Act 1, Scene 1 Setting: The palace, London
Suffolk announces that he has married, in France, Margaret and King Henry in the presence of the King of France and other prominent French lords. Henry is pleased with his new bride, and after the king and his new queen exchange kind words, Gloucester reads aloud the terms of the truce between England and France. The terms state that Henry is to take Margaret, daughter of Anjou, as his queen. Before he finishes the next section, Gloucester must stop because he does not approve of what he sees. Winchester finishes the document by announcing that the duchy of Anjou and the county of Maine should be awarded to the Duke of Anjou and that Margaret should be delivered to England, at their expense, without a dowry. These terms are agreed to by the king, and he creates Suffolk (who up to this point had been Marquis) Duke of Suffolk. Henry then departs with Margaret for the new queen's coronation ceremony. After the king's departure, Gloucester vents his grievances about the truce with France. He claims that, by agreeing to a truce and giving Anjou the said territories, all of the work done by Henry V, Bedford and others in taking France will have been for nothing. York, Salisbury (son-in-law to the Salisbury seen in Part 1) and Warwick (the latter's son) all agree with Gloucester, while Winchester provides the only opposition to his words. Gloucester delivers one last prophecy, that France will soon be completely lost, before departing. Immediately following Gloucester's departure, Winchester explains that he is only opposed to the king's marriage because he is the heir apparent to the throne and feels he should be deprived of his protectorate responsibilities. The Duke of Buckingham agrees that, since the king is of age, there is no more need for a protector. However, he and Somerset agree that one of them can be made protector if they show the king how deceitful Winchester is. After these men leave, Salisbury talks of the nobleness of Gloucester and how they should use the ambitions of Somerset and Buckingham to enlarge his estate, while destroying that of Winchester and Suffolk. Warwick agrees with his father and comments once more on the sad loss of Anjou and Maine before the two depart, leaving York alone. York delivers a long soliloquy, expressing his disgust of the loss of the French territories and telling how he will go along with the plan of the Nevilles (Salisbury and Warwick) to help Gloucester. He will, however, wait until he is at a better vantage point, and, ultimately, take the crown that is rightfully his.
Act 1, Scene 2 Setting: The Duke of Gloucester's house, London
Gloucester's wife, Eleanor, asks why he is feeling sad and suggests it is because he is so close to the throne yet cannot achieve it. Gloucester tells her to dismiss these thoughts and that he would never turn on his king and nephew. He goes on to tell of a dream he had where his staff (that is a symbol of his position) is broken by Winchester and the heads of Somerset and Suffolk put on the two halves. The Duchess claims this merely means that any man who hopes to deprive Gloucester of his office will lose his head and that she herself had a dream that she was Queen of England. Gloucester once again tells his wife to dismiss these thoughts and is then summoned to the king. After Gloucester departs, the duchess claims that if she were a man she would have her opponents for the throne executed to get her way. Sir John Hume, a conjurer, enters and tells the duchess that he and his fellow conjurers shall make it so that she will be Queen of England. The duchess pays Hume and sets off after her husband. After she leaves, Hume reveals that he has already received money from both Winchester and Suffolk and, therefore, is playing a big part in the downfall of both Gloucester and his wife.
Act 1, Scene 3 Setting: The palace, London
A group of petitioners, with Peter Thump, the armorer's servant, wait for Gloucester so they may bring up their respective suits to him. Instead, Suffolk and the queen approach and ask to see what their suits are about. The first of the suits is a complaint against Winchester; the second against Suffolk, which of course angers him. Peter presents the third petition against his master, Thomas Horner, for claiming that the Duke of York is the rightful heir to the throne. Suffolk commands the petitioners to go and retrieve Thomas so they may present the case before the king, and they depart. Queen Margaret then shows her domineering personality by criticizing the king for being more of a man of religion than of bravery and courage. She goes on to say that many of the lords, including Gloucester, Winchester and York, possess far too much power and influence, but none threaten her so much as the Duchess of Gloucester, who flaunts her riches and feels that she is the Queen of England. Suffolk informs Margaret that he has already set up Gloucester and his wife with the help of Winchester (despite the fact that he does not care for him), that York is nothing to worry about and that she shall soon be, for all intents and purposes in control of the country. The king and queen enter with all the lords discussing whether York or Somerset should be regent in France. When Gloucester joins in the conversation, an attack begins against him, started by Suffolk, in which all the other lords join in with separate accusations, forcing him to leave in anger. After which, the queen throws down her glove and then strikes the Duchess of Gloucester causing her to leave in anger shortly afterward. Gloucester returns and says if any of his accusers can prove their accusations, he will stand trial. In the meantime, he suggests that York should be made regent of France. Suffolk argues against this. At this point, Horner and Peter are brought in, and Suffolk tells the king of Peter's accusation against Horner, who says York is the heir to the throne. Horner denies these accusations, saying that Peter is only making them to get back at him for punishing him on an earlier occasion. York tells the king the accusations are completely false and that the two men should be punished. After hearing these accusations, Gloucester suggests to the king that Somerset should be made regent of France, since York cannot be trusted. He also declares that Horner and Peter should fight in single combat to resolve their issues. Henry appoints Somerset as regent of France and orders Horner and Peter to be put in prison until the day of their battle, despite Peter's proclamations that he cannot fight.
Act 1, Scene 4 Setting: Gloucester's garden, London
A conjuration is prepared for the duchess, led by Roger Bolingbroke, a conjurer. When the duchess is brought in, Bolingbroke summons up the spirit Asnath and asks him several questions: Asnath gives an ambiguous answer that King Henry shall depose a certain duke, outlive him and die a violent death; He says Suffolk shall die at sea; and he says Somerset will be safer in the mountains, before saying he can tell no more. Bolingbroke sends Asnath away before York and Buckingham break in and arrest all present. Buckingham rides on to inform the king and Gloucester of the duchess' actions and York tells a serving man to invite Salisbury and Warwick to dinner at his house the following night.
Act 2, Scene 1 Setting: St. Albans
The king and queen, Gloucester, Winchester and Suffolk are all on a hawking expedition and discuss various hawk related subjects when the discussion slowly but surely turns into an attack on Gloucester by Winchester, Suffolk and the queen. Henry, as usual, attempts to stay neutral and make peace. Gloucester and Winchester are making plans to engage in a duel (unbeknownst to the king) when a man comes in shouting that a man who has been blind since birth can now see. The man, Simon Simpcox, and his wife, along with the Mayor of St. Albans and various others enter to the king and his lords. Henry seems to think there is some kind of divine intervention involved, while the other lords believe the man is simply lying. Gloucester questions Simpcox on colors, and he is able to name all the colors of the robes, but not the men who are wearing them. By this, everyone can tell that he is not blind. Simpcox also claims that he walks with a limp yet has climbed up trees. To test this, a beadle is brought in with a whip. Gloucester says Simpcox will be whipped if he does not leap over a chair. After he is whipped, Simpcox runs away and is proven to be a fraud. Simpcox's wife claims they did what they did out of necessity and is led off; the two are assigned to be severely whipped. Buckingham enters with the news that the Duchess of Gloucester has been arrested for witchcraft and plotting against the king, and a transcript of the proceeding is read aloud by Henry. This news is welcome to Winchester and the queen, but, of course, very upsetting to Gloucester. Suffolk is also alarmed after he hears that he must die at sea. The king says they shall proceed to London to judge in these matters.
Act 2, Scene 2 Setting: The Duke of York's garden, London
After supper, York explains his rightful claim to the throne to Salisbury and Warwick. Once again, York claims that he is the rightful heir (on his mother's side) through his descent from Lionel, Duke of Clarence, the third son (and second surviving) of Edward III. Both Salisbury and Warwick agree with York's logic and agree to help him steal the throne away from the house of Lancaster. York says, more or less, that they must wait for the members of the house of Lancaster to destroy each other first. Warwick says he will make it his goal to see York on the throne, and York, in turn, says he shall make Warwick the greatest man in England besides the king.
Act 2, Scene 3 Setting: A London hall of justice
The king and his train are set to give judgment to the Duchess of Gloucester and the conjurers. Henry sentences the conjurers to death, and the duchess, since she is of noble background, is to be exiled for life on the Isle of Mann. After the prisoners are led off, the king asks Gloucester to resign his position as protector and give back his staff of office. Gloucester sadly resigns his position and departs. York then informs the king that it is time for Horner and his man Peter to fight their duel. The two men, who are both drunk, are brought in, and they fight. Peter kills Horner as a result, as Horner admits to treason with his dying words. The king leads off Peter so he may receive a reward.
Act 2, Scene 4 Setting: A London street
Gloucester and his men wait for the Duchess to pass by on the way to her exile. When she approaches, being led by Sir John Stanley, the two exchange kind words, and the duchess warns her husband to beware of men such as York and Winchester. Gloucester says he must offend first to be accused of anything. A herald arrives to inform Gloucester that he is needed at the next Parliament, which he agrees to be present at. After more sad words on both sides, the duchess is led off to exile.
Act 3, Scene 1 Setting: A great hall, London
King Henry and his lords meet for Parliament with the exception of Gloucester. The king says it is not like his uncle to be late and is then told by Margaret that Gloucester has lately changed and does not show the allegiance he once showed. Therefore, she feels that he is plotting to usurp the throne, him being the heir apparent. Suffolk, Winchester, York and Buckingham, all in turn, tell of some of the bad acts Gloucester put into practice when he was protector. Only the king himself believes that Gloucester is completely innocent of all the accusations made against him. Somerset then arrives and brings news that everything the English once held in France is now lost. The king mildly brushes off the news to the will of God, but York is upset that the kingdom he hopes soon to be his has shrunk. At this point, Gloucester arrives, and the lords immediately begin to accuse him of various crimes, which he defends himself against. Suffolk claims that these crimes are easily defended, but there are graver deeds he has committed that he must answer to. Therefore, he has Gloucester arrested. Henry feels that his uncle will prove himself innocent. Gloucester warns the king to beware the ambition that his lords possess and claims they have set him up. All of the lords speak directly to Henry and accuse Gloucester of yet more bad deeds. Finally, Gloucester is led away by Winchester's men, but not before giving Henry one last warning to beware the men he keeps around his person. The king delivers a sad lament for his uncle, whom he still believes is innocent, and departs. After the king's departure Margaret accuses him of being too merciful, and she and the other lords ultimately agree that, if Gloucester is ever to be completely out of the picture, he must be dead. Suffolk suggests that they quietly murder Gloucester and the others wholeheartedly agree. Winchester agrees to find the murderers. A messenger then arrives with news that the Irish have once again rose up in rebellion. York suggests Somerset should attempt to thwart the rebellion to make up for the poor job he did in France. The two argue, and the queen is forced to mediate. Winchester suggests that York take charge of the Irish expedition, which York agrees to. The others set off to take care of Gloucester, leaving York alone. York delivers a long soliloquy that reveals his intentions of biding his time with the army he will be given for the Irish expedition. He then tells of how he has incited a rebellion in England under the leadership of Jack Cade, who will tell all that he is John Mortimer, a past kinsman of York. York's hope is that the commons will rally behind Cade and show support for the house of York. He also knows that Cade will not implicate him even if he is captured and tortured.
Act 3, Scene 2 Setting: Gloucester's bedchamber and an adjoining room of state, Bury Saint Edmunds
The scene begins with two murderers smothering Gloucester to death in his bed, an act of which they are repentant of afterward. Suffolk enters and tells them to wait at his house for their reward. The king and his train then enter to retrieve Gloucester for his trial. Suffolk goes to retrieve the duke and returns with the news that he is dead. Henry is so upset with this news that he faints. When the king awakes he is extremely upset and accuses Suffolk of murdering his uncle. Margaret then delivers a lengthy speech accusing Henry of not paying enough attention to her. Salisbury and Warwick then arrive saying that the commons have risen up after hearing Gloucester was murdered by Suffolk and Winchester and will not stay quiet until they know the truth. The king suggests that Warwick should inspect Gloucester's corpse to see if there was any foul play, which he does. After examining the body, Warwick concludes that, due to its appearance, suffocation is the likely cause of death. Suffolk vehemently denies that Gloucester was murdered, and Winchester is ultimately led off by Somerset. Warwick and Suffolk argue back and forth and exit to go fight. The commons burst in, and Salisbury tells the king that they will break into the palace and kill Suffolk themselves if he is not either executed or exiled for life in retribution for his murder of Gloucester. Ultimately, Henry agrees to exile Suffolk, despite the queen's pleadings for him. Margaret and Suffolk are left alone to exchange tender and loving words before Suffolk leaves England forever. During this exchange, Vaux arrives and claims he is on his way to tell the king that Winchester is on his deathbed and seems to been stark raving mad. After Vaux leaves, the two lovers say their goodbyes, and Suffolk readies himself to depart for France.
Act 3, Scene 3 Setting: The Cardinal of Winchester's bedchamber, London
The king, with Salisbury and Warwick, visits Winchester on his deathbed. Winchester madly rambles about certain bad deeds he did during his life and seems extra fearful of death. Henry asks his great-uncle to raise his hand if he is looking forward to heaven. Winchester dies without raising his hand, which Warwick takes as a sign that the cardinal did not lead an honest life. The king says they cannot judge because they are all sinners at some point in their lives.
Act 4, Scene 1 Setting: At sea, off the coast of Kent
Suffolk and two other gentlemen are held captive at sea by pirates, one of whom is a man by the name of Walter Whitmore. The two gentlemen agree to pay a ransom of a thousand crowns each to go free. Suffolk, however, talks harshly to the pirates which angers them more. He then remembers the prophecy that he should die at water, which sounds much like Walter. It is agreed that Suffolk should not be ransomed, simply killed. The captain first tells him that he deserves to die for his affair with the queen, the murder of Gloucester, his failings in France and the fact that the Yorkists are up in arms, among other things. Suffolk simply continues to bad mouth the pirates because of their low status, despite the gentlemen pleading for him to speak kindly to them. Ultimately, Suffolk is led off by Whitmore. The captain allows one the gentleman to go free (the other will be set free after the ransom is paid) and departs. Whitmore reenters with Suffolk's dead body, with the head severed and departs. The gentleman says he will take the body to the king for a proper burial.
Act 4, Scene 2 Setting: Blackheath, Kent
Two rebels talk about certain matters to do with the rebellion of Jack Cade when Cade himself enters along with Dick the butcher, Smith the weaver and a large group of others. Cade tells of his descent from the Mortimer and Plantagenet families and how he is therefore of noble birth. He then proclaims all the things he would do if he were crowned king, an event he seems to believe is a distinct possibility. The Clerk of Chatham is brought in, and a mock trial ensues which ends in the clerk being brought off to the gallows for being an educated man. Sir Humphrey Stafford and his brother then arrive with an army of their own in an attempt to prevent the rebellion from going any further and to offer mercy for those who will rejoin the king's side. Cade merely turns them away and tells them he is the rightful king through his supposed descent from Lionel, Duke of Clarence, who he claims had a grandson who was separated from his parents and raised as a bricklayer. The Staffords do not believe this, and Cade offers to allow Henry to reign under the condition that he be his protector. Also, he believes that the Lord Saye should be punished for his selling of Maine. After these comments the Staffords give up, proclaim Cade and all his followers traitors and prepare to do battle with them. Cade and the other rebels welcome the challenge.
Act 4, Scene 3 Setting: Blackheath
The fighting in Cade's rebellion begins, and both Staffords are slain. Cade apparels himself in Stafford's armor, and he commands the rebels to head towards London where, to give themselves more aid, they will set all the prisoners free.
Act 4, Scene 4 Setting: The palace, London
Queen Margaret laments over the severed head of Suffolk while the king reads the summary of Cade's rebellion. Henry intends to send a bishop in an attempt to reason with the rebels, rather than sending an army. All the while, Margaret is having a private conversation with Suffolk's head. A messenger then arrives bringing news that Jack Cade has made it to Southwark and says he will crown himself through his descent from Clarence, calls the king a usurper, has killed the Staffords and says that no educated person will be safe. Buckingham suggests the king retire to Kenilworth until an army can be mustered to put down the rebellion. The king offers Lord Saye sanctuary with them, since Cade vows to have his head, but Saye refuses, saying that he will only put the king in danger. Another messenger arrives with news that Cade and the rebels have almost taken London bridge, and many others are joining them along the way. Henry and his train depart after giving a final warning to Saye to watch his back.
Act 4, Scene 5 Setting: The tower, London
A citizen informs Lord Scales that the rebels have taken London bridge and that the Mayor of London requests aid from him. Scales says he will send Matthew Gough to aid them.
Act 4, Scene 6 Setting: Cannon Street, London
Jack Cade sits upon London Stone, claims the city now belongs to him and says he shall be known only by the name John Mortimer from now on. A soldier then passes by shouting out the name Jack Cade; Cade has him killed as a result. The butcher informs Cade that there is an army awaiting them at Smithfield. Cade says they shall go do battle with them but first gives the command to burn London Bridge and, if possible, the tower as well.
Act 4, Scene 7 Setting: Smithfield, London
Cade proclaims some of things that he will put into effect when crowned king while the others mock him behind his back. Lord Saye is led in as a prisoner, and he is immediately criticized for putting educational practices into effect. Saye defends himself by saying he has done much to make life better for the common man and that he does not deserve to die. After listening to his pleading, Cade begins to feel pity for Saye but does not reveal his feelings to anyone and orders that Saye and his son-in-law, Sir James Cromer, be beheaded. After Saye is led off, a rebel soldier enters and announces that London bridge has been burned. Cade tells him to put the fire out before the butcher and a sergeant enter. The sergeant claims that the butcher raped his wife and that he should be punished for it. Instead, Cade orders that the butcher complete his rape and that the sergeant is to be murdered. The heads of Saye and Cromer are then brought in, and Cade makes the two heads kiss and then orders the men to have the mens' heads kiss at every street corner. Buckingham and Lord Clifford enter and tell the rebels that all who desert Cade and swear allegiance to the king shall receive a free pardon. The rebels quickly agree to this deal. Cade then gives a speech claiming that they will not keep their word, and the rebels go back to him. Clifford than delivers an inspirational speech involving the brave action of Henry V in France, and the rebels go back to the king's side for good. Cade flees and Buckingham offers a reward of a thousand crowns for anyone who brings Cade's head to the king.
Act 4, Scene 8 Setting: Kenilworth Castle
Henry is lamenting his early rise to the throne when Buckingham and Clifford enter with news that Cade is fled and his followers present themselves with nooses around their necks, begging for mercy. The king grants them mercy, and they depart. No sooner is this concluded than a messenger announces that York has returned from Ireland with a large army, claiming that he means to remove Somerset from the king's presence. Henry sends Buckingham to York to ask why he is up in arms and sends Somerset to the tower.
Act 4, Scene 9 Setting: Alexander Iden's garden, Kent
Cade, who has been roaming through the forests, enters into Alexander Iden's garden to get something to eat. Iden and his men enter and Cade immediately challenges them to fight so they may not get the thousand crowns (which at this point they know nothing about). Despite Iden's kind words, Cade still insists on fighting. The two men begin to fight and Iden fatally wounds Cade. As Cade is dying, he reveals his identity, and Iden is proud he has slain a hated rebel. Cade dies and Iden says he will bury his body in dung and cut off his head to collect the reward.
Act 5, Scene 1 Setting: An open field between St. Albans and London
York delivers a soliloquy on how he has brought this large Irish army in order to take the throne from Henry. Buckingham arrives and asks York why he has brought this army back to England. York claims he only wishes that Somerset be removed from the king's presence. Buckingham informs York that Somerset has been put in the tower. York, who is pleased by this announcement, dismisses his army and says that Henry shall have the use of all his sons if it means Somerset shall die. The king enters and York presents himself as his loyal subject and claims he only brought an army to make sure Somerset was punished and the Cade rebellion was put down. Iden arrives with Cade's head and is knighted by Henry as a result. After he departs, Queen Margaret and Somerset arrive. Henry attempts to hide Somerset, but the queen refuses. York, who notices Somerset, is so angry that he reprimands Henry and declares that he is the rightful King of England and that Henry is unfit to rule. Somerset arrests York for treason, and York sends for his sons to help him. The queen sends for the Cliffords to counteract them. York's sons, Edward and Richard, and the Cliffords enter, and York continues to claim he is king, angering Clifford. York then calls in Warwick and Salisbury. Henry reprimands Salisbury for betraying his king, but the earl responds by saying he feels he is doing the right thing. The two sides continue to trade insults before they go off to battle: Lancaster against York.
Act 5, Scene 2 Setting: An open field between St. Albans and London
York's son Richard kills Somerset under a tavern sign that reads "the castle in St. Albans," thus completing the prophecy that Somerset should stay in the mountains and away from the castle.
Act 5, Scene 3 Setting: An open field between St. Albans and London
The scene begins with Warwick calling out for Clifford to fight him in single combat. As Clifford is on his way, York arrives and claims Clifford has killed his horse and would like to fight Clifford. Clifford arrives and Warwick departs to leave him and York alone. The two men fight, and York kills Clifford and departs. Young Clifford arrives and tells of miseries involved in war. He then discovers his father's body, delivers a sad lament and departs, swearing revenge on the house of York.
Act 5, Scene 4 Setting: An open field between St. Albans and London
Buckingham is brought wounded to his tent while Margaret advises, aggressively, for Henry to flee back to London. Young Clifford enters and advises the king to flee, despite his own thirst for revenge.
Act 5, Scene 5 Setting: An open field between St. Albans and London
York talks with his sons about their victory, and Richard tells how he saved Salisbury several times in the battle, yet the old earl still fought valiantly. Warwick and Salisbury arrive, and the latter thanks Richard for saving his life. York announces that Henry and his train have fled to London to summon a Parliament. The play ends with Warwick announcing the Yorkists shall follow their enemies to London for greater possibilities of victory.