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Scene by Scene Synopsis

Scene:  London, Northern England and France

Act I, Scene 1:  King Edward acknowledges Robert of Artois' defection from King John of France by making him Earl of Richmond. Proto-issues that will be played out in more sophisticated ways in Henry V arise concerning the French throne, which Edward considers his. The Duke of Lorraine arrives with a message from John of France, that for "lowly homage" (I.i.60) Edward may retain his dukedom of Guyenne. Otherwise it's repossessed, bud. Edward promises war and Lorraine has an outburst against Artois, whom he considers a traitor, before exiting.

Sir William Mountague brings news that the Scots have broken the peace treaty and King David has seized the castle of Roxborough, home of the Countess of Salisbury (the daughter of Warwick, who is also present) and her husband. King Edward plans war with both the Scots and the French and enlists his son Ned (Edward, the Black Prince, d. 1376). The Prince is enthusiastic.

Act I, Scene 2:  The Countess of Salibury, upon the walls, is disgusted with the Scots and her captivity: "Either to be woo'd with broad untuned oaths, / Or forc'd by rough insulting barbarism. / ... / And in their vild, uncivil, skipping jigs / Bray forth their conquest and our overthrow" (I.ii.8-13).

She hides as King David schmoozes with France through Lorraine and with the Earl of Douglas haggles over who will get the Countess and/or her jewels. A messenger brings word that King Edward and an army approach, so the Countess emerges and mocks the Scots.

The King, Artois, Mountague, Warwick, and others are greeted by the Countess and Edward is immediately lovestruck, or luststruck, as he reveals in asides. He is persuaded to stay at the castle, even though her husband is away in other wars.

Act II, Scene 1:  Lodwick, the King's secretary, realizes that Edward is interested in the Countess. The King comes in speaking the praises of the Countess' eloquence and enlists Lodwick's aid in composing a love poem:

For if the touch of sweet concordant strings
Could force attendance in the ears of hell,
How much more shall the strains of poet's wit
Beguile and ravish soft and humane minds?

Edward pontificates so much that Lodwick gets only two lines down, and Edward finds numerous faults with those. The Countess enters and Edward pitches woo, but the Countess works a kind of jujitsu on his verbal advances. Edward then finagles and pulls rank on Warwick to force him to persuade her, his own daughter, to become the King's mistress.

Warwick is naturally distraught, but he decides, "it is my duty to persuade, / But not her honesty to give consent" (365-366). The Countess is rightly dismayed at her father and the situation. Most interesting is the line: "Lilies that fester smell far worse than weeds" (451). This identical line serves as the last line in Sonnet 94!

Act II, Scene 2:  Derby reports to Audley that the Emperor is backing the King, and the two fret about the King's mood lately. Edward enters and Derby presents him with letters from the Emperor. Edward slips up, mentioning the Countess by accident. He renders an anti-drum diatribe and an "arms" conceit. The drumming is Prince Edward, and the boy's resemblance to his mother the Queen strikes the King with some degree of guilt: "Shall the large limit of fair Brittany / By me be overthrown; and shall I not / Master this little mansion of myself?" (II.ii.94-96). But news of the Countess seeking an audience with him makes Edward think of his wife as foul as compared to the Countess. She claims to be willing to succumb to lust but for the couple of impediments -- their respective spouses. Edward will have to murder his wife, and Salisbury must die too. Edward states that he is "awakened from this idle dream" (199) -- he is ashamed and praises the Countess' savvy. He immediately and energetically makes battle plans.

Act III, Scene 1:  King John of France speaks to his sons, Charles of Normandy and Philip, and the Duke of Lorraine about current events, calling those from Netherland "ever-bibbing epicures" (III.i.25) and the Dutch "frothy..., puff'd with double beer" (26). France is relying on Polish, Danish, Bohemian, and Sicilian allies. A Mariner reports the approach of Edward's ships. John and Philip eat bread and drink wine while the sounds of battle are heard. The Mariner brings news of the English victory: severed heads and limbs flew about.

Act III, Scene 2: French citizens discuss current events. One says that they should have prepared for this and admits that Edward has a legitimate claim. A woman recounts a prophecy about a "lion, roused in the west" (III.ii.42). A fourth Frenchman enters, telling them to flee. The two Edwards are conquering efficiently.

Act III, Scene 3:  King Edward pays off Gobin de Grey who helped the English cross the river Somme. He meets up with the Prince and laments that France has resisted his rule. King John meets with them and disdainfully offers a pay-off. Edward insists that he is not pillaging and not interested in mere money. Heralds bring armor and arms for Prince Edward and the nobles formally prepare him for battle.

Act III, Scene 4:  King John learns that his men are fleeing despite their outnumbering the English. A garrison of Genoaes, weary with their march from Paris, lost heart, and the despair has been contagious. "More in the clustering throng are press'd to death / Than by the enemy a thousand-fold" (III.iv.10-11).

Act III, Scene 5:  King Edward withdraws with Audley. Artois, Derby, and Audley sequentially alert the King to his son's peril, but the King insists that rescue would spoil the Prince, and he has other sons. It's rather startling. Ultimately, Prince Edward enters with the slain King of Bohemia and is praised and knighted.

Act IV, Scene 1:  Lord Mountford swears allegiance to Edward via the Earl of Salisbury. A French lord, Villiers, is brought in. Salisbury wants a passport through enemy territory for himself and his men from Charles, Duke of Normandy, so they can get to Callice (Calais) and join Edward, and Villiers will go free if he can procure this. It seems an unlikely trust, but Villiers vows and sets off.

Act IV, Scene 2:  Edward and Derby are beseiging the city and have cut off supplies and food. Six poor Frenchmen come along. Since they are sick or lame, the city has sent them out so as not to burden the food supply. Edward agrees to take care of them. Lord Percy brings news that Edward's Queen will arrive and that an esquire, John Copland, has taken King David of Scotland prisoner and insists on surrendering him only to Edward directly. The burgesses of Callice propose their surrender, but Edward demands that the six wealthiest merchants in the town come to him within two days in their linen with nooses around their necks and bow before him.

Act IV, Scene 3:  Charles of Normandy can't believe that Villiers intends to return to Salisbury and imprisonment just because of a vow if he doesn't cough up the passport. But Villiers is adamant, so Charles complies. King John gloats about their superior numbers, but Prince Charles recounts a prophecy about birds freaking out the army and flint-stones rising against them. But it's not like that could ever happen.

Act IV, Scene 4:  Prince Edward commiserates with Audley about how doomed they are. Three heralds consecutively bring harsh offers to the Prince, the last a taunting prayer-book from Philip with which Ned might prepare for his journey to the afterlife. Audley waxes philosophical about death.

Act IV, Scene 5:  John and Charles wonder about the weird atmosphere and Philip remarks on the clamor of ravens hovering over their soldiers. A French soldier escorts Salisbury in. John wants him hanged but Charles stands by his word and the passport he issued. Salisbury and his men are allowed to pass on to Callice and join King Edward.

Act IV, Scene 6:  Artois remarks to the Prince that the French are confounded by the ravens. If only we had more arrows. The Prince orders the English to chuck rocks (the flint-stones of the prophecy).

Act IV, Scene 7:  John, Charles, and Philip are panicked.

Act IV, Scene 8:  Audley is mortally wounded and asks to be brought to the Prince.

Act IV, Scene 9:  Prince Edward has captured King John and Prince Charles. Artois brings in Prince Philip. Audley is brought in and dies well.

Act V, Scene 1

King Edward reassures Queen Philippe that Copland will be reproved for not turning over his prisoner, King David of Scotland, to her. The six citizens of Callice enter. Edward suspects they might be faux rich merchants, but they are the real thing. His impulse is to kill them but the Queen appeals to his mildness and he agrees to master his passions. He sends them back.

Copland brings forth King David and speaks so well and honorably regarding his loyalty to Edward that he is knighted on the spot. Salisbury brings good news about the wars but last he knew it looked extremely grim for the Prince. Philippe and the King mentally prepare themselves for news of his death, with Edward vowing vengeance upon the French. But a herald brings news of the Prince's triumph, and Ned enters gloriously with his royal prisoners. King Edwards blames John's obstinance for the destruction on French towns and lives.

Prince Edward, whom we know will die before ascending the throne, speechifies, wishing all his scars and war-miseries

were now redoubled twenty-fold,
So that hereafter ages, when they read
The painful traffic of my tender youth,
Might thereby be inflam'd with such resolve,
As not the territories of France alone,
But likewise Spain, Turkey, and what countries else
That justly would provoke fair England's ire,
Might at their presence tremble and retire.

The King has the final happy words: the wars are over and they will all return to England.


To view other Edward III sections:

Main Play Page     Play Text     Scene by Scene Synopsis      Character Directory     Commentary  


To view the other Plays click below:

By  Comedies    Histories    Romances    Tragedies

All's Well the Ends Well Antony & Cleopatra As You Like It Cardenio Comedy of Errors Coriolanus
Cymbeline Edward III Hamlet Henry IV, Part 1 Henry IV, Part 2 Henry V
Henry VI, Part 1 Henry VI, Part 2 Henry VI, Part 3 Henry VIII Julius Caesar King John
King Lear Love's Labours Lost Love's Labours Wonne Macbeth Measure for Measure Merchant of Venice
The Merry Wives of Windsor A Mid Summer Night's Dream  Much Ado About Nothing Othello Pericles Richard II
Richard III Romeo & Juliet Sir Thomas More Taming of the Shrew The Tempest Timon of Athens
Titus Andronicus Troilus & Cressida Twelfth Night Two Gentlemen of Verona The Two Noble Kinsman The Winter's Tale


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