Shakespeare For White Trash: Henry VI, Part One

November 30, 2011

(Index to the Series appears on Oct. 7, 2010 — )

Main Characters

King Henry VI

Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester — his uncle

John, Duke of Bedford — his uncle

Duke of Exeter — his great-uncle

Bishop (later Cardinal) of Winchester — his great-uncle

Richard Plantagenet (later Duke of York)

Duke of Somerset

Earl of Warwick

Earl of Salisbury

Earl of Suffolk

Lord Talbot

John Talbot — his son

Edmund Mortimer, Earl of March

Sir John Fastolfe (Some texts have “Sir John Falstaff”.)

Sir William Glansdale

Sir Thomas Gargrave

Sir William Lucy

A Captain of Talbot




Servant of Gloucester

Warder of the Tower

Mayor of London

Lawyer of the Temple


Charles, Dauphin of France (later Charles VII)

Reignier, Duke of Anjou

Duke of Burgundy

Duke of Alenc,on  [Typographical note: This name is spelled with the French ‘c’ with the curl under it, which is pronounced like ‘s’.  Not having that character on my keyboard, I am forced to simulate it.]

Bastard of Orleans

Governor of Paris

General of French forces at Bordeaux


Joan de Pucelle (commonly “Joan of Arc”)

Margaret of Anjou — daughter of Reignier

Countess of Auvergne

Two Demonic Spirits

Gist of the story: After the death of Henry V, his conquest of France is thrown into doubt.  England’s attempt to enforce its claims to the throne of France and its possession of French territories will result in another outbreak of war.  The child-king Henry VI will come to the throne unprepared for war abroad or for the competition between those closest to him.  He’s a nice boy, really, but not like his father and grandfather, who were tough.  Henry VI was never cut out to be a king.  He loves books and just wants everyone to get along.  English forces in France must contend with Joan of Arc, a weird visionary who seems to have divine powers.  But neither she nor England’s hero, Lord Talbot, will live to see the end of the fighting.  Gloucester is ready to fix Henry up with the daughter of the Earl of Armagnac — a marriage that will re-establish peace.  But the Earl of Suffolk persuades Henry to marry Margaret of Anjou instead.  Peace is made with France, but we are left with hints of future discord within the kingdom.  We have gotten the first rumblings of what will become the Wars of the Roses — one of the most tragic episodes in the history of England.

(Reader, be warned.  Shakespeare ignores the actual chronology of historical events and changes some other facts for the sake of the story line.  The Yale Shakespeare edition of 1918 has excellent notes on the many historical errors, as well as an excellent commentary on the disputed origins of this play.  This is the first modernized, simplified version of Henry VI, Part One ever published.  The entire series “Shakespeare For White Trash” is designed to make Shakespeare’s plays crystal-clear and enjoyable to a non-literary audience.  Enjoy!)

Act 1, Scene 1.  London.  The funeral of Henry V.  Beside the coffin are his brothers, John, Duke of Bedford, and Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester; also the Duke of Exeter, the Earl of Warwick, the Bishop of Winchester, and the Duke of Somerset, plus Attendants.  [Author’s note: Bedford is now the Regent of France.  He is the most senior person in the Kingdom.  Gloucester is the second-most senior person and is the Protector of young Henry, who was just a baby at this time, historically.  Exeter and Warwick were very close to Henry V.  The Bishop of Winchester, Henry Beaufort, was a half-uncle to Henry V and is part of the regency council.  Somerset is Winchester’s nephew.]

Bedford: This is a black day for England, and for me personally.–To lose our brother, Henry the Fifth, at such a young age.

Gloucester: He was the best king England ever had.  He was the bravest.  He took us to Agincourt and beat the French.  He was a giant among men.

Exeter: I can’t believe he could die at the age of thirty-five.  Maybe the French put a curse on him and killed him.

Winchester: He fought in the name of God, and the church was behind him totally.  It was our prayers that made him as victorious as he was.

Gloucester: Yeah, right–the church!–You loved him as long as you could influence him.  Maybe if you’d prayed a little harder, he’d still be alive.

Winchester: I can see how much influence we’ll have with you, Gloucester.  You’re the Lord Protector now, whether the church likes it or not.

Gloucester: Don’t pretend to be holy with me, Winchester.  You never go to church except to pray for your enemies to die.

Bedford: Let’s not have a personal quarrel at a time like this.  We have to keep the country united.  And we have to make sure we don’t lose everything my brother fought for and won from the French.  (He shakes his head and looks up at heaven.)  Brother, if you can hear us, help us now.

    (A Messenger comes in.)

Messenger: My lords–I’m sorry to bring you bad news at a time like this.

Bedford: What’s happened?

Messenger: The French have recaptured almost all our territories in France.

    (Bedford grimaces and puts his hand on Henry’s coffin.)

Exeter: How did this happen?  Who betrayed us?

Messenger: Nobody betrayed us, sir.  We just didn’t have the resources to resist.–And sir, I must tell you–our men feel abandoned.  They think you’re too preoccupied arguing amongst yourselves.  They’re disappointed, sir.  They don’t want to hear words.  They want to see some action.

Exeter: Mmm–All right, messenger.  Wait outside.

Messenger: Yes, my lord.

    (The Messenger leaves.)

Exeter: Christ–I’m speechless.–When I think of Agincourt–and now, to lose everything.

Bedford: This is on my shoulders more than anyone else’s.  After all, I’m the Regent of France.  My brother would want me to fight, and that’s just what I intend to do.

    (A Second Messenger comes in.)

Second Messenger: My lords!  News from France!

Exeter: Yes?

Second Messenger: The Dauphin, Charles, has been crowned King of France, and all the French lords are supporting him.  [Author’s note: Throughout this play, Charles is referred to as the Dauphin, not the King, reflecting the English viewpoint.  As far as they were concerned, he was only a prince.]

Exeter: It figures.–All right.  Go wait outside.

Second Messenger: Yes, my lord.

    (The Second Messenger leaves.)

Somerset: They’ll be calling him Charles the Seventh now.

Bedford: I don’t care what they call him.  He’s still the Dauphin as far as we’re concerned.

Gloucester: We’re going to have trouble with him.  He’s young, and he’s going to want to prove himself.  And all those lords are going to be falling all over each other to be his best friend.

Exeter: You got that right.

Bedford: I hope you guys are up for a war, because that’s where this is heading.

Gloucester: Say no more.  I’m your brother.

Exeter: And I’m your uncle.

    (A Third Messenger comes in.)

Third Messenger: My lords!  News from France!

Warwick: What the hell?  Did you guys all come on different boats?

Third Messenger: My lord?

Exeter: Never mind.  What’s the news?

Third Messenger: Lord Talbot and his army were surrounded by the French as he was retreating from Orleans.  Sir John Fastolfe was supposed to be guarding his rear, but he fled the battle and left Talbot on his own.  [Author’s note: Some texts use the name “Sir John Falstaff”, but this would lead to confusion as Sir John Falstaff was another character, who died in Henry V.Talbot put up a hell of a fight anyway, but he was wounded and taken prisoner.  It went very badly, my lords.  Many casualties.  Many prisoners.

Bedford (To the Lords): I’ll get him back.  I’ll capture some of their lords and do a trade.  I can take ten thousand men with me immediately.

Third Messenger: I suggest you go to Orleans, sir.  Lord Salisbury has laid siege to the town, but he’s desperately short of men and supplies.

Bedford: Right.–Wait for us.

    (The Third Messenger leaves.)

Gloucester: Bedford, you make your preparations, and I’ll go to the Tower and take stock of our armaments.  And then we have to get the boy crowned immediately. 

Exeter: Yes.  Good idea.  Henry the Sixth is going to be King of France, not Charles the Seventh.  I’ll make arrangements for his personal safety.–Let’s go.

    (All leave except Winchester, who lingers.)

Winchester: And what should the Bishop of Winchester do?  Why, the Bishop of Winchester should stick very close to the new King–to be his best friend and most trusted advisor, of course.

    (Winchester leaves.)

Act 1, Scene 2.  Near Orleans.  Charles (the Dauphin) and Lords Alenc,on and Reignier come in, with Soldiers.  [Author’s note: Orleans is a French town under siege by English forces under Salisbury.  French forces under Charles have arrived to drive the English away.  This scene is taking place outside the town.]

Charles: The English had their way with us, but now it’s our turn.  They won’t take Orleans.  They’re pooped out.

Alenc,on: They can’t fight on empty stomachs.

Reignier: Right.  And we can break this siege now that we’ve captured Talbot.   All they have left is that lunatic Salisbury.

Charles: What are we waiting for?  Sound the trumpets!  Let’s get them!

    (Trumpets sound.  They rush out.  Sounds of battle.  Then Charles, Alenc,on, and Reignier return, without the Soldiers.)

Charles: Did you see that?  Our men panicked!  I can’t believe it!

Reignier: They got spooked by Salisbury.  That guy’s deranged.  He’s a fucking psychopath.

Alenc,on: Those English–how can they fight like that when they’re starving?

Charles: That’s exactly why they’re fighting like that.  Hunger is making them insane.  We’d better leave them for the time being.  We’re not going to get anywhere.

Reignier: I think you’re right.

    (The Bastard of Orleans comes in.  [Author’s note: This was Jean, Count Dunois.  He was the illegitimate son of the Duke of Orleans and was first cousin to Charles.])

Bastard: Cousin Charles–my lord Dauphin!

Charles: Dunois!  Am I glad to see you!

Bastard: How are you?  You look worried.

Charles: I am.  I don’t know what to do about these English fanatics.

Bastard: Well, you’re about to get some help.  I’ve brought a young woman with me who has divine powers.  She had a vision that told her to drive out the English, and she’s going to do it.

Charles: Are you serious?

Bastard: Absolutely.  She’s a prophetess.  She has God-given powers.

Charles: I’ll believe it when I see it.  Go and get her.

Bastard: Back in a sec.

    (The Bastard leaves.)

Charles (To Reignier): I have to see if this woman is on the level.  You pretend you’re me.  Just stand right there and act royal.  I’ll move back a little.  Let’s see if she knows who’s the Dauphin.

    (Charles moves apart.  Joan de Pucelle comes in, with the Bastard following but remaining near the wing.  [Author’s note: This is Joan of Arc, often referred to as the Maid of Orleans.  Her speech prefix will be “Joan”, although some texts use “Pucelle”.]  She is wearing a sword.)

Reignier: Ahem–Welcome, fair maid.  So, you have come to help us with your divine powers?

    (Joan looks at Reignier and Charles.)

Joan (To Reignier): You are not the Dauphin.  You are Lord Reignier.

    (Reignier and Charles exchange looks.)

Reignier: Wow.

Joan: There is nothing hidden from me, my lords.

Reignier: I guess not.

Joan (To Charles): My lord Dauphin, I would speak with you privately.

    (Charles nods to Alenc,on and Reignier, and they join the Bastard at the wing, almost offstage.  [The suggestion is that they are far enough away not to be aware of the action that follows.])

Charles: Who are you?

Joan: My name is Joan de Pucelle.  I come from simple people.  My father was a shepherd.  One day when I was minding the flock, the Virgin Mary appeared to me.  She told me I had been chosen to free our country from the English.  She promised to help me, and she guaranteed that I would succeed.  And then she surrounded me with a ball of light and changed me from a plain, unattractive girl to the beautiful woman you see now.  If you don’t believe me, you can put me to any test you wish, for I am blessed with divine powers.

Charles: Hmm–well–

Joan: You can even test me in combat.  I’ll beat you.

Charles: Ha!  You mean a duel with swords?

Jean: Yes.

Charles: You’re kidding me.

Joan: No, I’m not.  I have my sword.  (She takes out her sword.)  I fear no man.

Charles: Huh–well, I’ll be damned.–I don’t like to humiliate a woman–but if you insist–

    (He takes out his sword.  They duel.  Joan beats him back and knocks the sword out of his hand.)

Charles: Stop!–Enough.–Holy Christ.–How did you do that?

Joan: The power of the Holy Virgin is within me.

    (Charles looks at her passionately.)

Charles: I never met such a woman as you.  I never even imagined there could be such a woman.–Joan de Pucelle–I would give up the throne for you.  Would you say no to the Dauphin of France?

Joan: I cannot give myself to any man until I have freed my country from its enemies.  I have my powers only as long as I remain a virgin.

    (Charles gets down on one knee and takes her hand.)

Charles: I’ll wait if I have to.  (He kisses her hand.)  I love you. 

    (Reignier and Alenc,on are conversing apart.)

Reignier: Wonder what’s going on with those two.

Alenc,on: I’ll bet he’s giving her a thorough examination.

Reignier: Think we should butt in?

Alenc,on: Yeah–for his own good.  She’s too much of a hottie.  This is no time for him to get distracted.

Reignier: Yeah.

    (Reignier returns with Alenc,on and the Bastard.)

Reignier: My lord?  So, what have you decided?  Are we going to let the English have Orleans?

Joan: No!  The English will have nothing!  I have the power to drive them away.

Charles: She’s got the power, all right.  Not that I understand it.  But she’s got it.  And we’re going to fight.

Joan: By tomorrow, I promise the siege will be broken.

Alenc,on: All right, then.

Reignier: Lady, if you pull this off, you’ll go down in history.

Charles: And if she doesn’t, I’ll never believe in prophets again.  (To the Bastard) And I’ll never listen to you again.

    (They all leave.)

Act 1, Scene 3.  Before the Tower of London.  Gloucester comes in with two Servants in blue coats.

Gloucester: There should be a good stockpile of weapons in the Tower–assuming nobody’s been stealing them.  Give a knock.

    (A Servant knocks.)

Warder (Within): Who’s knocking?

Servant: The Duke of Gloucester.

Warder (Within): I’m sorry, but I can’t open the door.

Servant: What do you mean, you can’t open the door?  The Duke of Gloucester is here!

Warder (Within): Sorry.  I have my orders.

Gloucester: Orders?  Whose orders?  Get your lieutenant!

    (A brief pause.  Muffled voices within.  Then Woodville, the Lieutenant, speaks from inside.  [Author’s note: Woodville was the father of Elizabeth Woodville, who later married Edward IV.  See “Shakespeare For White Trash: Richard III”.])

Woodville (Within): Who’s out there?  The Tower’s not open to the public!

Gloucester: Woodville, is that you?  It’s Gloucester!  Open this door!

Woodville (Within): I’m sorry, sir.  The Bishop of Winchester has ordered me to let no one in.

Gloucester: Winchester!  Hey, I’m the Lord Protector, in case you’ve forgotten!  Open this door!

    (Winchester comes in with two Servants in brown coats.)

 Winchester: Gloucester, what are you doing here?

Gloucester: I want to get into the Tower.

Winchester: No.

Gloucester: No?  Who the hell are you to tell me no?

Winchester: I know your game, Gloucester.  You want to usurp the throne for yourself.

Gloucester: You bastard!  You never gave a shit about my brother.  You only care about yourself.  And I know your game–collecting kickbacks from all the whorehouses in London.  Now you let me into this Tower  or I’ll ram your hat down your throat!

Winchester: You can’t intimidate me.  I represent the church.  I have the Pope behind me.

Gloucester (To his Servants): Get these guys!

    (Gloucester’s Servants fight with Winchester’s Servants and are beating them.)

Winchester: The Pope will hear about this!

Gloucester: You fucking germ!

    (Gloucester is about to strike Winchester when the Mayor of London and two Officers come in.)

Mayor: Stop this fighting at once!

    (The fighting stops.)

Mayor: My Lord Gloucester!–My lord Bishop!–Shame on you!

Gloucester: Hey, Mayor, you know what?  This son of a bitch locked me out of the Tower!

Winchester (To the Mayor): Yes!  Because this warmonger is going to drag us into another war!  But his real ambition is to overthrow the church and then seize the throne for himself!

Gloucester: Why, you!–

    (Gloucester reaches for his sword, and Winchester does the same.)

Mayor: Stop!  (To the Officers)  Enforce the law here!

Officer: In the name of God and the King, all persons in this place are forbidden to use any weapon and are commanded to return home peaceably!

Gloucester: Winchester, I won’t break the law, but I’m not finished with you.

Winchester: And you just better not cross my path if you know what’s good for you.

Mayor: My lord Bishop!  What a thing to say!  And you, a high churchman!

Gloucester: I’m going, Mayor.

Winchester: You just watch out, Gloucester.

    (Gloucester and his Servants leave separately from Winchester and his Servants.)

Mayor: My God, what’s this country coming to?

    (He and the Officers leave.) 

Act 1, Scene 4.  Near Orleans.  A high place is suggested.  Talbot is observing with Sir William Glansdale and Sir Thomas Gargrave.  Salisbury comes in.

Salisbury: Talbot!  You’re back!  Thank God!

Talbot: Salisbury!  I’m glad to see you!

Salisbury: Are you all right, man?  What happened?

Talbot: Bedford arranged an exchange of prisoners.

Salisbury: How did the French treat you?

Talbot: Those bastards.  They paraded me through the streets and let the crowd jeer at me, and then I got thrown into prison.  I gave them a lot of trouble, though.  I think they were afraid of me.  They had guns pointed at me even when I was sleeping.

Salisbury: Whoever Bedford traded for you, we got the better deal.

Talbot: Probably.–Gargrave and Glansdale and I have been observing the town.  We’re trying to figure out where the weakest spot is where we could attack and get inside.

Salisbury: So what do you think?

Gargrave: I would say the north gate.

Glansdale: Otherwise the bridge.

Talbot: They can’t hold out forever.  We’re wearing them down.  And they’ve got to be hungry.

    (An explosion, with smoke.  Everyone falls down.  Salisbury is badly wounded.)

Talbot: Salisbury!  Salisbury!

    (Salisbury groans.  Sounds of cannon.  A Messenger comes in.)

Messenger: My lords!  The French have gathered their forces.  And the Dauphin has arrived with a strange woman named Joan de Pucelle.  She’s supposed to have divine powers.  She’s going to use them against us.

    (Salisbury groans.)

Talbot: He’s hurt bad.  Get him to his tent.  I’ll deal with these French bastards–and that Joan de Pucelle, whoever she is.–Divine powers, my ass!

    (The others help Salisbury out.  Talbot remains.)

Act 1, Scene 5.  Before Orleans.  As the curtain goes up, English soldiers are retreating.  Joan de Pucelle comes in, sword upraised.  Talbot comes in from the other side, where his soldiers have just retreated.

Talbot: What kind of demon from hell are you, that my soldiers should run from you?

Joan: Not a demon from hell, sir.  I am Joan de Pucelle, sent by the Holy Virgin to liberate my country.

Talbot: Why, you’re nothing but a witch and a fraud–and now I’m going to kill you!

    (They fight.  Joan displays extraordinary dexterity and overpowers him,  putting her sword to his throat.)

Joan: It is not your time to die, Talbot.  Therefore, I spare you–for now.  Go to your friend Salisbury, for he shall die tonight.  You English are beaten.

    (She leaves.  Talbot is perplexed.)

Talbot: No–no–(He calls to his soldiers.) Men of England!  You must fight!–They’re running.–How can this be?–Who is that demon?–The French are entering Orleans.–I’ve never been so disgraced.–God, let me die with Salisbury!

    (He leaves.)

Act 1, Scene 6.  Joan, the Dauphin, Reignier, Alenc,on, and Soldiers come in.  [Author’s note: In the original, they appear on the walls of Orleans.  This may be suggested.]

Joan: Wave the flag!  Orleans is saved!

    (Cheers in the background.  The French flag is waved.)

Charles: This is the greatest day of my life!  Joan de Pucelle, you are brilliant!  You are a heroine!

Reignier: Let’s have the whole town celebrate.

Alenc,on: The whole country will celebrate when they hear what we’ve done.

Charles: What we’ve done?  Oh, no.  The credit is all Joan’s.  I’ll share my crown with her.  I’ll build a great monument to her.  She’ll be the new patron saint of France.–Come.  We’ll have a banquet and celebrate.

    (They leave.)

Act 2, Scene 1.  Outside the wall of Orleans.  Talbot, Bedford, Burgundy, and Soldiers come in.  [Author’s note: The Duke  of Burgundy was the French lord who arranged the peace meeting between the English and French in Henry V.  He became an ally of the English from that point on.]

Talbot: My Lord Burgundy, thanks to you, we have friends in France.

Burgundy: I’m glad to be on your side.  The Dauphin had my father murdered.–They’re  all sleeping in there now.  You can get over the wall.

Bedford: The Dauphin has teamed up with a witch.  He must think  more of her than he does his own army.

Burgundy: Who is this Joan de Pucelle anyway?

Talbot: They say she’s a virgin.

Bedford: But she fights like a man.

Burgundy: Maybe she’s a man in a woman’s clothing.

Talbot: I don’t care what she is.  God is on our side, not hers.

Bedford: Should we go over the wall together?

Talbot: No, let’s split up.  We’ll have a better chance of getting past the sentries.

    (As they move, the lights go out briefly.  [There is no scene break indicated, but the scene is going to change anyway.]  Sounds of yelling in French.  The suggestion is that the French lords have been surprised from their beds and have fled in panic.  The segue is to a place within the town.  The Bastard, Alenc,on, and Reignier come in from different directions in their nightgowns.)

Alenc,on: The English have broken in!

Bastard: I got out of my bedroom just in time, thank God!

Reignier: How could this happen?  I thought we beat them.

Bastard: It’s that fucking Talbot.  We never should have exchanged him.  He’s too dangerous.

    (Charles and Joan come in.)

Alenc,on: My lord, the English are inside the town!

Charles (To Joan): Did you double-cross us?

Joan: Don’t blame me if your sentries are unreliable.

Charles (To Alenc,on): Alenc,on, weren’t you in charge of the watch?

Alenc,on: My sentries were on duty.–Maybe–(He looks at the Bastard and Reignier.)

Bastard: Don’t look at me.  My guys were on duty.

Reignier: So were mine.

Joan: There’s no point arguing about it.  They got in somehow.  Let’s collect our forces and get to safety.  Then we can decide what to do about it.

    (They leave.)

Act 2, Scene 2.  Inside Orleans.  Talbot, Bedford, Burgundy, and a Captain come in.

Bedford: Finally!–Orleans is in English hands.

Talbot: I’m only sorry Salisbury didn’t live to see it.  I’ll have him buried here.  It’s an honour he deserves.–Where’s the Dauphin and his girlfriend, I wonder?

Bedford: They made a run for it, along with their army.

Burgundy: I expect they’ll be together from now  on.  We’ll find them, wherever they are.

    (A Messenger comes in.)

Messenger: Greetings to the commanders of England.  I am sent with a message for Lord Talbot.

Talbot: I’m Talbot.

Messenger: Sir, my mistress, the Countess of Auvergne, would like to meet you.  She has heard of your great reputation as a man of courage.

Burgundy: What is she, some  kind of military groupie?–Ignore it, Talbot.

Talbot: No, it’s all right.  I’m curious to meet her.–Bedford, want to come along?

Bedford: No, thanks.  Three’s a crowd.  You go ahead.  Just be careful.

Talbot: Don’t worry about me.  I just want to find out what’s on her mind.–Captain.  (He whispers some instructions to the Captain.)  Understand?

Captain: Perfectly.

Talbot: All right, then.

    (They all leave.)

Act 2, Scene 3.  In the entrance hall of the castle at Auvergne.  The Countess comes in with her Porter.

Countess: You know what you’re supposed to do.  When everything’s ready, you bring me the keys.

Porter: Yes, madam.

    (The Porter leaves.)

Countess: When Talbot shows up, I’ll take him prisoner.  Then I’ll be famous.  I’ll be a heroine.

    (Talbot arrives with the Countess’s Messenger.)

Messenger: Madam, Lord Talbot is here.

Countess: What?–Are you Talbot?

Talbot: Yes, madam.

Countess: You’re the toughest commander in the English army?  You don’t look very tough to me.  In fact, you look quite ordinary–and much older than I expected.

Talbot: Well, if you’re disappointed, I’ll go.

    (He turns to leave.)

Countess: No, no–wait.–I didn’t mean it  like that.  I only wanted to be sure you really were Talbot.

Talbot: Yes, I really am Talbot.

    (The Porter comes in with the keys.)

Countess: Good.–If you’re Talbot–then you’re a prisoner.

Talbot: Whose prisoner, madam?

Countesss: Mine,  of course.

Talbot: Ha, ha, ha!–You think you can take me prisoner just like that?

Countess: Yes.  Why not?

Talbot: Because Talbot is not just Talbot.  Talbot is a multitude of men.

Countess: What are you talking about?

Talbot: I’ll show you.

    (He takes out a whistle and blows it.  Several English Soldiers appear immediately.)

Countess: Oh!–Sir, I underestimated you.  Please forgive me.

Talbot: That’s all right.  I’m not offended.  Just give us all some treats.  How about that?  Have you got any cake?  We like cake.

Countess: Of course.  I shall be honoured to serve you and your men.  (To the Porter)  Bring cake and wine into the dining room.

    (They all leave.)  

Act 2, Scene 4.  [Author’s note: This scene requires some explanation, as it involves the complex dispute between the Yorks and Lancasters over the succession to the throne.  This dispute was to lead to the Wars of the Roses.  The Lancasters, who were Henrys IV, V, and VI, were descended from John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster — one of five sons of Edward III.  The Lancasters were the third of five branches of the family tree under Edward III.  The Yorks were the fourth branch, descended from Edmund of Langley, Duke of York.  The fifth branch was under Thomas of Woodstock, Duke of Gloucester.  He is assumed to have been murdered on orders from Richard II, and his title was forfeit and later reassigned.  Two of his descendants, the first and second Dukes of Buckingham, don’t enter the picture until later. The first branch was descended from Edward the Black Prince.  The second branch was descended from Lionel of Antwerp, Duke of Clarence.  {Two other sons died in infancy and can be disregarded.}  Edward the Black Prince died before Edward III, so the crown passed to the Prince’s son, Richard II.  He was the last person on that branch of the tree and the last king of the House of Plantagenet.  The person next in line, based strictly on the rules of succession, was Edmund Mortimer, a descendant of Lionel of Antwerp.  {All of Lionel’s descendants were surnamed Mortimer, because his only child, Philippa, married a Mortimer.  There were actually three Mortimers named Edmund.}  However, Richard II was overthrown by his cousin Henry IV, and Edmund Mortimer’s claim to the throne was brushed aside.  This irregularity in the  succession became serious when one of Edmund Langley’s sons, Richard, Earl of Cambridge, married Anne Mortimer, the sister of the Edmund Mortimer whose claim had been stepped over.  This created a “patch” from the fourth branch of the tree to the second branch and theoretically put the Yorks ahead of the Lancasters.  Richard, Earl of Cambridge, was executed for treason by Henry V, but not before he and Anne produced a son, Richard.  He was known as Richard Plantagenet, after the surname of Edward III.  His title Duke of York had been temporarily revoked.  It was not until Henry VI became King that Richard and his supporters were in a position to claim the throne, because Henry VI was a weak king, compared to his father, Henry V.  In this scene we meet the Duke of Somerset.  Somerset and his uncle, the Bishop of Winchester, were on the Lancaster branch of the tree, being illegitimately descended from John of Gaunt.  Suffolk is on the side of Somerset.  Warwick, however, is sympathetic to Richard Plantagenet.  This scene, which is apocryphal, explains how the Wars of the Roses came to be so named.]  The Temple Garden, behind the law courts in London.  Richard Plantagenet, Warwick, Somerset, Suffolk, Vernon, and a Lawyer come in.  They are in a serious mood.  There are bushes of red and white roses.  [Richard Plantagenet’s speech prefix throughout this play will be “Richard”, although some editions use “York”.]

Richard: What’s the matter?  You guys don’t want to talk about it?

Suffolk: Yeah, but not in there with all those damned lawyers–(To the Lawyer) No offense.–It’s easier to breathe out here in the garden.

Richard: Okay, then, so what about it?  Am I right, or do you agree with Somerset?

Suffolk: I’m not a legal expert.

Somerset: Warwick, we should make you the referee on this.

Warwick: Oh, no.  Don’t put it all on my shoulders.

Richard: You’re being diplomatic.  It’s so obvious that I’m right.  Any idiot would see it at once.

Somerset: Then let the idiots agree with you, and the wise men will agree with me.

Warwick: Let’s not have a quarrel.  There’s enough arguing going on in the courts.  (He nods over his shoulder.)

Richard: All right.  Nobody has to say anything.  Let’s do this.  We have red roses and white roses here.  I’m going to pick a white rose.  Whoever agrees with me should pick a white rose, too.

    (They will all pick roses as indicated.)

Somerset: I’m taking a red rose, and whoever agrees with me should do the same.–Warwick?

Warwick: Well, if I have to choose–I’m picking a white one.

Somerset: Suffolk?

Suffolk: I’m with you–red rose.

Somerset: Vernon?

Vernon: If this is supposed to settle the matter, then whichever side has the fewest roses has to admit they’re beaten.

Somerset: Sure.

Richard: Fine.

Vernon: It’s pretty clear to me.  I’m taking a white rose.

Somerset: Don’t prick yourself on a thorn, or you’ll turn it red.

Vernon: If I bleed for my choice, so be it.  But I’m keeping the white rose.

Somerset (To the Lawyer): You’re a lawyer.  You heard both sides.  Who’s right?

Lawyer: Based on the law, I have to say I’m on Richard’s side.  I’ll wear a white rose. 

Richard: There!  What do you say to that, Somerset?

Somerset (Grabbing the scabbard of his sword): This is my best argument.  Your white roses may end up blood-red.

Richard: What’s the matter, Somerset?  You’ve gone pale all of a sudden.  I guess that shows you know we’re right.

Somerset: You’re blushing red–with shame, of course.  You know I’m right.

Richard: Your red rose looks diseased.

Somerset: Yours has an ugly thorn, Plantagenet.

Richard: A good, sharp thorn to prick your pretentious bubble.

Somerset: Plenty of other people will be wearing the red rose.  Good people know the truth.

Richard: Hey, count the roses.  We win–loser.

Suffolk: You’ve got a nerve, Plantagenet.

Richard: Nerve enough for both of you.

Suffolk: You’ll eat your words someday.

Somerset: Come on, Suffolk.  Let’s not dignify this–commoner–by conversing with him.

Warwick: Wait a minute, Somerset.  Plantagenet’s great-great-grandfather was Lionel, Duke of Clarence.

Richard: He wouldn’t dare insult me if we weren’t standing behind the law courts.

Somerset: Fuck that!  Your father, Richard, Earl of Cambridge, was executed for treason by Henry the Fifth!  You don’t have a title any more!

Richard: You jerk!  It was never proven that he was a traitor!  He was executed without a trial!  And as for the both of you–(Indicating Somerset and Suffolk) I won’t forget this insult.  You’ll be sorry.

Somerset: Do your worst.  We’ll be ready for you.  And there’ll be more of us than there are of you.

Richard: This white rose is pale with hatred for the likes of you.  And I’ll wear it until I’m in my grave or on the throne, where I belong.

Suffolk: I pray that you choke on your ambition.

Somerset: Amen to that!–Come on, Suffolk, let’s split.

    (Suffolk and Somerset leave.)

Richard: I could’ve strangled those guys!

Warwick (Patting Richard’s arm): Discretion–discretion–.The next Parliament will probably restore your title.  They’ve been called to patch up the quarrel between Winchester and Gloucester.  If you don’t get your title back, I’ll eat my shoes.  That’s how sure I am.  In the meantime, I’m going to wear this white rose for your sake.

Vernon: So will I.

Lawyer: I will, too.

Richard: I really appreciate it, you guys.  Come on, let me treat you to dinner.

Warwick: We accept.–But I’ll be honest with you.  This dispute about the throne is going to escalate.  I can foresee a war at some point–the red roses against the white roses.  A lot of people could die.

Richard (Smiling): Well–it won’t happen today.–Come on.

    (They leave.)

Act 2, Scene 5.  A prison cell in the Tower of London.  The aged Edmund Mortimer is slumped in a chair, eyes closed.  The Jailer comes in.

Jailer: Edmund Mortimer–are you asleep?

Mortimer (Opening his eyes): Eh?

Jailer: You sent for your nephew.

Mortimer: Yes, yes.

Jailer: He’s here.

Mortimer: Thank God.

    (The Jailer leaves, and Richard Plantagenet comes in.)

Richard: Uncle!

Mortimer: Richard!

    (They embrace.)

Richard: How are you, uncle?

Mortimer: Sick–old–not long for this world.  But seeing you again warms my heart.  How are you, boy?  How are you?

Richard: I’m unhappy, uncle.

Mortimer: What’s wrong?

Richard: I got into a quarrel with Somerset.  He insulted me, and he insulted my father.  Called him a traitor. 

Mortimer: Oh–oh–

Richard: Uncle, please tell me the truth about my father.  I need to know.

    (Richard sits beside Mortimer.)

Mortimer: It’s a fine bit of history, my boy.  All in the family.  Richard the Second made me his heir to the throne.  I was next in line because I was descended from Lionel.  But when Henry the Fourth overthrew Richard, my claim to the throne was simply ignored.  Later on, the Percys, who had been Henry’s friends, rebelled against him.  They wanted to put me on the throne.  But they were beaten, and I was thrown in prison.  Your father, the Earl of Cambridge, was on my side.  He married your mother–my sister, Anne.  He wanted to put me on the throne, but he was executed for treason by Henry the Fifth.  He died for a good cause, my boy.  We Mortimers were robbed by the Lancasters.  Now I’m old, and I have no children.  But you, my boy, are the son of my sister.  And now I make you my heir.  My heir, Richard.  Do you understand what that means? 

Richard: Yes, uncle.  I’ll get revenge on the Lancasters–for my father, and for you.

Mortimer: Shh–careful what you say, nephew.  Never give a signal to your enemies that you’re angry with them.  You have to be cautious.  The Lancasters are well-entrenched.  Getting them off the throne would be like moving a mountain.–Ahh–I’m glad we had this talk, my boy–before I die.

Richard: I would gladly give you some of my years if I could.

Mortimer: No, no, my boy.  Nature must take its course.  I’ve lived long enough.  I’m ready to leave this old body.  You’ll see to my funeral.

Richard: Uncle, you mustn’t die.

Mortimer: My dear boy–son of my beloved sister–May God protect you–and may you prosper well–in peace–or war–.

    (He dies.)

Richard: Uncle!  (He clasps Mortimer’s hand.)–Thank you for giving me the truth–and your advice.–I will have my honour restored.

    (Scene ends without an exit.)

Act 3, Scene 1.  Parliament.  Young King Henry VI comes in with Exeter, Gloucester, Winchester, Somerset, Suffolk, and Richard Plantagenet.  [Author’s note: Henry is presented here as a teenager, although historically he would have been much younger.]  Gloucester attempts to stick a paper on the wall, and Winchester grabs it and tears it up.

Winchester: That’s this?  More dirty accusations against me?  If you have something to say against me, say it out loud.

Gloucester: I would, but foul language isn’t allowed here in Parliament–you evil priest.  You think you can get away with your dirty plots and your treason?  You wanted to have me killed at London Bridge and at the Tower.

Winchester: Liar!

Gloucester: You’re too ambitious, Winchester.  It’s written all over you.

Winchester: Me?  Ambitious?  (To the others)  You hear this clown?  He calls me ambitious.  If I’m so ambitious, how come I’m so poor?  I’m a man of the church.  I’m a man of peace.  But Gloucester provokes me.  And you know why?  Because he can’t stand the thought that somebody else might have as much influence with the King as he does.  And I’m just as good a man as Gloucester.

Gloucester: As good?  A bastard of my grandfather, John of Gaunt!

Winchester: You want to rule England by yourself!

Gloucester: I’m the Lord Protector of the King–my nephew!

Winchester: And I’m a bishop of the church.

Gloucester: A position you use for your own selfish purposes.

Winchester: If you attack me, you attack the church.  Rome stands behind me.

Warwick: The further behind, the better.

Somerset (To Warwick): My lord, you shouldn’t say that.

Warwick: A bishop should be more humble.

Somerset: But his Grace is simply defending the church.

Warwick: And Gloucester is protecting the King.

Richard (Aside): I’d tell this fucking bishop where to get off, but I’m keeping my mouth shut.

King: Please!  Please!–Gloucester–Winchester–It hurts me to see you fight like this.  And it’s very bad for the country when people of such high rank fight with each other.

    (Sounds of fighting are heard offstage, suggesting two groups.)

King: What’s going on out there?

Warwick: I’ll bet it’s the Bishop’s boys making trouble.

    (Continued sounds of fighting.  Then the Mayor of London comes in.)

Mayor: My lords!  Do you hear that racket outside?  Gloucester’s servants are fighting with the Bishop’s servants!  I forbade them to carry weapons, and now they’re beating each other!

    (The fighting comes onstage.)

King: Stop!  Stop!  (To Gloucester)  Uncle, you must stop them!

Gloucester (To his Servants): Stop the fight!

A Servant of Gloucester: My lord, we won’t allow these dirtbags to offend your honour!

Gloucester: Lads, this is Parliament!  You can’t fight here!

King: Winchester!  Do something!

Warwick: Gloucester–Winchester–come on.  We can’t have this.

Winchester: I won’t stop anything unless Gloucester stops it first. 

Gloucester: All right–for the King’s sake.  (To his Servants) You must stop right now!  You’re upsetting the King!

    (The fighting stops tentatively.)

Warwick: Winchester?

Winchester (To his Servants): That’s enough, boys.  You’ve had your fun.

Warwick (To Gloucester and Winchester): Can we call a truce here?–Come on.  If you love the King.

Gloucester: Yes, all right.

    (He extends his hand, but Winchester holds back.)

King: Bishop?  You said you were a man of peace.

    (Warwick gives a thumbs-up to the audience to show his approval of the King’s remark.  Winchester reluctantly shakes hands with Gloucester.)

Winchester: This is just to show that I love the King as much as you do.

Gloucester (Aside): Phony bastard.

Winchester (Aside): I’d sooner strangle him.

King (Happily): There!–Now I feel better.–My kind and noble kinsmen.  (To the Servants)  And all you lads make peace now.

The Servants: Yes, my lord.

King: Go down to the pub and have a drink or something.  Be friendly.

The Servants: Yes, my lord.

    (The Servants leave.)

Mayor: Thank you, my lords!

    (The Mayor leaves, wiping his brow with his handkerchief.)

Warwick (To the King): Now, down to business, my lord.  In behalf of your cousin Richard Plantagenet, here is a request for your kind consideration.

    (He hands the King a paper.)

Gloucester: Yes, your Majesty.  I talked to you about this before.  It’s about Richard’s title.  It would be a gracious thing if you were to restore it to him.

King: It’s my pleasure to do it–(To Richard) not only the earldom of Cambridge but also the dukedom of York, which belonged to your uncle, who died at Agincourt in the service of my father.–Now, kneel before me.

    (Richard kneels.  The King taps him on the shoulders with  his sword.)

King: Arise, Duke of York.

Richard: Your Majesty, I pledge my obedience and loyalty to you as long as I live.

    (The others cheer and applaud, except for Somerset, who turns his back and shows his middle finger to the audience.)

Gloucester: Your Majesty, the next thing you need to do is go to France and be crowned King there.  The French need to know who their real King is.

King: Uncle, I rely on your advice.

    (A trumpet flourish.  All leave, except Exeter, who faces the audience grimly.)

Exeter: They don’t understand the risk.  This quarrel between Gloucester and Winchester is going to erupt again.  And the outcome is going to be bad for the whole country.  It was prophesied that everything that Henry the Fifth won in France would be lost by Henry the Sixth.  I don’t want to live to see it.

    (He leaves.)

Act 3, Scene 2.  Outside the walls of Rouen.  Joan and several Soldiers come in, disguised as peasants.

Joan: Remember, we’re peasants.  We’ll con our way in, and then Rouen will be in French hands.

    (She knocks at the gate.)

Watchman (Within): Who knocks?

Joan: We are peasants, sir, come to sell our corn.  Please let us in.

Watchman (Within): All right.  I’ll open the gate for you.

    (The gate opens, and Joan and the Soldiers go in.  Then Charles, the Bastard, Alenc,on, and Soldiers appear at the wing.)

Charles: She’s in.  Watch for her signal.

    (Joan appears briefly on the wall, waves a torch, and then disappears.)

Charles: That’s it!

Alenc,on (To the Soldiers): Come on, men!

    (They enter the town.  Sounds of alarm within.  [The action gets complex here.  The Director must decide how people come in and go out.]  Talbot, Burgundy, and Bedford come in, having fled from the town.  Bedford is sick and is assisted or carried on a stretcher by Attendants.  Joan, Charles, the Bastard, and Alenc,on appear on the wall.)

Joan: Good morning, English!  Want to buy some corn?–Ha! Ha! Ha!

Burgundy: You witch!  I’ll shove that corn down your throat!

Charles: You should live so long, Burgundy!–Ha! Ha!

Bedford: Save your breath, Burgundy.  Let our swords speak for us.

Joan: Your swords, sir?  You’re too old and sick even to stand up, let alone wield a sword.

Talbot: Wait till I get my hands on you!

Joan: Oh, Talbot, you’re so funny when you’re angry.

Talbot: Why don’t you give us a fair fight on an open field?  That’s what real soldiers do!

Joan: No, thank you.  Only brutes like you rely on force.  We prefer to use our brains.

Talbot: You mean your tricks!–You–Alenc,on.  You’re a soldier.  Surely you have a sense of honour.  Give us a fair fight out in the open.

Alenc,on: Sorry.  No.

Joan (To her party): Let’s go.  We’ve made our point.–Goodbye, Talbot!

    (Joan and her party disappear from the wall.)

Talbot: We’ll take Rouen back.–Are you with me, Burgundy?

Burgundy: All the way.

Talbot: But we have to help Bedford first.–Bedford, we’ve got to get you to safety.

Bedford (Weakly): I’m not going anywhere.  I don’t want to miss anything.  You go on.

Talbot: You’ve got guts, my lord–but I always knew that.–Come on, Burgundy.  We’ll collect our men and chase after those French.

    (Talbot, Burgundy, and Soldiers rush out, leaving Bedford with the Attendants.  Bedford watches the suggested action offstage.  Alarms.)

Bedford (Weakly): Go get ’em, Talbot!–That’s it!–You show ’em what we’re made of!–The French can’t beat us–never–oh–my soul–yes–take me now–it’s time–

    (He dies.  Talbot, Burgundy, and the Soldiers return.)

Talbot: We did it, Burgundy!  We did it!

Burgundy: Talbot, you were magnificent!

Talbot: We’ll restore order in the town, and I’ll beef up security so there are no more intrusions.  Then we have to go to Paris to meet up with the King.

Burgundy: I’m with you.

     (Talbot kneels beside Bedford.)

Talbot: Bedford!  Did you see?

Attendant: He’s dead, sir–but he did see you.  He was happy.

Talbot: My friend Bedford.  He was as good as he was brave.  We’ll bury him here in Rouen.

    (They leave.)

Act 3, Scene 3.  Between Rouen and Paris.  Charles, the Bastard, Alenc,on, Joan, and Soldiers (including a Trumpeter) come in.

Joan: Don’t be discouraged, my friends.  Let them have Rouen for now.  Let Talbot enjoy his moment of glory.  It won’t last long.

Charles: We trust you, Joan. 

Bastard: Yes.  You still have a trick or two up your sleeve, eh? 

Alenc,on: Of course, she does.  She’s divinely inspired.–So what do we do now, Joan?

Joan: I have a plan.  I will entice the Duke of Burgundy to abandon Talbot and come over to our side.

Charles: That would be great.  If Burgundy came back to us, the English wouldn’t stand a chance.

Joan: You can hear their armies.–Listen.

    (Distant drums of the English army.)

Joan: That’s Talbot.

    (A different drum sound.)

Joan: That’s Burgundy.  He’s following Talbot.  Sound the trumpet for a parley.  He’ll recognize it.

Charles (To the Trumpeter): Sound a parley.

    (The Trumpeter sounds a parley.  After a short interval, Burgundy comes in.)

Burgundy: I assume that trumpet was meant for me.

Charles: Yes, Burgundy.  Joan wants to talk to you.

Burgundy (To Joan): Well, make it fast.  I’m on the march.

Joan: My lord of Burgundy, look at your country.  Can you not see the horror this war has brought?  Can you not see the destruction?  Can you not see and hear the despair of your countrymen?  This is your country.  This is France.  Do you hate your people so much that you would join with their murderers?  Have you no pity?  Why do you raise your sword against France when you are a Frenchman?  Why, Burgundy?

    (Burgundy hesitates, stricken with remorse.)

Joan: The English are using you.  They don’t care about you.  Once you’ve served their purposes, they’ll cast you out.  Return to us, Burgundy.  It’s not too late.  We are your people.  We want you back.  The King wants you back.

Charles: Yes, Burgundy.  Come back to us.

Alenc,on and the Bastard: Come back to us, Burgundy.

Burgundy (To Joan): Lady–you pierce my heart.  How could I have been so wrong?  (To the King)  Can you forgive me, sir?

Charles: Yes!  We want you back.  That’s the only thing that matters.

Burgundy: Then from now on I’m with you.  I’m through with the English.

Charles: Thank God!  We’re friends again.

Bastard: This changes everything.  Now I know we’ll win.

Alenc,on: We were right to trust Joan.

Charles: We’ll join our armies together, and then we’ll really turn this war around.  Come.  We’ll make our plans.

    (They leave.)

Act 3, Scene 4.  King Henry’s palace in Paris.  King Henry comes in with Gloucester, Winchester, York (Richard Plantagenet), Suffolk, Somerset, Warwick, Exeter, Vernon, and Basset.  Meeting them coming in are Talbot and his Soldiers.

Talbot: My lords, I’m happy to report that I have recaptured fifty forts, twelve cities, and seven walled towns, and I’ve taken five hundred prisoners of rank.

King: Uncle Gloucester, is this the Lord Talbot I’ve heard so much about?

Gloucester: Yes.  You never met him before because he’s been in France all this time.

King: Lord Talbot, my father spoke highly of you.  Now I want to reward you for all your excellent service.  You may kneel before me.

    (Talbot kneels.  The King taps him on the shoulders with his sword.)

King: I bestow on you the title of Earl of Shrewsbury.  You shall attend my coronation and stand with the other nobles.

Talbot: I thank your Majesty.  Whether as a humble soldier, a captain, or an earl, I shall always serve with total loyalty.

King: Come, everyone.

    (All leave with the King, except Vernon and Basset, who linger.)

Vernon: Now I have something to say to you, Basset.  You insulted this white rose I wear for the Duke of York.  I demand that you retract what you said.

Basset: Why should I?  You insulted the Duke of Somerset.

Vernon: I said what I thought of him, and I stand by it.

Basset: He’s as good a man as York–or better.

Vernon: He’s a bum!  And so are you!

    (Vernon strikes Basset.)

Basset: You bastard!  I’d cut your head off if we weren’t in the King’s court!  I’m going to tell him about this and I’ll get his permission to duel it out with you!

Vernon: There’s nothing I’d like better!

    (They leave.)

Act 4, Scene 1.  Paris.  A stately room for the King’s coronation.  The King comes in with Gloucester, Winchester, York, Suffolk, Somerset, Warwick, Talbot, Exeter, and the Governor of Paris.  Winchester is holding the crown.

Gloucester: My lord Bishop, you can do the honours.

Winchester (To the King): In the name of God and the church, I crown you King Henry the Sixth, King of France.

    (He places the crown on King Henry.)

Gloucester: Governor of Paris.

    (The Governor kneels.)

Gloucester: Do you swear to accept King Henry the Sixth as your only King, to be loyal to him, and to defend him against all enemies, so help you God?

Governor: I do.

King: Thank you, my Lord Governor.  Now you may leave us.

    (The Governor bows and leaves.  Then Fastolfe comes in, out of breath.)

Fastolfe: Your Majesty!–My lords!–I have a letter that was given to me for the King by the Duke of Burgundy!

Talbot: Fastolfe!  You coward!  (To the KIng)  This is the captain who abandoned me at Orleans!  And he has the nerve to wear the garter, which is reserved only for the bravest knights!

    (Talbot tears the garter off Fastolfe.  [Author’s note: The garter is best represented for this scene as a patch worn on the sleeve.])

Gloucester: Good for you, Talbot!  (To the King) My lord, Fastolfe has disgraced the Order of the Garter.  He doesn’t deserve to be a knight.

King: Fastolfe, you are unworthy.  Your knighthood is revoked.  Get out.  I never want to see you again.

    (Gloucester snatches the letter from Fastolfe, who leaves.)

King: What’s in the letter, uncle?

    (Gloucester peruses the letter and looks disturbed.)

Gloucester: I don’t believe it.–The bloody turncoat.

King: What’s the matter?

Gloucester: Burgundy’s gone over to the French.

King: But why?

Gloucester (Studying the letter): He just says his heart is with France–Charles is the true King–and we’re just invaders.

King: But what’s the reason for this?  There must be a reason.

Gloucester: I don’t know what’s behind this.  But it’s bad for us.  Burgundy has a lot of influence in northern France.  This could tip the balance of power against us.

King: Then we must get him back–somehow.–Lord Talbot, can you go and talk to him?  You must change his mind.

Talbot: I’ll do my best, my lord.

    (Talbot leaves.  Then Vernon and Basset come in.  Vernon is wearing a white rose, and Basset a red rose.)

Vernon: Your Majesty, I’ve come to ask permission to duel against this man.

Basset: And I ask the same, your Majesty.  My quarrel with this man can only be settled by the sword.

    (The King looks at the others, perplexed.)

Richard: Your Majesty, Vernon is a friend of mine.  I would ask you please to grant his request.

Somerset: Your Majesty, Basset is my friend.  He has been wronged.  Please let him duel for his honour.

King: Wait, wait.  I want to know what this is about.–You–Basset.  What’s your grievance with this man?

Basset: My lord, on the way over here from England, Vernon insulted me for wearing this red rose, which I wear to show my support for Lord Somerset.

King: Support about what?

Basset: My lord, it’s a dispute over a question of law.  Vernon said some bad things about Somerset, and as a gentleman I took offense.

Vernon: My lord, Basset provoked me by attacking the character of the Duke of York.

Richard (To Somerset): You see the trouble you’ve caused?

Somerset: Me?  You started it.  If anyone’s causing trouble, it’s you.

King: Stop!  This is crazy.  You’re both cousins to me.  I don’t want you to fight.

Richard: It’s a private matter, my lord.  Let me duel him and settle it.

Somerset: That’s fine with me.

Vernon: No, no!  I came here to duel Basset.

Basset: Yes.  It’s between me and Vernon.

Gloucester: Enough of this bullshit!  Nobody’s going to duel anybody!  Do we need this kind of shit right now, when we’re at war and we’re in danger of losing all of France?

Exeter: Yes.  Gloucester’s right.  This is the last thing we need.

King: Look, you guys.  If you have any love for me, forget this feud, whatever it’s about.  If the French knew we were fighting amongst ourselves, it would only encourage them to drive us out of France, and we’d lose everything my father fought for and won.  Are we so stupid as to lose all of France because somebody doesn’t like the colour of somebody else’s rose?–Here.  Look.  (He takes a red rose from a vase and puts it on.)  I’m putting on this red rose.  Does that mean I’m taking sides?  No.  It’s just a rose.  York and Somerset are both family to me.  We all have to cooperate and be friends.  Now this is what I’ll do.–York, I’m making you Regent in this part of France, and I’m putting you in charge of the infantry.–Somerset, I’m putting you in charge of the cavalry.  Now you’ll have to work together.  The rest of us will go back to Calais and then return to England.  I expect to hear good news from the two of you that you’ve beaten the French.–Gloucester.  (He nods to Gloucester, and they leave with the others, except for York, Warwick, Exeter, and Vernon, who linger.)

Warwick (To York): I think our young King handled that rather well.

Richard: Except for putting on the red rose.

Warwick: Forget it.  Don’t read anything into it.

Richard: Maybe I should.–But never mind.  We have more important business to deal with.

    (They leave, except Exeter.)

Exeter: It’s a good thing Richard didn’t blow up–otherwise, who knows where it might have led?–A quarrel like this is a bad omen.  It’s bad enough that we have a young King–inexperienced.  But we’re at war, too.  If we have fighting amongst ourselves, we’ll lose everything.

    (He leaves.)

Act 4, Scene 2.  [Author’s note: Shakespeare doesn’t explain what happened when Talbot left to seek out Burgundy, but we know that he was unsuccessful.  This scene is an extreme example of chronological inaccuracy, as Talbot’s last campaign was in 1453 — 22 years after the previous coronation and eight years after Henry’s marriage to Margaret, which hasn’t happened yet.]  Before the gates of Bordeaux.  Talbot comes in with Soldiers (including a Trumepter).

Talbot (To the Trumpeter): Sound a call to the French.

    (The Trumpeter sounds a call.  The French General appears at the wall with French  Soldiers.)

General: Who summons us?

Talbot: Lord Talbot, general to King Henry the Sixth of England and France.  The King demands that you open the gates and accept him as your King.  If you do, we’ll have peace.  Otherwise, I’ll use all the power at my command to destroy you and your town of Bordeaux.

General: Talbot, you have terrorized us long enough.  But now the hour of your death draws near.  You can’t break in because we’re too strong.  And you can’t escape either.  Even now as I speak, you are surrounded on all sides by French forces.  You are doomed.

    (Distant drums are heard.)

General: The Dauphin and his army are coming to kill you.  Goodbye, Talbot.

    (The General and his Soldiers disappear from the wall.)

Talbot (To his Soldiers): Oh, Christ.  We’ve walked into a trap.  Lads, we’re going to have to fight for our lives.  We have no choice.–Come on.

    (They leave.)

Act 4, Scene 3.  A plain in southwest France.  York and Soldiers meet a Messenger coming in.

Richard: Any word from our scouts?

Messenger: Yes, my lord.  The Dauphin has joined up with two other armies, and they’ve gone to Bordeaux to attack Talbot.

Richard: Damn!  Where the hell is Somerset and his cavalry?  How am I supposed to help Talbot?  He’s counting on me.

    (Another messenger, Sir William Lucy, comes in.)

Richard: Sir William!

Lucy: My lord, Talbot is surrounded at Bordeaux.  If you don’t go to him immediately, he’s done for.

Richard: I need cavalry, damn it!  That bloody Somerset! 

Lucy: Talbot’s son is there, too.

Richard: Young John?  He’s trapped at Bordeaux?

Lucy: Yes.  It’s the first time they’ve seen each other in seven years.  Now it looks like they’re going to die together.

Richard: Oh, fucking hell!

    (Richard covers his face, deeply affected.  Then he collects himself and puts his hands on Lucy’s shoulders.)

Richard: Sir William–I can’t help them without Somerset’s cavalry.  He’s deliberately holding them back.  I know he is.  He hates me.–I’m sorry.

    (Richard leaves with his Soldiers.)

Lucy: Is this the way it ends for Talbot?  He dies because of a feud between two commanders?  (He looks up at heaven.)  If there’s a miracle left in heaven, we need it now.–The ghost of Henry the Fifth will never forgive us for such stupidity.

    (Lucy leaves.)

Act 4, Scene 4.  Another plain in southwest France.  Somerset comes in with one of Talbot’s Captains.

Somerset: It’s too late, Captain.  I can’t send them now.

Captain: But my lord!–

Somerset: Talbot shouldn’t have gone out there in the first place.  But he always has to be a big hero.  And York encouraged him.  The whole thing was a bad idea.  If I send my cavalry out now, they could all be lost.

Captain: But my lord–Wait, here’s Sir William Lucy.

    (Lucy comes in.)

Somerset: Hello, Lucy.  Who sent you?

Lucy (With restrained anger): Who sent me, sir?  Lord Talbot.  He expected help from you, and he never got it.  Thanks to you, he’s probably going to die.

Somerset: Don’t pin it on me.  York sent him out there.  He’s responsible for helping him.

Lucy: York says he was waiting for your cavalry and you held them back.

Somerset: He’s a liar.  He could’ve sent the cavalry at the beginning if he’d wanted to.  Anyway, I don’t owe him anything.  He’s not my friend.

Lucy: And so Talbot has to die because of that?  Is that it?

Somerset (Hesitating): I could send the cavalry.–They could reach him in six hours.

Lucy: By that time he’ll either be a prisoner or dead.  Probably dead.

Somerset: If he’s dead, he’s dead.  A hero for England.  It’s the way he would’ve wanted it.

Lucy: Talbot will be remembered as a hero, all right.  But how will you be remembered–Lord Somerset?

    (Somerset walks away, annoyed.)

Act 4, Scene 5.  Near Bordeaux.  Talbot comes in with his son, John.

Talbot: I never should have brought you on this campaign, my boy.  I wanted to teach you the art of war while I was still able to fight.  But now you have to get away.  You have to save yourself.

John: What?  You expect me to run?  Me–the son of Lord Talbot?  I couldn’t disgrace myself like that.

Talbot: John, you’re the last of the Talbots.  The family name must go on.  If you stay here, you’ll die.  I want you to go.

John: No!

Talbot: No one will hold it against you.  I want you to live.

John: Live a life without honour?  A life without honour is not worth living.  You taught me that, father.

    (Talbot burst into tears and hugs his son.)

Talbot: My son–

John: I couldn’t leave you any more than I could cut myself in two.

Talbot: Then we shall live or die–together.

    (They leave.)

Act 4, Scene 6.  This scene is deleted.

Act 4, Scene 7.  Near the battlefield.  Distant sounds of battle.  Talbot comes in with a Servant.

Talbot: Where is my boy?  Did you see him fight?  Did you see how brave he was?  He was wounded, but he kept on fighting.  He protected me when I was down.  Did you see?

Servant: My lord, they are bringing him now.

    (Soldiers come in, carrying John’s body.)

Talbot: My son!

    (He hugs John’s body.)

Soldiers: We’re so sorry, my lord.

    (Talbot, in tears, forces a smile.)

Talbot: It’s all right.–A Talbot is not afraid to die.

    (He dies holding his son’s body.  The Soldiers kneel beside him.  Then Charles, Alenc,on, Burgundy, the Bastard, and Joan come in.  The French victory is suggested.)

Charles: So.  Lord Talbot, the scourge of France, is dead.  If York and Somerset had come to his rescue, I don’t think we would’ve won.

Bastard: His son fought well for his first time in battle.

Joan: I met him on the field and challenged him, but he wouldn’t fight me.  He said it was unworthy of a Talbot to kill a woman.

Burgundy: I’m sorry to see him die.  He would’ve made a splendid knight someday.

    (Sir William Lucy comes in, escorted by a French Herald.)

Herald (To Charles): Sir William Lucy, my lord.

Lucy: Where is my general?  Where is Talbot?

Charles (Pointing): There.  With his son.

    (Lucy kneels beside the bodies.)

Lucy: Talbot–my general.–(To Charles)  Will you allow me to take their bodies to be buried?

Joan: Yes, take them.  We don’t want them stinking up our land with their rotting corpses.

Lucy (Angrily): There will be no rotting corpses, lady!  From their ashes will arise a phoenix that will take revenge on France!

Charles (Mockingly): Mm–yes–indeed.  Take them away then and wait for your phoenix to rise up.  We’re going to Paris to celebrate.  (To his party)  Come along, everyone.

    (The French leave.)

Act 5, Scene 1.  The King’s palace in London.  King Henry comes in with Gloucester and Exeter.

Gloucester: The ambassadors from the Pope, the Emperor Sigismund, and the Earl of Armagnac are here.  They all want us to make peace with France.

King: What should we do, uncle?

Gloucester: Let’s make peace and stop the bloodshed.

King: Yes.  England and France shouldn’t be fighting.  We’re both Christian, after all.

Gloucester: Christian or not, the sooner we make peace, the better.  The Earl of Armagnac is offering you his daughter in marriage, along with a generous dowry.  He’s a very important noble–very close to the Dauphin.

King: Me get married?  I’ve never even thought of it.  I’m happy just to read my books.  And I’m so young.

Gloucester: Your father married your mother to make peace with France after we won at Agincourt.  I’m sure he would approve of your marrying a French lady to make peace.  [Author’s note: Henry V married Katherine, daughter of Charles VI.]

King: Well, if you think I really should, all right.

    (Winchester, dressed as a Cardinal, comes in with the three Ambassadors.)

King: Ah, the ambassadors.–

Exeter (Aside to the audience): You see that?  Winchester’s a Cardinal now.–Asshole.

King: Welcome, gentlemen.  I’ve discussed your proposal, and I’m agreeable.  My lord of Winchester will take our reply back to France.

Gloucester: The King agrees to marry Armagnac’s daughter.

King: And I send her this ring as my pledge to her.  (He gives a ring to Gloucester.)  Uncle, you can escort them to Dover and see them off.

Ambassadors: Thank you, my lord!

    (All leave except Winchester, who detains the Pope’s legate by pulling on his sleeve.)

Winchester: I’ll give you the money I promised His Holiness for making me a Cardinal.  Wait for me in the hall.

Legate: Very good, sir.

    (The Legate goes out.)

Winchester: Now that I’m a Cardinal, we’ll see who carries the most weight around here–me or Gloucester.

    (He leaves.)

Act 5, Scene 2.  [Author’s note: There is a serious gap in Shakespeare’s story line here.  Henry doesn’t marry Armagnac’s daughter.  And fresh hostilities have broken out between England and France.  Historically, Winchester and Suffolk persuaded Henry to marry Margaret of Anjou.  We may infer that Winchester helped derail the marriage to Armagnac’s daughter because he wanted to thwart Gloucester and have the greater influence with Henry.]  On the plains in western France.  Charles, Burgundy, Alenc,on, the Bastard, Reignier, and Joan come in.

Charles: My friends, I’ve received news that the Parisians are rebelling against the English.

Alenc,on: Good!  We should go there at once.

    (A Scout comes in.)

Scout: My lords!

Charles: What news?

Scout: My lord, the two parts of the English army have joined up, and they intend to attack.

Charles: Tsk!–That’s not good.–But we’ll deal with it.  After all, we have Joan with us.  She always knows what to do.–Don’t you, Joan?

Joan: My lord, I predict that if you command personally, you’ll win.

Charles: That’s good enough for me.–All right, then.  It’s decided. We attack the English.

    (They leave.)

Act 5, Scene 3.  The plains of Anjou in western France.  Sounds of thunder.  Trumpet alarms.  Joan comes in alone.

Joan: The English are winning, and the French are retreating.–Spirits, help me now!

    (Two Spirits jump in.  They look like little devils and do not speak.)

Joan: Spirits!  I have given you my blood before in return for your help.  Will you help me now?  (The Spirits frown.)  I’ll give you my body!  (The Spirits shake their heads.)  My soul, then!  You can have my soul if you’ll help me defeat the English!

    (The Spirits shake their heads and leave.)

Joan: They’ve forsaken me.  Now France is doomed.

    (Distant sounds of battle.  Richard, Duke of York, comes in suddenly, sword out, suggesting recent fighting.  He grabs Joan by the arm.)

Richard: Got you!  You witch!  Now let’s see if your divine powers can save you!

Joan: A plague on you, Duke of York!  May the devil strangle you in your bed!

Richard: Ha, ha, ha!–Save your curses for your execution.  You’re coming with me.

    (Richard drags Joan out.  Then Suffolk comes in, holding Margaret of Anjou as a prisoner.  He is smiling, however.)

Suffolk: Don’t be afraid, young lady.  I won’t hurt you.  Who are you?

Margaret: I am Margaret, daughter of Lord Reignier, King of Naples and Duke of Anjou.  Who are you?

Suffolk: I’m the Earl of Suffolk.  My, my, you are a beautiful girl.  If I weren’t already married, I’d ask your father for your hand.

Margaret: My father will pay a ransom for me.  How much do you want?

Suffolk (Aside to the audience): Her father’s broke.  He lost all his lands to us.  Maybe I can make a deal.–Now, then, my lovely princess, how would you like to be a queen?

Margaret: Monsieur, what do you mean?

Suffolk: How would you like to marry King Henry?

Margaret: But I’m only fifteen, monsieur.  My father must decide whom I marry.

Suffolk: Then we’ll ask him.  (Calling to a Trumpeter offstage)  Trumpeter!  Sound a parley for Lord Reignier!

    (The Trumpet sounds.  Then Reignier comes in.)

Reignier: Who are you?  What are you doing with my daughter?

Margaret: Papa, I am a prisoner!

Reignier: Monsieur, I beg you.  Don’t hurt her. 

Suffolk: I wouldn’t hurt her.  I like her.  I’m the Earl of Suffolk.

Reignier: What do you want from me–a ransom?

Suffolk: No, no, no.  I want to help you and your daughter.

Reignier: How do you mean?

Suffolk: Would you let your daughter marry King Henry?  I can arrange it.  It would make peace between England and France.

Reignier: Well–I–I don’t know.  She’s so young.

Suffolk: She’ll be well taken care of, I assure you.  King Henry will adore her.  And I’ll be a good friend to her.  I’ll be someone she can talk to–you know–a wise older man.  I can tell she’s a wonderful girl.  Please say yes.  I promise you won’t regret it–and neither will she.

Reignier: Perhaps you’re aware of my–situation.  I will agree if I can have my lands back–Maine and Anjou.

Suffolk: I will arrange it.  So, do we have a deal?

    (Reignier and Margaret whisper confidentially for a moment.)

Reignier: Yes.  It’s a deal.

Suffolk: Very good, sir.  Then I leave her in your care for now.

Reignier: Thank you, sir.  I’m grateful to you.

    (Reignier and Margaret leave.)

Suffolk (To the audience): That girl is a knockout.  Wait till I tell the King about her.  He’ll be thrilled.  And that’ll be a boost for me, you can be sure of that.

    (He leaves.)

Act 5, Scene 4.  Rouen.  York, Warwick, a Shepherd, Joan, and Soldiers come in.  Joan is a prisoner.

Richard: Joan de Pucelle, you are condemned to die by burning at the stake.

Shepherd: No! No!  She’s my daughter!  Don’t kill her!

Joan: You miserable shepherd!  I don’t know you!  I come from a better class of people!

Shepherd: My lords, she is my daughter.

Warwick (To Joan): What an evil girl!  You deny your own father?

Richard: It just proves how wicked she is.

Joan: You dug him up on purpose to tell lies about my birth.

Shepherd: Lies?  Oh, you are wicked!  He’s right.  Take your punishment, then.

Richard (To the Soldiers): Take her away.  We’ve put up with her long enough.

Joan: Wait!  Do you know who I am?  I am the daughter of kings!  I am divinely chosen to do miracles!  That’s why you hate me!  Because I am so graced!  You accuse me of consorting with devils, but I am a virgin!  I am pure!

Richard: What a load of crap.

Warwick: Make sure the fire’s really big.

Joan: Wait!  Would you execute a pregnant woman?

Richard: You just said you were a virgin.

Warwick: Maybe she thinks she’s another Virgin Mary.

Richard: She’s been fucking Charles.  That’s it.

Warwick: Well, I don’t mind burning a bastard son of the Dauphin.

Joan: No!  It’s not the Dauphin.  It’s–Alenc,on.

Richard: That son of a bitch?  That won’t help you either.

Joan: No!  Wait.  It isn’t Alenc,on.  It’s–Reignier, the King of Naples.

Warwick: A married man?–Tsk! Tsk!

Richard: She’s fucked so many men, it could be anyone.

Warwick: What a slut.

Richard: Lady, I don’t care what’s in your belly or who your father is either.  You’re going to be executed.

Joan: Then I put a curse on you and all of England!  May you all die of plague!

Richard (To the Soldiers): Take her away.

    (The Soldiers take Joan out.  Then Winchester and his Attendants come in.  He is dressed as a Cardinal.)

Winchester: My lord of York, I come from King Henry.  The Pope has urged peace with France, and the Dauphin and his party are coming to discuss it with you.

Richard: What the hell?  We’re supposed to make peace just when we were winning?  What were we fighting for all this time?–Warwick, we’re going to lose everything.

Warwick: Don’t worry.  If we make peace with France, it’ll be on our terms.  They won’t get any gifts from us.

    (Charles, Alenc,on, the Bastard, and Reignier come in.)

Charles: Greetings, lords of England!  We’ve come to make peace.–Um–what sort of terms did you have in mind–specifically?

Richard (Annoyed): The Cardinal will speak.  I seem to have a bitter taste in my mouth.

Winchester: Yes.  All right.  (To Charles)  King Henry, out of kindness and compassion, has decided that if you submit to his authority and pay him tribute, you will be made Viceroy of France.

Charles: Viceroy?  What the hell good is that?  Half of France already recognizes me as King.–Forget it.  No deal.

Richard: You’re not getting any better deal than that.  You’d better accept it, or we’ll just have to drag the war out indefinitely.

Reignier (Aside to Charles): Just say yes.

Alenc,on (Aside to Charles): You can always go back on it later.

Warwick: Well, my lord?  Deal or no deal?

Charles: Yes.  Deal.

Richard: Awesome.  Then swear your allegiance to King Henry and promise that you and your nobles will never rebel against England.

Charles: I promise.

    (All the Lords spit on their palms and exchange handshakes.)

Richard: Brilliant.

    (Scene ends without an exit.)

Act 5, Scene 5.  The palace in London.  King Henry, Suffolk, Gloucester, and Exeter come in.  Suffolk and the King are in the middle of a conversation.

Suffolk (To the King): I tell you, my lord, she’s the hottest girl I’ve ever seen.

King: Suffolk, you’re geting me really excited.  Is she really, like, you know–hot?

Suffolk: You bet she is–in a virginal way, of course.  Imagine–only fifteen years old.  With the body of a goddess.  She’s got boobs like you’ve never seen.  And a nice, round butt.  And long, shapely legs.  And she’s all yours.  She’s a dream girl.  She’ll do anything you want.  You can command her.  Her only wish is to satisfy you.  Just think of it, my lord!

King (Wide-eyed): Oh, God–oh, God–I can hardly think straight.  I’m all dizzy just thinking about it.–Yes–yes–yes–I want to marry her.

Gloucester (Coughs): Ahem–my lord, you did promise to marry Armagnac’s daughter.

Suffolk: The King can change his mind if he wants.  Besides, Armagnac’s daughter is–you know–not quite good enough for a king.

Gloucester: Oh, and Margaret is better?  Does Reignier rank higher than Armagnac?

Suffolk: Reignier is the King of Naples–and Jerusalem–and he’ll keep the French in line with us.

Gloucester: Who’s closer to the Dauphin–Reignier or Armagnac?  Armagnac is.  He’s related to him.

Exeter: And he’s rich.  Reignier is broke.

Suffolk: Oh, money, money, money!  Why does everything have to be about money?  The King doesn’t need anyone else’s money.  Just look in his eyes.  He’s thinking only of love.  (The King nods, eyes wide, as if in a trance.)  Isn’t it better that he should marry the girl that he wants, rather than have other people choose for him?  After all, he’ll be–sleeping with her!–every night for the rest of his life.  (The King nods again, as before.)  And Margaret is perfect for him.  She’s the daughter of a king.  Their children will be conquerors–at least the boys.–Now, am I right or am I right?

King: You’re right, Suffolk.  I’m convinced, after everthing you’ve told me.  I’ll leave it to you to make the arrangements to bring her here.  Spare no expense.  We’ll levy a special tax on everyone–one-fifteenth of income.  (To Gloucester) Uncle, don’t be angry with me for making up my own mind.–I need to go and sit down and calm myself.  Come along if you like.

    (The King leaves.  Gloucester is obviously unhappy.)

Gloucester: Suffolk, why do I get the feeling that you have some ulterior motive here?

Suffolk: Me, my lord?  Perish the thought!  I want only peace for England and happiness for the King–just as you do.

    (Gloucester frowns and then nods to Exeter to follow him, and the two of them go out, leaving Suffolk alone.  Suffolk now addresses the audience directly.)

Suffolk: And now I go to France to bring back Margaret of Anjou to be Henry’s Queen.  Margaret will rule Henry, but I will rule Margaret–and Henry–and England–if you follow.  And so we leave you with this pearl of wisdom–from me, the Earl of Suffolk.–If you can’t be the head of the Kingdom–be the neck.

    (He leaves.)


    Copyright@ 2011 by Crad Kilodney.  E-mail:


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