Table of Contents | Message Board | Downloadable/Printable Version
SCENE SUMMARY WITH NOTES
ACT IV, SCENE 7
The scene takes place at Smithfield. Alarms are heard and Matthew Gough is slain along with the rest. Jack Cade enters with his company. He orders the men to go and pull down the Savoy (the London house of the Duke of Lancaster) and the Inns of Court. Butcher suggests that the laws of England should come from Cade’s mouth now. Cade gives orders for all the records of the country to be burned and declares that “(his) mouth shall be the Parliament of England . . . (a)nd henceforward all things shall be in common.”
A messenger brings Lord Saye, who was responsible for losing the French towns of Anjou and Maine. Cade announces that Lord Saye shall be beheaded for this ten times over. Cade adds that Saye has corrupted the youth of the country by establishing a grammar school, by bringing printing into daily use and by building a paper mill. Saye is also responsible for appointing justices of the peace “to call poor men before them about matters they were not able to answer.” Cade orders Saye to be taken away because he knows Latin. Saye requests that Cade hear him out.
According to Caesar’s writings, Kent is “the civil’st place of all this isle (England).” The country is rich and full of brave, generous people. Saye explains to them that he did not sell Maine, nor lose Normandy. He would have lost his life in order to recover them. He had always acted in a just manner and never took bribes. He bestowed large gifts on learned clerks because he considered learning more precious than royalty, and ignorance to be the curse of God. Cade is unimpressed and orders Saye to be beheaded. Saye begs to know what offense he has committed. He has not amassed wealth, he has not injured anybody, and his heart is free of deceitful thoughts.
In an aside Cade expresses pity for Saye, but even then, he firmly decides that Saye should die. Cade gives the order to behead both him and his son-in-law, James Cromer, and asks that their heads be brought back on two poles. Cade proclaims that “the proudest peer” in the country shall not live unless he pays Cade tribute. Lord Saye and his son-in-law are beheaded. Cade then gives orders to pillage the city in the night.
This scene shows the havoc wreaked by the rebels in London. Cade gives orders to pull down the Savoy (the London home of Lancaster) and the Inns of Court (where London’s lawyers worked and resided). The domineering and arrogant general Cade declares that his mouth shall be the Parliament of England. He wishes to destroy all written laws. The charges which Cade lays on Lord Saye are significant. He has corrupted the youth by creating grammar schools. (It is said that the rebels forced the grammar schools teachers to swear never to instruct anyone in their knowledge.) Saye is accused of encouraging the practice of printing, whereas their forefathers kept no other records, except for “the score and the tally” (a stick with notches, or “scores,” to mark accounts of money, etc.). Cade’s long tirade reveals that Lord Saye is a learned man who wants to impart his knowledge to others.
Saye appears to be a gentle and patient man. Even when Cade speaks to him roughly, Saye politely requests Cade’s attention. He gives a marvelous description of Kent and its people and explains how Anjou and Maine were lost. But Lord Saye can do nothing to counter Cade’s brutality. In the end, Cade asserts his absolute power over all the people of England, especially those who may oppose him.