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SCENE SUMMARY WITH NOTES
ACT II, SCENE 2
The scene is set in the Duke of York’s garden in London. York, Salisbury and Warwick enter. York has invited Salisbury and Warwick to a supper at his house. After the meal, York takes the others aside and asks them if they approve of his claim to England’s crown. Warwick assures him that if his claim is good, the Nevilles will be his loyal subjects. York begins relating the genealogy that proves his right to be king.
Edward III had seven sons, the first was Edward the Black Prince, the Prince of Wales. The second was William of Hatfield and the third Lionel, Duke of Clarence. Next comes John of Gaunt, the Duke of Lancaster, and the fifth was Edmund Langley, Duke of York. The sixth was Thomas of Woodstock, Duke of Gloucester, and William of Windsor was the seventh and the last. The first Edward, the Black Prince, died before his father and left behind him his only son, who reigned as king after the death of Edward III. Then Henry Bolingbroke, Duke of Lancaster (the eldest son of John of Gaunt), was crowned Henry IV, seized the realm, removed the king and sent his queen to France. Richard, the rightful king, was murdered.
Hearing this, Warwick assures his father that York has told the truth as to how the house of Lancaster got the crown. York says that they are holding the right by force, and not by right. Since Richard’s heir is dead, the offspring of the next son should have reigned, but William of Hatfield died without a heir. The third son, Lionel, Duke of Clarence, had a daughter, Philippe, who married Edmund Mortimer, Earl of March, with whom she had a son, Roger. Roger had three children: Edmund, Anne and Eleanor. This Edmund had claimed the crown in the reign of Bolingbroke, but he was held in captivity until he died. His sister, Anne, was York’s mother. She married Richard, Earl of Cambridge, who was son to Edmund Langley, Edward III’s fifth son.
York thanks them for their good wishes and for having believed the story of his right to the crown, but he says he is not their king until he is crowned as such and until his sword is stained with the blood of the house of Lancaster. This act cannot be performed easily and requires time, tact and secrecy. He continues to say that the insolence of the Duke of Suffolk, the pride of Cardinal Beaufort, and the ambition of Somerset shall join together one day to defeat “the good Duke Humphrey” (Gloucester). By doing so, they shall find their deaths. Thus, both York’s obstacle to the throne (Gloucester) and his other enemies (Suffolk, Beaufort and Somerset) will be overturned. Warwick vows that one day he shall make the Duke of York a king. York in turn promises to make Warwick the greatest man in England, second only to himself.
This scene shows how in 1448, York, convinced that Henry was not the true king, begins secretly to persuade his noble friends of his own right to the crown. The genealogy Shakespeare traces here probably derives from Holinshed’s account, taken from Stowe’s Annals of Articles. (There is some confusion about the identity of Edmund Mortimer, the fifth Earl of March).
York gives a generally accurate genealogical picture of his ancestry and his right to the crown. Salisbury and Warwick firmly believe him and even salutes him as their king. York is shown here to be very persuasive, as he easily wins Salisbury and Warwick over to his side.