Act 1, Scene 1 Setting: London, a room of state in the palace
King Edward speaks with Robert Artois, an exiled Frenchman who has just been created Earl of Richmond, about the succession to the French throne. After the death of King Philip IV, all three of his sons reigned and left no issue. Philip's only other child was Isabelle, the wife of the former English king Edward II and mother to Edward III. The French claim that a Salic Law (a law that prohibits succession through the female line) would block the succession of Isabelle's descendants. Anjou, however, claims that Edward, being son to Isabelle, is the rightful heir to the throne over John II. This is all of the encouragement that Edward needs and he vows to take his rightful throne. The Duke of Lorraine then arrives with tidings from France: King John awards Edward the dukedom of Guienne but says that he must travel to France and swear allegiance to John, the rightful king. Edward claims that he will be visiting France, but as a conqueror, not a subject. Lorraine pronounces defiance to the king and is rebuked by all present, including his own countryman Artois, which causes him to draw his sword. Edward then gives his final answer (that they shall shortly make for France) and dismisses Lorraine. At this point, Montague arrives and brings news that, immediately after Edward dismissed his troops, the Scots invaded England and have already attacked several of the border towns. Edward hands out several orders to handle both the French and Scottish problems to end the scene.
Act 1, Scene 2 Setting: Roxborough, before the castle
The Countess of Salisbury laments on the miseries of being a captive of the Scots. When the Scots and Lorraine enter, she steps aside and listens to their conversation. King David talks of how the Scots will never surrender to England and will soon invade York. Lorraine departs to deliver this news to King John, while David and Douglas discuss who shall have the treasure of the countess, her jewels and her person. At this point, a messenger arrives and informs the Scots that the English have arrived to take back their towns. The countess comes out and mocks the Scottish for their arrogant words, while the Scots scramble and depart. When the king and his lords arrive, the countess is thankful for their rescue from the Scots. The final part of the scene consists of a flirtatious conversation between Edward and the countess which ends in Edward accepting the countess' invitation to enjoy her hospitality in her castle.
Act 2, Scene 1 Setting: The gardens at Roxborough
Lodowick, the king's secretary, is worried about the progress of the Scottish wars now that the king has become infatuated with the Countess of Salisbury. Edward himself then enters, delivers a speech on the virtues of the countess and asks Lodowick for pen and paper so that he may use his poetic skills to help him write a love poem for the countess. The king and Lodowick spend the next part of the scene attempting to compose the love poem, but Edward seems unhappy with its results and says he will write it himself. When the countess enters to check on the king, he pretends to be drawing up battle stratagems with Lodowick and then sends him off. When asked why it is he seems so sad, the king demands that the countess swear to do anything in her power to amend his sadness, which she agrees to. The king than reveals to the countess that he loves her, and the two engage in a lengthy conversation on love which ends with the countess gently telling Edward that they are both married, and therefore, it would be wrong for them to love one another. She then departs and Warwick, her father, enters. Edward then demands that Warwick will promise to do anything the he asks in order to amend his sadness. Warwick agrees, and the king asks him to intervene in the situation between he and the countess and ask her to be mistress to the king. The king departs, and Warwick, though reluctant, agrees to keep his word and speak with his daughter about the king's proposition. When the countess enters, Warwick tells her again of the king's proposition, and she is so upset that she claims she would rather die than be dishonored. Warwick is pleased with his daughter's honorable words and leaves her to make her own decision.
Act 2, Scene 2 Setting: A room in Roxborough
The Earl of Derby and Lord Audley discuss the upcoming war. Derby tells of how the Emperor of Almagne will help Edward in his claim to France, and he has come to deliver the news to the king. When the king enters, he is in an obviously sad mood and can only think of the countess as the two lords attempt to deliver their message. This confuses the lords, who then leave him to his thoughts. Lodowick then arrives and informs the king that the countess will give her answer to him before nightfall, which plunges Edward into yet another love-struck lament. At this point, Prince Edward arrives with news that he has assembled an army for the French expedition. When the king sees his son's resemblance to his mother, he regrets his feelings for the countess and thinks more on the war in France. When Lodowick reenters, however, with news that the countess would like to speak with the king, Edward dismisses his son, hates his wife and forgets, once again, about the war in France. The countess enters and claims that the primary obstacle to their love is still their respective spouses and that the only way they may have each other is if both the queen and the Earl of Salisbury, the countess's husband, are dead. Edward claims he will have them both killed if it means having her love. The countess suggests that he should kill the queen (and she will kill her husband) but then takes a knife and threatens to take her own life if Edward will not stop his advances on her. Edward agrees to stop his advances, recalls his lords and gives them various orders pertaining to the war to end the scene.
Act 3, Scene 1 Setting: Flanders, the French camp
King John of France, his sons and Lorraine discuss the English and how they are more than ready and willing to take on the French. Despite this fact, John is confident of a French victory because of the many allies (including the Danish and the King of Bohemia, among others) they possess, who are then showed into the king's presence. A mariner arrives and announces that the English navy has arrived and is already brandishing the French flag. John gives various orders to his lords and allies to prepare for war and is left alone with his younger son, Philip. Philip asserts that Edward's claim to the French throne means nothing because it is he, John, that sits on it. Meanwhile, shots are heard, and the naval battle begins. The mariner reenters and announces that the French have lost the battle. He then gives a description of the bloody battle, much to John's chagrin, who says they must now combine their forces in order to have a chance of defeating the English.
Act 3, Scene 2 Setting: Picardy, fields near Crecy
Several French citizens discuss the destruction of the French navy and the land invasion by the English. One citizen even says that he feels Edward, as the son of a French princess, has a better claim to the French throne than John, a more distant relative. A woman then tells of a prophecy that foretells Edward's victory over the French. Finally, another citizen enters and tells of the English invasion and how they are sparing no one, even killing many civilians, under the command of King Edward and his son, and warns everyone to retreat.
Act 3, Scene 3 Setting: Picardy, fields near Crecy
King Edward commends Gobin de Grace, a Frenchman, for his help in guiding the English army across the River Somme and says he will give him five hundred gold marks as a reward. Prince Edward enters and tells of how his army has conquered several towns since their arrival in France, pardoning those who surrendered and punishing those who fought back. The king is sad to hear of so many deaths and inquires of the whereabouts of King John. Prince Edward says the French king is awaiting the English with a force of 100,000 men at Crecy. At this point, King John and his train enter, and he harshly condemns Edward's actions, insults him and challenges him to retrieve the treasure he has brought with him. Both Edward and his son reply bravely to the French king, and insults are traded on both sides, before John delivers a rallying speech to his men and bids the English to do battle. Edward accepts the French challenge and arms his son the prince, who is about to participate in his first actual battle. The prince is properly armed and the men prepare to do battle.
Act 3, Scene 4 Setting: Picardy, fields near Crecy
The scene begins with a massive French retreat. Lorraine explains to John that a garrison of men that had just arrived from Paris, who were unhappy to have been put to battle so soon after their long journey, started fleeing and convinced others to do the same. John hopes he can convince some of them to stay. Meanwhile, Edward thanks God for giving his army the power to triumph over the French. He is then accosted separately by Artois, Derby and Audley to send help to rescue the prince who is in grave danger at the hands the French. Each time, the king rejects their requests, saying that the prince must fight for himself in order to earn his knighthood. The lords are saddened by the king's seeming lack of concern for his son, but they are reassured when the prince arrives with the body of the King of Bohemia. The prince describes the battle and is praised by all. He then says that King John has retreated towards Poitiers. The king then gives the order for the prince and Audley to pursue John, while he and Derby lay siege to Calais.
Act 4, Scene 1 Setting: Bretagne, the English camp
Lord Mountford, a Frenchman, thanks the Earl of Salisbury for his part in the death of Charles of Valois, his rival for the dukedom of Brittany. To show his thanks, he says he will swear allegiance to King Edward and gives Salisbury a coronet to deliver to the king at Calais. Salisbury accepts the mission but is worried that it is unsafe to travel through enemy territory. Villiers, a French prisoner, is brought in, and Salisbury says he will ransom him in exchange for a safe passage, under the passport of Villiers' friend Charles, Duke of Normandy, to Calais to see the king. Salisbury makes Villiers vow to turn himself back in as prisoner if he cannot guarantee him safe passage to the king, which Villiers agrees to.
Act 4, Scene 2 Setting: Picardy, the English camp before Calais
King Edward and Derby stand before the walls of Calais (which they are refused entry to) and basically say that they will starve the people out. Six poor Frenchmen enter and claim they have been cast out to save victuals for the people who are still healthy. Edward pities the men and rewards them with food and money. Lord Percy enters and announces the defeat and capture of King David of Scotland with the help of the queen. The Scottish king was captured by a man named John Copland, who refuses to give him to anyone but the king himself, much to the queen's chagrin. Also, the queen is set to depart England and join the king at Calais. A French captain enters and tells Edward that they will yield the town if they can keep their lives. Edward says that, since they refused his leniency at first, they can only have it now if six of the wealthiest men in the town come out dressed in ragged clothing so he may do what he pleases with them. The captain laments the fact that they did not receive any help from King John.
Act 4, Scene 3 Setting: The French camp near Poitiers
Villiers asks his friend Charles, Duke of Normandy, for his passport so Salisbury may safely go to the king at Calais. Charles refuses to grant this request, whereupon Villiers says, upon his honor, he must return as prisoner to Salisbury. The two argue about honor and allegiance before Charles agrees to grant a passport to Villiers. King John enters and claims that the French army has Prince Edward cornered and outnumbered. Charles tells of an odd prophesy he was told by a hermit that seems to give John the idea that the French will be successful in battle, and the two set off to attempt to capture the prince.
Act 4, Scene 4 Setting: The English camp near Poitiers
Audley explains to Prince Edward that they are surrounded and outnumbered on all four sides, but the prince remains optimistic about their chances in battle. A French herald arrives with word from King John: If one hundred men of name (including the prince) kneel before his feet, he will spare them; the prince promptly rejects this offer. A second French herald arrives with word from the Duke of Normandy, who offers the prince an opportunity to escape; the prince rejects this offer as well. A third French herald arrives from Philip, John's younger son, who offers him a bible to pray on; the prince tells the herald that Philip should use the book to pray himself. He then asks Audley for advise on the situation, who then advises him to prepare for death. The prince, still, remains optimistic.
Act 4, Scene 5 Setting: The French camp near Poitiers
King John and his son Charles discuss a sudden darkness that has come over the sun. John's other son, Philip, enters and tells of a large flock of ravens that has arrived. The king remembers the prophecy and claims the ravens are there only to feast on the dead bodies of the English. Salisbury is brought in as a prisoner, and John orders him to be executed immediately. Charles, however, informs his father that he granted him safe passage though France so he may travel to Calais. John is unhappy with this at first but is eventually convinced by his son to let the Englishman go free. The king tells Salisbury to inform King Edward that his son will soon be killed in battle.
Act 4, Scene 6 Setting: Poitiers, the battlefield
Prince Edward and Artois talk of the chances of an English victory and vow to win by using stones as weapons. The two depart and King John enters, distraught at the poor performance of his men, and recalls the prophecy that they shall be beaten by stones of their own land. Charles enters and tells of how the French are shooting each other down (those that are retreating are being shot down by those who stay and fight), followed immediately by Philip, who tells of the great losses the French have suffered. John vows to perform one last charge against the English and departs with his son. Audley enters, mortally wounded, and orders two esquires to take him to the prince.
Act 4, Scene 7 Setting: Poitiers, the battlefield
Prince Edward enters with King John and Charles as his prisoners, taunting them on his brave victory over a much larger army. Artois then enters with Philip as prisoner, who is also taunted by the prince. At this point, the wounded Audley is brought in, and he and the prince exchange some kind words. The prince rewards Audley's bravery with English lands worth three thousand marks a year, which Audley accepts - only give it to the two esquires who saved him. Prince Edward is content with this and departs for Calais.
Act 5, Scene 1 Setting: The English camp before Calais
King Edward and Queen Phillipa stand outside the walls of Calais and argue about the situation with Copland. Edward then threatens to invade the town when a group of French citizens appear and beg for mercy, which the king is reluctant to give. He claims he asked for the richest citizens to appear before him, and these men are not of rank. The French citizens explain that they are men of rank in shabby clothing. Hearing this, Edward decides to spare the town but says these particular men will be executed. Phillipa asks Edward to spare the mens' lives so they may serve him when he is King of France. The king agrees and sends the men on their way. Copland then enters with King David of Scotland as prisoner. When asked why he did not yield up his prisoner to the queen when he was ordered, Copland simply replies that he preferred to bring his important prisoner to the king in person. Edward is pleased by this answer and knights Copland. Salisbury enters and gives the king the coronet he received from Mountford and gives a long description of his capture and of the insurmountable odds he witnessed the prince facing. It is assumed by all that the prince has died in battle, until a herald announces the prince's approach with King John and his sons as captive. The prince presents his father with King John, and Edward reprimands the French king for his disobedience. John asks what his ransom will be and tells of how he misconstrued the prophecy he heard. Edward says he will think of what the ransom will be, but John must accompany them to England first. Prince Edward delivers a patriotic speech, and King Edward says they shall stay in Calais for several days to rest before departing to England to end the play.