Act and Scene Summaries

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Act I
This play, the first of a tetralogy which includes the three parts of Henry the Sixth and Richard III, opens with the funeral of Henry V. The English nobles bemoan the death of the king, squabble among themselves, and discuss the fate of the English cause in France. A series of messengers enter and announce that most of France has been lost and Lord Talbot, England's great champion, has been captured by the French. The English nobles vow to fight and defeat the French in order to regain that country for the young king, Henry VI. The scene switches to the city of Orleance, where the French have been driven back by the English. Joan de Pucelle (Joan of Arc) rallies the dispirited French and promises that she will raise the siege. Back in London, the duke of Gloucester's and the bishop of Winchester's men fight over armaments stored in the Tower of London; their skirmish is broken up by the mayor of London. Back in France at the siege of Orleance, the French kill Sir Thomas Gargrave and the earl of Salisbury. Talbot and Pucelle fight inconclusively, but the French nonetheless take back Orleance through her inspiration.

Act II
The English, led by Talbot and with the aid of Burgundy, manage to recapture Orleance. The countess of Auvergne invites Talbot to visit her at her castle with the intent of taking him prisoner. The attempt fails. Back in England, Richard Plantagenet (representing the Yorkist faction) and the duke of Somerset (representing the Lancastrian faction) fall to quarreling. They pluck different colored roses as emblematic of their cause. Other noblemen take sides. Somerset asserts that Richard Plantagenet's father was executed for treason. Richard visits the dying Edmund Mortimer in prison and asks him how his father died. Mortimer explains recent English dynastic history (the usurpation of the Yorkist Richard II by the Lancastrian Henry IV).

Gloucester and Winchester pick up the quarrel between them that broke out in Act I. The king manages to stop them from fighting (at least for now), and restores to Richard Plantagenet the titles that were taken from him. In France, Pucelle and the French take back Roan by stealth. The English recapture it by force of arms but not before Sir John Falstaff flees. Pucelle wins over the duke of Burgundy to the French side. Henry VI bestows on Talbot the title earl of Shrewsbury. Vernon (a Yorkist) and Basset (a Lancastrian) quarrel.

Act IV
In Paris, Henry VI is crowned king. Sir John Falstaff, who delivers Burgundy's message announcing he has changed sides, is banished for cowardice. Vernon and Basset ask the king for permission to duel; York and Somerset (their masters) themselves almost fight. The king persuades both sides to stop quarreling, but indicates his loyalty to the Lancastrian side. Talbot besieges Burdeaux, but he and his son die in the battle. The French win, largely because York and Somerset do not trust each other enough to send reinforcements.

Act V
In letters, the pope and the Holy Roman Emperor urge peace on the English, a peace to be ratified by the marriage of Henry VI to the earl of Arminack's daughter. On its way to liberate Paris, the French army is attacked by the English and Pucelle is taken prisoner. Suffolk captures Margaret, daughter of Reignier, duke of Anjou. He is struck by her beauty and decides to take her as his mistress and persuade Henry VI to marry her. In this way, he intends to control the kingdom. Reignier agrees to the marriage. Pucelle meets her father, a shepherd, but denies any relation to him. She swears she is of noble blood and also pregnant, but she is nonetheless condemned to death by burning. The English and the French make peace; the king is persuaded by Suffolk to marry Margaret even though he is betrothed to the earl of Arminack's daughter.

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