Edward IV and his lords are wandering through France and awaiting the armies of their supposed allies, the Duke of Burgundy and the Count St. Pol (constable of France), when Lord Scales arrives and informs the royal party that they should not expect their aid. Burgundy is hopelessly besieging a castle in German territory, while the count is with his men at the taverns of St. Quentin, laughing at the English king's foolish expedition. The king, however, is surprisingly optimistic, claiming that the English army is strong enough to take on the French on its own. He then gives orders to his herald to deliver a message to King Lewis XI stating that he should prepare for war.
The English herald meets with Lewis XI of France and his lords to deliver the message from Edward IV that war is imminent between their two countries if the French king will not comply with his terms. Despite the heralds firm and harsh words, Lewis responds gently, saying that he wants nothing but peace with England and that King Edward was only spurred on to this expedition through the cajoling of Burgundy and the traitorous Count St. Pol. Lewis goes on to say that he will give three hundred crowns and thirty yards of valuable velvet fabric for the herald to deliver the message of peace to Edward IV and a thousand crowns shall follow if he agrees to terms of peace and a league between their two countries. The herald is happy with this response and departs back to his king. After his departure, Bourbon and St. Pierre both advice Louis that he has done the right thing by making peace with the English because their country is still recovering from the lengthy Hundred Years War and does not need another enemy when they are already forced to deal with Burgundy. To end the scene, Lewis assigns Monsieur Mugeroun the task of acting as herald in the peace negotiations between England and France, a task he willingly accepts.
The Duke of Burgundy and the Count of St. Pol meet, and each of them immediately knows that the other has no intention of giving aid to Edward IV in his ambitions for the French crown. Although they say they shall remain allies to one another, they reveal (through asides) that they mean to do their best destroy each other.
Edward IV reprimands Burgundy, who has finally joined him (though without his army), for breaking his oath and meeting with him four months after he said he would. Burgundy does his best to excuse himself (by bringing up the siege he was taking part in), but the king will not hear him. As the English army is approaching St. Quentin, where St. Pol is located, St. Pol's men attack, via cannon, killing two soldiers and wounding Lord Scales. As Lord Scales is being carried to the tents for medical attention, Burgundy slips away. Howard goes with part of the army towards the city, and seeing this and wanting to avoid a battle, St. Pol surrenders and is taken to King Edward to explain his actions. He says that he believed the English army to be Lewis XI and his troops and offers the king thirty thousand crowns for the damage. Edward IV does not believe a word that St. Pol says but will forgive him for a hefty price of various merchandise and for the assistance of his army and that of Burgundy. Mugeroun then enters with the offer of peace from Lewis XI, which Edward IV is convinced by his lords to accept in exchange for a large cash payment (as well as annual homage payments for the duration of Edward's life). The king sends Mugeroun back to Lewis, with a valuable gold cup, to bring him the news that he is willing to negotiate a peace treaty. Finally, Edward IV orders Sellinger and Howard to disguise themselves and spy on the respective armies of Burgundy and St. Pol to find out information on whether they actually intended to send their armies to assist the English and their opinions on the English league with France. The scene ends with Lewis XI approaching for his meeting with Edward IV.
Edward IV and Lewis XI meet to conclude the terms of the peace treaty between their two countries. Despite Bourbon's objections, Lewis agrees to the cash payments discussed in the previous scene and to acknowledge Edward IV as the rightful King of France (a title that Edward immediately gives back to Lewis). The men go to feast in the English tent to celebrate the treaty.
Sellinger and Howard tell Burgundy and St. Pol, respectively, about the peace between Edward IV and Lewis XI, much to the chagrin of both men. In separate conversations with the disguised Englishmen, the duke and count accuse each other once again of plotting against one another. When the English leave, they bring these accusations into the open and part ways angrily.
Sellinger and Howard report back to Edward IV and Lewis XI about the angry reactions of Burgundy and St. Pol before messengers from both men arrive separately. As Lewis XI hides himself away (but can still hear the conversation) the respective messengers from Burgundy and St. Pol both attempt to win back Edward IV's trust and to join forces with them against the other. A messenger then enters for Lewis XI and asks him to join forces with Burgundy and St. Pol against Edward IV (despite the fact that the previous messengers reported that the nobles wanted Lewis dead). Edward IV finally reveals the messengers to each other and exposes the deceitfulness of their masters, but since they are mere messengers, he does nothing to punish them. He then tells Lewis XI that he will leave five thousand of his troops behind to aid the French king against his dissenting nobles, and he and the rest of his men will return to England.
The chorus explains that Edward IV has returned home to England and that Lewis XI, shortly after, punished his enemies for their treachery. At this point, the story will switch back to the Shores. Matthew Shore has been abroad and has now returned home to see his friends and to hope his wife is dead.
Jane Shore and Jockie, her man, are visiting local prisons and hospitals, for charity work, when they are approached by Sir Robert Brackenbury, who asks if Jane can help save a kinsman of his, Captain Harry Stranguidge, who has been arrested (along with his entire crew) for capturing a French ship after the pact between France and England had been sealed. Obviously, he was unaware of the pact, but he and his men were, nevertheless, taken to prison to await possible execution. Jane says she will do her best to save the men, and they are brought before her. One of the men happens to be Jane's estranged husband, Matthew Shore (merely a passenger on the ship), who is heartbroken to see his wife and does his best to avoid her noticing him. With the king still out of the country, Jane claims there is only so much she can do, but will still use every ounce of influence she has to save the mens' lives. Stranguidge tells Jane that Edward IV has already landed in England, but events are complicated when the the Marquess of Dorset (son to Queen Elizabeth from her first marriage and, therefore, a stepson of Edward IV) enters and says the queen wishes to have Jane brought before her. Despite Jane's pleadings, she is taken away by Dorset. Stranguidge and his men now ready themselves for death, and Brackenbury departs to court to see what happens to Jane. Shore is left alone and delivers a sad soliloquy telling of his pity for his former love and how he still harbors some feelings for her.
Dorset brings Jane before Queen Elizabeth, and despite some pitiful asides towards her husband's mistress, the queen delivers some harsh words towards her rival. Jane acts with all humility and begs the queen to do whatever she needs to punish her. Dorset urges his mother to kill Jane but is dismissed. As soon as he leaves, the queen falls on her knees and kisses Jane, saying that she understands the weakness of the female sex and that she was seduced by her husband. The queen vows for them to be friends from now on when an angry Edward IV enters with Brackenbury to find his wife and his mistress as friends. Jane begs the king to honor his queen and dismiss herself from court before the two women begin to press the suit of mercy against Stranguidge and his men. However, the king ends the scene by saying that it would be dishonorable for him to break his word with the French and that all men on board the ship must die, including Shore.
Edward IV's two brothers, George and Richard (the Dukes of Clarence and Gloucester respectively) talk with Dr. Shaw about a certain prophecy that has been worrying the king, who is supposedly sick, about one who's name begins with the letter G who will seize the throne from Edward's children. Clarence is the one who is most worried, being that his name is George, but Gloucester attempts to reassure him, saying that it very well could be himself, considering the first letter of his dukedom is also G. All the while, through these reassurances, Gloucester is secretly hopeful that his brother and nephews die and means to do all he can to make that happen. Gloucester says he will plead Clarence's case with the king, but once Clarence departs, his brother plots his downfall with Shaw, urging the doctor, who is Edward IV's confessor, to assure the king that it is indeed Clarence who is plotting against his throne. Shaw says he will make the king aware of this just after he receives the confessions of Stranguidge and his men, who are condemned to die. Gloucester ends the scene with a soliloquy, telling of his ambitions to wear England's crown.
Brackenbury pleads with Vaux one last time to save his kinsman Stranguidge and his men, but Vaux informs him that the king will not bend in the matter; the men are also accused of the murder of the Duke of Exeter, who's body was found at sea. The condemned men are led in with Doctor Shaw (Shore is disguised as Flood), and the chaplain attempts to get a confession out of the men. However, they all deny that they knew anything at all about the league between England and France or the duke's murder. Just as the men are being led to their place of execution, Jockie arrives with news that the king has decided to pardon the men based on the pleadings of Jane Shore. Jane herself arrives shortly after with the pardons, and the men are set free with their immense thanks to the royal mistress, who then asks Brackenbury to commend her to Clarence, who is now a prisoner in the tower. Unfortunately, a messenger than enters with news that the king is gravely ill and is asking for Jane to come to his presence. Jane departs to be with the king, and all present are alarmed at what may happen if Edward dies. To end the scene, Brackenbury invites Stranguidge and Shore to be his guests in the tower (of which he is lieutenant), an offer they kindly accept. Shore does so to keep an eye on the activities of his wife.
Doctor Shaw tells Lord Lovell, an ally of Gloucester's, that Clarence is sick in the tower and must attend him. Lovell, however, knows that Clarence has been drowned in a butt of malmsey wine and that Shaw, who with Gloucester is responsible for the murder, is only trying to cover his tracks. Shaw then goes on to say that, once Edward IV is dead, he will bastardize his children (to prevent them from inheriting the throne), most likely have them killed and help place Gloucester on the throne. Catesby, another of Gloucester's allies, enters and informs the men that Edward IV has died and that Gloucester has been made Lord Protector of the realm over the new underage king. Jane Shore then enters, sadly, with Jockie, confirms the news of the king's death and tells of how she and the queen have been dismissed from court by Gloucester. The men go to wait on the new Lord Protector, and Jane has Jockie make arrangements for her to stay with her friend, Mistress Blage, in her tavern in London.
Brackenbury talks with Shore about the upcoming arrival of the royal princes, Edward and Richard (both sons of the late Edward IV) and how he has his suspicions against their uncle Gloucester. Shore reassures the lieutenant of the tower that the children will be under his watch, and therefore, they should suffer no harm. Brackenbury is agreeing with this theory when Gloucester, his followers and the princes arrive at the tower. The princes are hesitant to stay there because of the fact that it doubles as a prison, one that their uncle Clarence never left. Gloucester, however, makes it known that it is also a royal palace, and they seem to be content with this. After the princes have departed, Gloucester meets with one James Tyrrell, whom he hires to murder his nephews with the utmost secrecy.
Jane Shore arrives at her friend Mistress Blage's house and informs her hostess that she will be staying with her for awhile. Blage welcomes Jane with open arms and reminds her that she had helped her settle a land dispute with the king, greatly helping her financial state. The two women then wonder if Jane's husband Matthew is still alive, but conclude that he has most likely passed.
James Tyrrell and his two men, Forest and Dighton, arrive at the tower and present Brackenbury with a warrant signed by Gloucester to give them time alone in the tower. Brackenbury knows exactly what purpose they are there for (to murder the princes) but knows he is powerless to stop them. Shore, who is also present, tells the murderers he does not trust them and engages in a knife fight with them which ends in Shore being wounded in his arm. The murderers depart and Shore goes off to Mistress Blage's house to seek medical attention. Brackenbury says he will find him there and deeply suspects that he shall never see the princes alive again.
The two princes ready themselves for bed in the tower (suspecting their time is short) before Tyrrell, Forest and Dighton enter to perform the heinous act they were hired for. Forest and Dighton murder the princes and are each seen carrying one of their corpses away. All three men are immediately repentant for the vile deed they have committed.
Shore, still disguised as Flood, arrives at the house of Mistress Blage and is treated medically there by his former wife, who seems to have a vast knowledge of medicine. Brackenbury then arrives to check on the patient and informs Jane that Gloucester, who is now king, has issued a proclamation that anyone who provides her with sanctuary shall be declared a traitor to the crown. Jane is devastated by this news but knows that her good friend Mistress Blage will remain loyal to her and continue to provide her with a place to live. However, in a surprise mood change, Blage wants nothing to do with the traitor Jane and orders her to leave her house. In addition, she will keep all the treasure that Jane brought with her, supposedly in order to pay for the food she ate while she stayed there. Two apparitors then arrive and arrest Jane in the king's name and tell her that she must walk across the entire length of London, barefoot, carrying a burning taper. Mistress Blage, who is now triumphing for becoming richer through Jane's treasure, is then arrested by Catesby, who arrives shortly after. All the while, Shore has been witnessing what has been happening and vows to give aid to the woman he once loved.
Dr. Shaw is revealing his guilt over the speech he delivered which bastardized Edward IV's children and place Gloucester on the throne when he is visited by the ghost of the deceased friar Anselm, the man who created the "G" prophecy that resulted in the death of Clarence. Anselm reprimands Shaw for misinterpreting his prophecy (which was meant to be for Gloucester, not Clarence) and for delivering the speech that put Gloucester on England's throne. Despite Shaw's repeated defense that he was forced to do what he did by Gloucester, Anselm informs him that he and all those who aided Gloucester in his wicked schemes shall be punished for their sins through imminent death. A messenger then arrives and tells Shaw that the king wishes to confess to him. Anselm then tells Shaw to tell the king that he has only three years to live, before telling Shaw himself to end his life after he delivers this news.
The two apparitors finish disgracefully walking Jane through the streets of London and leave her to starve and be miserable (though she knows they only do what the king orders). Jane then delivers a lengthy soliloquy lamenting her fall from grace before Brackenbury (who has resigned his post as lieutenant of the tower) arrives to deliver Jane some food and a book of prayers, despite the law that forbids anyone from helping her. When he departs, two men, Master Aire and Rufford, enter. Apparently, Jane had given aid to Aire when he was on the point of being put to death and, therefore, would like to help her in return. However, Rufford (a former suitor whose suit was turned down by Jane) has no problem openly mocking Jane and calling her a whore. Aire comes to Jane's rescue and reprimands Rufford for his harsh words before Mistress Blage, who is now just as poor as Jane is, enters and asks for some charity from the men. Rufford declines her request and departs to report Aire for giving assistance to Jane (he had already given her some money). Aire also refuses to help Blage, but for betraying her friend. Jane, however, welcomes her old friend with open arms and even offers to share the food Brackenbury gave her, much to the joy of Mistress Blage. Master Shore then enters, still disguised, and gives food and wine to his wife, but refuses to reveal his name, and departs. Jane and Mistress Blage sit to eat, while Rufford and Fogge enter. Rufford has pressed his suit to the king and had it granted (falsely, considering the bill he is holding is a counterfeit) in exchange for guarding Jane, with several soldiers at his command, and apprehending anyone who provides her with aid. Jane's man Jockie then enters, with his friend Jeffrey, and the two men both pretend to play at bowls as they give food to Jane. However, Rufford sees what is going on and has both men arrested on the spot. Next Aire comes in to provide Jane with further financial aid, but is immediately arrested when he does so. Finally, Shore comes forward and chastises Rufford for his unsympathetic actions towards Jane and vows to report him to the king. Rufford has no problem with this and is taken, with Aire, to see King Richard. Jane ends the scene by lamenting that innocent men will die simply for offering her succor.
Shore and Aire are brought before King Richard and his followers to answer for their crimes but will not admit they committed any. Aire says he was only repaying Jane for saving his life, but the king cares not and orders him to be hanged. Shore then goes to answer the charges he is accused of by Rufford but ends up turning the table on the villain by accusing him of writing a scathing libel about the king and his closest advisers. Rufford denies any knowledge about the libel (which was, of course, invented by Shore), but is searched nonetheless. The counterfeit bill that he designed for his suit (which involved selling food and leather to England's enemies) is found on his person, and he is immediately arrested and sentenced to die. However, Richard still says that Shore will be executed for aiding Jane against his orders. At this point, Shore reveals himself as Jane's husband and says he was breaking no law because he was only aiding his wife. The king pardons Shore for his offense but says that he will only be able to continue giving her aid if he takes her back as his wife, which Shore is unable to bring himself to do. Richard, however, will not be moved and, after ordering the execution of Aire, departs with his train.
The scene begins with Jockie being whipped and Aire being executed for his aiding of Jane. Shore, who is also present, reveals himself to Jane, and the two die together (Shore presumably from the sword wound he earlier received and Jane from starvation). Brackenbury then enters and discovers the bodies of Jane, Shore and Aire and immediately orders to have them buried properly.
All are present at the coronation ceremony of King Richard III, and the newly anointed king vows to be humble in his ways (yet a villain on the inside). The lords present the king with Anne of Warwick as his new bride, and Richard even forgives Fogge for his assistance of Rufford with his counterfeit suit (though Rufford himself has already been executed). Richard III then says he will restore Jane Shore to all her former lands and possessions (knowing very well that she is already dead). For show, Catesby describes the way Jane and her husband died and reveals that Mistress Blage has also passed away. The king then says he will ordain the order of the bath to celebrate his coronation when the Duke of Buckingham (a man who was crucial to putting Richard on the throne) presses a suit for certain lands on him. Though the king previously had promised these lands to the duke, he is unhappy with Buckingham pushing him on the issue and dismisses him. Buckingham then reveals, in an aside, that he will give aid to the Earl of Richmond (a pretender to the throne) to help depose Richard III and departs. The king knows that he has just lost his most powerful ally, but does not seem to be worried and departs with his soon-to-be queen to solemnize the new knighthood's order to end the play.