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SCENE SUMMARY WITH NOTES
ACT III, SCENE 3
Enter the king, Salisbury and Warwick. The curtains are drawn, and the audience can see the Cardinal in his bed, raving as if he were mad. He says to himself that he is being tortured. He agrees to confess to his crime and says that he is ready to give a thousand pounds to see the duke alive again. He sees the duke’s ghost before him. He asks for the same poison with which the duke was killed. The bewildered king feels sorry for the Cardinal and prays to God to take pity on him. Warwick observes that the pangs of death make the Cardinal grin. The king again prays to God to give the Cardinal a peaceful death and also to forgive him for his sins. Then the Cardinal dies, without having repented.
This scene has been applauded by critics. The fall of the powerful clergyman marks the beginning of the climax of the play. When the curtain rises on the Cardinal’s bedchamber, the audience can see that the Cardinal is suffering in delirium. The guilt in his mind has driven him mad. He laments and promises to give death “England’s treasure” so that he may live. This desperate gesture hints at the level of corruption he has reached. The Cardinal, being a man of the church, is supposed to lead a simple life, but instead is ambitious and wealthy.
Very much moved by the plight of Cardinal Beaufort, the king prays to God to forgive him and give him peace. When Warwick says that the Cardinal’s monstrous life has led him to this painful death, the king quiets him and says that all of them are sinners and that no one but God has the right to judge others. The king’s firm faith in God is once again displayed here. The scene concludes with everyone in prayer.