? Seeing as how the kings of England and France have taken the easy way out and all for personal gain, Philip the Bastard decides to do likewise. He will look out for number one and only number one from now on. 

William Shakespeare