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SCENE SUMMARY AND NOTES
ACT V, SCENE I
This scene occurs in the palace, in the early hour of the morning. As Lovell is on his way to the King, he encounters Gardiner and informs him that the Queen is in labor and it is feared that she may lose her life. Gardiner expresses his deep resentment against the Queen, Cromwell and Cranmer. When Lovell cautions her against doing he reveals that many council members seek Cranmer’s destruction.
The King is deeply disturbed when he is informed that the queen is in immense pain. Sir Anthony Denny informs him that archbishop has come to see him as per orders, and the King asks to be left alone with Cranmer. He reveals to the latter that many complaints had been received against him and hence he will be confined to the tower while the council tries his case. Cranmer realizes the enormity of the situation and asks for the King’s help. The King gives Cranmer his personal ring. Presenting this will allow Cranmer to appeal directly to the King. Cranmer is tearful in expressing his gratitude as he takes leave of the King.
An old lady brings news of the birth of a girl and the queen’s welfare to the King. He departs to see them. Before leaving he commands Lovell to give the old lady some money as reward for bringing him this good news.
The action occurs in the early hours of the morning: one o’clock to be precise, as a page informs Gardiner. Even at this late hour the noblemen are awake, indicating something of great important must have occurred. It is a scene that builds up suspense and excitement in the audience by its hint of mystery. The mystery is resolved through the conversation between Lovell and Gardiner. The queen is in labor and to expected to be able to survive it. Another thing that comes out is the attitude of Gardiner towards the queen, Cranmer and Cromwell he sees them as dangerous and actively desires their destruction. Other important men share his sentiment, he reveals that many council members are open in their disapproval of Cranmer and his religious beliefs that are seen as heresies. The reference here is to that Cranmer true loyalty lay with the Protestants. Although he was a Catholic priest, he used the pulpit to propagate Protestant ideas thus earning the enmity of many men committed to the Catholic Church.
The palace politics once more come o the forefront and this scene shows all the undercurrents that will eventually determine future action. The symbols evoked in this scene by Gardiner’s words are in keeping with the sense of mystery and, conspiracy that colors the scene. He talks of "affairs that walk, as they say spirits do" and the wilder nature of business that is conducted by night.
When the King is informed that Anne is in great pain, he is deeply grieved at the news. It shows his concern for his wife and the mother to be of his yet unborn child. His preoccupation with her condition is shown by the fact that he cannot concentrate on the card game with Suffolk. When Cranmer arrives, the King sends the others away desiring a private conference with Cranmer. The deep affection and the regard in which the King holds Cranmer are revealed. He addresses him as "my good lord", "true hearted and, " a brother to us."
Although the King has to respond to the council’s need to try Cranmer it is patently clear that the latter as the King’s full, unstinting support. The King respects Cranmer may become a victim of lies fabricated by his powerful enemies and as a safeguard gives Cranmer his personal ring, that will enable him to appeal directly to the King. Cranmer is tearful in his gratitude, comforted by the substantial support he has been given.
When the old woman informs the King that the queen has delivered a baby he betrays his desire for a son by asking impatiently if it is a boy. The old woman lightens her refusal by saying that his daughter is "a like you as cherry is to cherry." Her ploy works and the delighted King leaves to see his daughter but not before asking the old lay to be rewarded. The humor of the passage consists in the talkative old lady, who had in her hurry first said it was a boy and then adding, "bless her" before she corrects her mistake.