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SCENE SUMMARY WITH NOTES
ACT IV, SCENE 8
This scene takes place at Kenilworth Castle. The sound of trumpets announces the entry of the king, queen and Somerset. The king expresses his wish to be a subject, rather than the king. Buckingham and Clifford enter and give the king the happy news of Cade’s defeat. The overjoyed king expresses his sincere gratitude for their ardent love and devotion to the country. He urges them to continue their good work.
Suddenly, a messenger arrives and announces that the Duke of York is coming from Ireland with “a mighty power” of soldiers. York claims that the Duke of Somerset is a traitor and that he (York) has come to remove him. The distraught king asks Buckingham to go and meet York to learn the reason behind this maneuver. Somerset assures the king that for the sake of the country, he is prepared to die. Buckingham consoles the king and says that all these miserable happenings will lead to a good outcome. King Henry blames himself and says that it is because of his inefficiency that England is in turmoil. He wishes to learn more about the art of ruling.
In this scene the audience sees the range of joy and sorrow experienced by the king. In the beginning, the king wishes that he were a subject and a common man. The glad tidings about Cade please him so much that he whole-heartedly expresses his gratitude and praise for Clifford and Buckingham. He praises their bold actions and promises them that he shall never be unkind to them. All his joy turns to disappointment and desperation when a messenger announces the approach of a powerful army under the leadership of the Duke of York, who has returned from Ireland.
The king sadly observes that this is a serious situation they are now facing: “ . . . Like to a ship that, having scaped a tempest,/ Is straightway calmed and boarded with a pirate./ But now is Cade driven back, his men dispersed,/ And now is York in arms to second him.” He sends Buckingham as a mediator to inquire into the reason behind York’s actions. It should be noted that the king always resorts to peaceful means to preserve justice and order. Never once has he mentioned any violent action to be undertaken. Another important point to be noted here is that the king realizes that the country is torn by violence and confusion mainly because of his weakness as a ruler. Although he is a good man, the king lacks the qualities a ruler should have. As he himself says: “Come wife, let’s in and learn to govern better;/ For yet may England curse my wretched reign.”