Act 1, Scene 1

King Henry VII laments how, despite his successful coup of the Yorkists, he is still unsafe on the throne of England. His lords attempt to comfort him with reassuring words, and descriptions are given of the shameful behavior of several Yorkists, including Richard III and Margaret of Burgundy, sister to Richard III and Edward IV. Margaret supported Lambert Simnel (who now serves Henry VII as his falconer), a pretender to the English throne, and has now throne her support behind yet another pretender, Perkin Warbeck. Henry VII describes some of the journeys that Warbeck, who claims to be Richard, Duke of York, the younger of the two sons of Edward IV, has been on and whose support he has gained when Urswick arrives with a message that pleases the king. The king and the lords then set off towards the tower where Henry VII says he shall spend the night.

Act 1, Scene 2

Lord Daliell and the Earl of Huntley civilly argue about Daliell's desire to marry the earl's daughter Katherine. Huntley knows that Daliell is an honorable man and gives every indication of being extremely fond of him, but knows that he is well below the station of his daughter, who is closely related to the king. Daliell attempts to explain that he does have a small amount of noble blood, and Huntley decides to give him the opportunity to woo his daughter with only his council as an impediment. Katherine arrives and Daliell begins his suit, telling her of the feelings he has for her and his intentions to marry her. Huntley, in turn, gives full permission to his daughter to make her own choice. Katherine is honored that her father would allow her such freedom and informs Daliell that, at the current time, she would prefer to remain good friends with him. All are content with this response. The Earl of Crawford then arrives and summons Huntley to King James, who has just received a visit from a man who claims to be the secretary of the Duke of York, who was supposedly murdered fourteen years earlier. Crawford also claims that the "duke" himself is on his way to the Scottish court. Therefore, the men set off to the king.

Act 1, Scene 3

Durham and Urswick counsel the recently turned Sir Robert Clifford to speak humbly to the king and beg his forgiveness for originally siding with Margaret of Burgundy. Clifford agrees to do so when Henry VII arrives and says he will forgive him if all the information he has given him so far is true, which Clifford confirms. The king then asks Clifford to inform him of any other persons who are part of the conspiracy with Warbeck. Clifford claims that Warbeck is on his way to Ireland to seek assistance and tells of the people who are assisting him, which include the Mayor of Cork, Stephen Frion (a former French secretary to Henry VII) and several tradesmen. The king is then informed that Warbeck will soon be arriving in Scotland to seek the aid of King James IV. Finally, Clifford names several other more reputable gentleman that are in rebellion, the most significant of whom is the king's own chamberlain, Sir William Stanley. At first, Henry VII cannot believe that one of his most trusted advisers would turn against him, but Clifford continues his accusations prompting the king to have Stanley arrested and kept under guard. To end the scene, Dawbney enters and informs the king that ten thousand Cornish rebels are marching towards London, along with Lord Audley, in protest of high taxes.

Act 2, Scene 1

The countess of Crawford, Katherine and Jane talk of the coming arrival of Warbeck and his followers to the Scottish court when King James IV and his nobles enter to receive the man who claims to be Richard, Duke of York. Warbeck and his followers enter with great pomp and ceremony, and the pretender describes his travels and travails, which include the murder of his elder brother, the former Edward V, and his upbringing in Tourney after he was spared by his brother's murderers. James IV tells Warbeck that, if he can somehow prove that what he is saying is true, then he will willingly give his assistance to the pretender. Through charismatic words, Warbeck is able to convince the Scottish king that he is indeed the rightful King of England and therefore wins his support for the English crown. They then head off to celebrate at court while the ladies say how impressed they are with Warbeck, before being summoned to court themselves.

Act 2, Scene 2

A depressed Henry VII speaks with his lords about the imminent execution of Lord Stanley. The king inquires if it would be possible to spare Stanley's life, but is told that it would make him look too lenient with traitors. Knowing that he will show mercy towards Stanley if he sees him, the king exits as Stanley passes through on his way to execution. The lords all give Stanley words of encouragement, and Stanley sadly laments his downfall to them. When Clifford arrives, Stanley makes the sign of the cross on his face which is meant to symbolize his deceitful nature for turning him in. Stanley is then taken off to execution. Henry VII reenters, dismisses Clifford from court and prepares to deal with the Cornish rebels and the Scots, whom he has discovered have kindly received Perkin. The Earl of Oxford and Dawnbey are sent to handle the Cornish rebellion while the Earl of Surrey and the Bishop of Durham will deal with the Scots.

Act 2, Scene 3

Crawford and Daliell discuss the impact, mostly negative, that Perkin is having on James IV and the Scottish court when the king and Huntley enter. Huntley is lamenting the fact that James is forcing his daughter Katherine to marry Perkin, but the king is insistent in the match and will hear no opposition. Perkin then enters with his soon-to-be wife, and Huntley further shows his reluctance to let go of his daughter to someone he is so unfamiliar with. After the king and lords set off to prepare for the marriage festivities, Perkin's "counselors" remain behind and have a discussion of how their fortunes are running high with Perkin being in such favor with the Scottish king. Frion, who is portrayed as the only real intelligent one amongst them, encourages the lower-class upstarts and even suggests they perform a masque at the wedding celebrations. Once they have left, however, Frion reveals how foolish he believes his fellow "counselors" are, but realizes that they will remain in favor as long as Perkin does.

Act 3, Scene 1

Henry VII and Urswick discuss the Cornish rebellion, and the king claims that he is confident with the men he assigned to the task to subdue the rising. Oxford and Dawbney arrive and inform the king that the rising has been crushed, and its leaders taken prisoner, with only minor losses on the side of the royal army. Henry orders the rebel leaders to be executed as traitors but will allow all the general soldiers to return home undisturbed. The king then says he will reinforce the subsidies that caused the rebellion in the first place and reward the soldiers in the royal army, before departing.

Act 3, Scene 2

Huntley and Daliell discuss the lavish wedding festivities occurring for Perkin and Katherine, and Huntley further laments, at times incomprehensibly, the loss of his daughter to a man he knows nothing about. James IV, Perkin and the lords and ladies arrive and watch a masque before the men discuss preparations for war with England so Perkin may press his claim to the throne. Perkin and Katherine then share an emotional farewell.

Act 3, Scene 3

Henry VII speaks with Pedro Hialas, an agent from King Ferdinand of Spain, about procuring a peace with Scotland with the assistance of the Spanish king. Hialas departs to accomplish his mission in Scotland, and Urswick informs the king that the match between Ferdinand's daughter Katherine and Henry VII's son Arthur shall never be consummated until the Earl of Warwick (the last legitimate male member of the house of York) is done away with. When the king hears this news he is clearly shaken but seems to know what he must do to insure that the alliance between England and Spain will become a reality.

Act 3, Scene 4

Perkin and the Scots are besieging an unnamed English castle (most likely Berwick) and sound a parley with Bishop Durham, who is stationed there. Durham criticizes James IV for giving his support to an impostor and says he will never yield the castle or break his allegiance to King Henry. James IV is not happy with this response and orders his army to pillage the English country side. Perkin is saddened by this order and begs the Scottish king not to go through with it, at which James accuses the English pretender of being too soft. Frion then enters and informs the besiegers that Henry VII has defeated the Cornish rebels and that Surrey and Dawbney are on their way with large armies to raise the siege. Hearing this, James IV immediately orders a retreat but gladly says he will challenge Surrey in singles combat.

Act 4, Scene 1

Surrey and Durham are confused as to why they have been able to lay waste to Scottish lands without any opposition whatsoever when Marchmount, the Scottish herald, arrives and lays down King James's challenge to Surrey for singles combat. Marchmount lays down the conditions that, if James wins, Surrey is to surrender the town of Berwick to the Scots and, if Surrey wins, James will pay him a thousand pounds for his ransom. Surrey is flattered that the Scottish king would be so noble as to lay his own life on the line but informs the herald that it would be unlawful for him to offer up Berwick as a reward considering it is property of the crown. Marchmount proceeds to leave when Durham suggests to Surrey that this may be a perfect opportunity to form a peace treaty with the Scots. Durham then says he shall accompany Marchmount to King James to discuss terms for peace.

Act 4, Scene 2

Perkin laments to Frion how James IV seems to be losing interest in his cause ever since the arrival of the Spanish agent in Scotland. With the help of the Scots uncertain at best, Frion advises the pretender to travel to southern England and join with the Cornish rebels, who will supposedly accept him as their leader. Perkin is happy with this news and goes to find out the details of his fortunes in Scotland. The "advisers" then arrive and discuss how their master will join with the Cornish rebels and take the English throne.

Act 4, Scene 3

Hialas and Durham both approach James IV to make peace with England, informing him that France, Spain and Germany have already welcomed peace and await the decision of Scotland. Hialas also tells James that King Ferdinand of Spain's daughter Katherine is set to marry Henry VII's son Arthur, and Durham offers Margaret, daughter of the English king, to James himself as a way to unite England and Scotland. The condition of the peace treaty, however, is that James IV must banish Perkin from his kingdom and not give him any assistance whatsoever. James defends his actions in defending Perkin but agrees to send Huntley as ambassador for peace in England. When the two agents leave, James knows that he has received an excellent deal, considering all he has to do is dismiss Perkin from his kingdom. Perkin and his followers enter and James IV informs them that he can no longer harbor them in his kingdom, because of the peace treaty with this fellow monarchs, which Perkin accepts with the condition that he can keep his new bride with him; the king agrees to this and departs. Perkin's followers set off to Cornwall to prepare the rebellion there, and Frion sets off to Burgundy. Katherine and her father share an emotional farewell, and Perkin prepares to depart Scotland.

Act 4, Scene 4

Oxford and Dawbney talk about the bravery of both James IV and Surrey when Henry VII and Urswick enter, discussing Perkin's eminent arrival in England. The king seems confident, yet strangely paranoid, about Perkin's arrival, and is comforted by his lords. Further comfort arrives when a messenger brings news that Frion, Perkin's secretary, has been captured. Re-energized by this news, Henry VII gives orders to send his army towards Salisbury, where he believes Perkin will be heading.

Act 4, Scene 5

Perkin and his followers arrive in England and, while several present are skeptical of any kind of success, Perkin himself is more than confident that he will be England's next king. Sketon enters and informs Perkin that the people of Cornwall are more than willing to fight for the pretender and have already proclaimed him King Richard IV. Perkin delivers an inspirational speech, and the rebels set off towards Exeter.

Act 5, Scene 1

Katherine and Jane lament their situation and how they can never again return to their home in Scotland when Daliell enters and informs them that the Cornish rebellion has broken up, and Perkin, in order to evade capture, has fled. Oxford then arrives and very kindly invites Katherine and her party to the court of Henry VII, an invitation which she sadly accepts.

Act 5, Scene 2

Henry VII tells Surrey and Urswick that, although Perkin has managed to escape, he will soon enough be captured because there is no way he will be able to leave England. The king then inquires as to whether James IV will provide recompense for the damages he caused within England on Perkin's behalf. Surrey says that the Scottish king claims Henry VII is in a much better financial situation and can therefore afford the cost of damages, which Henry seems to be content with. Dawbney then enters with Perkin and his followers, who had been captured near Southampton, in his custody. Henry VII chastises Perkin and the Mayor of Cork for their participation in the rebellion, and Perkin admirably defends himself by telling the story of Henry VII, then Earl of Richmond, and how he came to England and took the crown from Richard III. The king does not buy into Perkin's words and orders he and his followers to be put in the tower. Oxford arrives with Katherine and Daliell, who are received with all kindness by Henry VII. The king awards Katherine with an annual pension of a thousand pounds and says she shall live comfortably at the English court from now on, which Katherine sadly accepts. Henry then compliments Daliell on his virtues before all depart.

Act 5, Scene 3

Perkin, who has already attempted to escape the tower on two separate occasions, is put in the stocks. Urswick informs him that, because of this latest escape plot, the Earl of Warwick shall be executed. Lambert Simnel, a former pretender who is now the king's falconer, tries to warn Perkin of the dangers of his actions and describes how he was forgiven and taken into favor by the king - even after he attempted to pass himself off as the Earl of Warwick and seize the throne. Perkin, however, does not heed any of Simnel's advice, and the latter declares that he is beyond hope. Oxford then arrives with Katherine, Jane and Daliell, and Katherine and Perkin share an emotional farewell in which Katherine declares to all present that, whomever Perkin may be, he is her husband in the eyes of God and the church. Perkin, though, is still declaring that he is the rightful King of England and will not relent, greatly saddening his wife. Surrey enters with the Scottish lords, and Huntley forgives his daughter for not heeding his advice and even informs Perkin that he harbors no ill feelings towards him. Perkin's followers arrive to follow him to execution, and Perkin laments their deaths and that of the Earl of Warwick before being led off to die. To end the play, Henry VII enters with Durham and Hialas in triumph, though still displaying sympathy for the tragic story of Perkin Warbeck.

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