Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
The earl of Suffolk, who arranged for the marriage of King Henry VI and Margaret of Anjou, brings the new queen to England. There is great indignation when the terms of the marriage treaty are revealed. The contract calls for an eighteen-month truce between the two countries, the outright gift of the duchies of Anjou and Maine to Reignier, Margaret’s father, and omission of her dowry. As predicted earlier, no good can come of this union, since Henry, at Suffolk’s urging, broke his betrothal to the daughter of the earl of Armagnac. However, Henry, pleased by his bride’s beauty, gladly accepts the treaty and elevates Suffolk, the go-between, to a dukedom.
The voices are hardly still from the welcome of the new queen before the lords, earls, and dukes express their ambitions to gain more control in affairs of state. The old dissension between the duke of Gloster and Cardinal Beaufort continues. The churchman tries to turn others against Gloster by saying that Gloster, next in line for the crown, needs watching. The duke of Somerset accuses the cardinal of seeking Gloster’s position for himself. These high ambitions are not exclusively the failing of the men. The duchess of Gloster shows great impatience with her husband when he says he wishes only to serve as Protector of the Realm. When she sees that her husband is not going to help her ambitions to be queen, the duchess hires Hume, a priest, to traffic with witches and conjurers on her behalf. Hume...
(The entire section is 1154 words.)
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At the court, the marriage of King Henry VI and Margaret, daughter of the duke of Anjou, is announced and the terms of the peace agreement with France is read out. Neither pleases the nobles. The nobles squabble among themselves about who will have power in a country ruled by a weak king. In the next scene, the duchess of Gloucester reveals her ambitions for her husband, Lord Protector and heir to the throne. She intends to summon a witch to predict future events. When she does so, Buckingham and York arrest her and plan the downfall of her husband. In a scene involving the common people, a petitioner accuses his master of arguing that the duke of York is the rightful heir to the throne. When the case is brought before the king, he asks for a ruling from Gloucester, who judges that the master and his servant must fight in single combat to decide the truth. Gloucester also decides that Somerset will be regent in France rather than York.
This act opens with a falconing scene full of allusions to the high-flying ambitions of the nobility. To the assembled nobles and the king and queen, a commoner named Saunder Simpcox, and his wife enter claiming that his sight has been restored by a miracle worked by Saint Albon. The king believes their story; Gloucester cleverly reveals their deception and sentences them to be whipped. Buckingham enters and announces the arrest of the duchess of Gloucester for consorting with witches...
(The entire section is 1028 words.)