Scene by Scene Synopsis
Scene: England and France.
Act I, Scene 1: The Duke of York, his sons Edward (future Edward IV) and Richard (Richard III), and their followers discuss the first battle of St. Albans, with which Henry VI, Part 2 closed. Richard displays the head of the Duke of Somerset, whom he killed in the previous play. York seats himself on the throne, which is present for an anticipated meeting of the king's council. The king arrives with a retinue. He restrains his followers from seeking immediate vengeance on the Yorkists, and the two sides parley. York states his claim to rule, based on the proposition that Henry had inherited a usurped crown, taken by his grandfather, Henry IV, from Richard II, whose true heir York claims to be. The king counters weakly that Richard II had voluntarily given the kingdom to Henry IV. Lords Clifford and Warwick escalate the argument, and Warwick summons his hidden soldiers. The king, hoping to avert further violence, agrees to name York as his heir if he be permitted to retain the throne in his own lifetime. York accepts the offer and vows to refrain from rebellion. York and his men depart, satisfied. The king's supporters leave dissatisfied, expressing their disdain for the king's act. Queen Margaret and the prince of Wales. Margaret reviles Henry for disinheriting their son the Prince, and declares herself divorced. She and the Prince depart to continue the battle against York.
Act I, Scene 2: York's sons contend that he may properly seize the crown without violating his oath. Richard makes the case that the oath is invalid because it was not made to a proper monarch but rather to a usurper. York accepts this idea with delight and begins to plan a campaign. News arrives that Margaret's army of 20,000 men is approaching. York decides to engage the queen's army immediately, although he is outnumbered four to one.
Act I, Scene 3: At the battle of Wakfield, York's young son Rutlandis taken by Clifford, who declares that he will kill the child in revenge for his own father's death at York's hands. Rutland's pleas for mercy are ignored, and Clifford kills the boy.
Act I, Scene 4: York appears on the battlefield and describes the courage of his sons in a losing cause. As his pursuers approach, he realises that he is doomed. Margaret and the Prince appear, accompanied by Northumberland and Clifford. The queen mocks York for his failure. She further taunts him by giving him a handkerchief that has been dipped in Rutland's blood. As her mood grows increasingly vicious, she orders him beheaded. York responds with a long condemnation of the queen, and he weeps for the death of Rutland. Northumberland is moved to pity the captive, but the queen and Clifford stab York to death.
Act II, Scene 1: Richard and Edward, wondering about their father's fate, see three suns in the sky, which they interpret as an omen of success. News arrives of York's capture and death, and Warwick arrives with more bad news: the duke's forces have been defeated by the queen's. However, he assures the brothers that they can still achieve victory and install Edward as king.
Act II, Scene 2: Outside the walls of York, Margaret points out the Duke of York's head, which has been placed on the city gate; King Henry is dismayed by the sight. Clifford chastises him for being too soft, encouraging him to fight, if only for the inheritance of his son. Henry is unimpressed, arguing that evil cannot produce success. The Yorkist leaders arrive, headed by Warwick and Edward. Edward claims to be king and demands that Henry kneel to him. Margaret and Clifford respond sharply; Richard and the other lords enter the bitter argument. Henry is ignored by all. Amid a barrage of insults, the parley breaks up.
Act II, Scene 3: At the battle of Towton, Warwick, wounded and exhausted, seeks rest. Edward and his brother George enter and fear that the battle is lost. Richard arrives to report that Warwick's brother, slain by Clifford, had cried out with his last breath for Warwick to avenge his death. Warwick, reinvigorated, vows to return to the conflict and not rest again before winning or dying. Their morale restored, the brothers go back to the battle with him.
Act II, Scene 4: Richard and Clifford prepare to fight hand to hand, with declarations of intended vengeance, when Warwick arrives and Clifford flees.
Act II, Scene 5: King Henry, having withdrawn from the fighting, musingly wishes that he had been born a shepherd whose time passes uneventfully in the company of his flock. He watches a soldier carry a body from the field in order to loot it, only to discover that his victim had been his own father. Henry, unseen, shares the devastating grief of the Son That Hath Killed His Father. Another soldier, with another body and the same instant, discovers that he carries the corpse of his own son. Henry is likewise stricken with the horror that fills the Father That Hath Killed His Son. Margaret and the Prince enter in full retreat from the victorious Yorkists, and they take the king with them.
Act II, Scene 6: Clifford, wounded in the neck, regrets his own imminent death because he knows it spells disaster for the king's cause. He wishes that the king had been a stronger man, for the war would not have been necessary in that case. He faints just before Edward and his followers arrive, discussing their victory and wondering where Clifford is. They discover his body just as he dies; not realising that he is dead, they revile and taunt him. Once his death is apparent, Warwick orders that his head replace York's on the city gate. Next, Warwick says, Edward shall be crowned. Then he, Warwick, will go to France and arrange Edward's marriage to the French king's sister-in-law. Lady Bona. Edward agrees, conferring on Warwick the authority to act as though he were king himself.
Act III, Scene 1: At a game park, two Keepers come across King Henry. He is a refugee, having fled after the battle. The Keepers accost him, and, although Henry chastises them mildly for their inconstant loyalty, he goes with them to be taken into captivity.
Act III, Scene 2: In London, King Edward hears the plea of Lady Elizabeth Grey that her late husband's sequestered lands be returned to her. He agrees, but only on condition that she become his mistress. She refuses, and he, infatuated, declares that he will marry her. Richard, in a long soliloquy, makes a frank declaration of his intention to become king. He cynically analyses his own capacity for villainy, acknowledgeing that he will have to murder those who precede him in the order of succession.
Act III, Scene 3: In France, Queen Margaret explains her and her deposed husband's plight to a sympathetic King Lewis. Warwick arrives with Edward's proposal of marriage to Lady Bona, and Lewis, accepting Edward as king, consents. Then Edward's marriage to Elizabeth is announced. Warwick, furious at the dishonourable position this places him in, volunteers to abandon Edward's cause and ally himself with Margaret and the Earl of OXFORD in an effort to restore Henry to the throne. Lewis, seeking to avenge the insult to Bona, agrees to assist them, and an invasion is planned.
Act IV, Scene 1: George and Richard oppose the ill-considered marriage, but Edward insists that his royal prerogative negates all criticism. News of the impending invasion arrives. George's dissatisfaction comes to a boil, and he declares that he will join the rebels; he leaves, along with the Duke of Spmerset. Richard declares his loyalty to Edward, after an aside confirming his true interest—the pursuit of the crown.
Act IV, Scene 2: Warwick and Oxford have landed with the invasion force. They encounter George and Somerset and accept their alliance.
Act IV, Scene 3: Warwick's forces rout the Watchman in Edward's camp and capture the king, although Richard escapes. Warwick plans to march to London and reinstate Henry as king.
Act IV, Scene 4: Queen Elizabeth, as Edward's wife is now known, knows of her husband's capture. Pregnant, she proposes to flee to the legal sanctuary of a church to protect the unborn Yorkist heir to the crown.
Act IV, Scene 5: Richard and others help Edward escape from captivity.
Act IV, Scene 6: Henry, released from the Tower of London by Warwick and George, assigns his power of command to them. The young Earl of Richmond is present, andHenry acclaims him as a future king. Word arrives of Edward's escape, and plans are made against him.Somerset and Oxford take Richmond into exile abroad to protect him against the possibility of Edward's victory.
Act IV, Scene 7: Edward has arrived at York to find the city gates closed by the Mayor, who cites the town's allegiance to Henry. Edward contends that he claims only his position as Duke of York, and he is admitted. Montgomery arrives with troops to support Edward, but only if he resumes his claim to the throne. Edward agrees and makes a formal assertion of kingship.
Act IV, Scene 8: Warwick deploys various of Henry's supporters to raise troops and meet him in COVENTRY. They all depart, leaving Henry to be captured by Edward and Richard, who suddenly appear on their way to meet Warwick in battle.
Act V, Scene 1: Warwick, within the walls of Coventry, is besieged by Edward and Richard; he receives reinforcements from several noblemen. George also arrives with troops, but Richard persuades him to abandon Warwick and rejoin Edward.
Act V, Scene 2: At the battle of Barnet, Warwick lies wounded, meditating on the insignificance of his former power now that he is near death. Oxford and Somerset, retreating, tell him that the battle is lost and that they are going to join Margaret, who has an army in the field. As they speak, Warwick dies.
Act V, Scene 3: Edward, Richard, and George, triumphant, plan to march to Tewkesbury and fight the queen's army.
Act V, Scene 4: At Tewkesbury, Queen Margaret makes a stirring speech, and her courage inspires her followers. The Yorkist leaders arrive, and Edward and Margaret each make brief statements signaling the start of battle.
Act V, Scene 5: The queen and her followers are prisoners of Edward. The Prince defies his captors, insulting Edward and his brothers, and they stab him. Richard departs for London, stating that he has important business there.Helpless, Margaret rails against the killers other son.
Act V, Scene 6: Richard accosts Henry in his cell in the Tower of London. Henry reviles Richard for his villainy, predicting the future tragedy he will cause many people and referring to the evil omens that accompanied his birth. Richard kills him and accepts, in a soliloquy, his own evil nature, proposing to use his capacity for crime to achieve the throne.
Act V, Scene 7: King Edward rejoices in his resumption of power and delights in his son, the new Prince of Wales, and in the support of his brothers. Richard's dark asides demonstrate the king's naivete.
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