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Scenes 2.3 and 2.4

Scene 2.3 - A street in London

Two London citizens greet one another in the street, discussing the death of the king. One fears that the news will lead to a "giddy world"-presumably a bitter power struggle between the factions led by the queen and by Richard, and perhaps a renewal of the former civil wars. A third citizen passes by, who verifies that the rumor of the king's death is true and predicts civil unrest, for "woe to that land that's governed by a child!" Although Prince Edward promises to be a good king once he comes of age, the example of Henry VI's own succession at nine months of age gives cause for concern. While Henry's government failed in the end, while he was a child he had "virtuous uncles" and good advisors around him for protection and guidance. The first citizen is optimistic about Prince Edward's future, noting that like Henry that this child-king has numerous uncles. Yet the third citizen declares that Edward's many uncles may lead to trouble, for the fact that he has uncles both by his mother and by his father will lead to envy, or "emulation." The queen's relatives are "proud" and Richard's "full of danger." Such a strong-willed group of nobles need to be ruled by a single monarch, rather than ruling one. When the first citizen chides him for being a pessimist, the third citizen declares that the people must prepare for the worst just as they would expect to need a cloak when clouds gather, or for winter to follow the falling leaves, or night to come after the sunset. The citizens have noticed that everyone seems to dread the outcome of the king's death. The third citizen feels that the general fear is an omen of impending political change, for people are prepared for disaster by "a divine instinct."

Scene 2.4 - The palace, London

The queen, the younger of the two royal princes (the Duke of York), and the duchess enter with the Archbishop of York. The Archbishop updates the two women on the progress of Prince Edward's entourage toward London. He expects the prince to arrive in the next two days. The duchess longs to see the prince. The queen speculates that her younger son has probably outgrown his older brother. York tells his mother that he wishes this were not so, because his uncle Richard once told him at supper that "small herbs have grace, great weeds do grow apace." The duchess scornfully declares that Richard's saying did not apply to him when he was young, for although he grew very slowly, it did not make him "gracious." While the Archbishop professes to be sure that Richard is gracious, his mother has her doubts. York jokes that he should have teased his uncle for growing too fast since he has heard a story that Richard had teethed and could chew bread crusts at only two hours old. Elizabeth warns that "pitchers have ears"-presumably meaning that they must be careful what they say in the earshot of children like York.

A messenger brings the bad news that the queen's brother, Rivers, her son, Grey, and Lord Vaughn have been imprisoned at Pomfret on the orders of Buckingham and Richard. Elizabeth declares that her fears are beginning to come true, and "I see the ruin of my house" all at once, as though it was drawn out in a map. The duchess laments the return of the civil unrest that has destroyed her family as well. In civil wars, unlike foreign wars, "the conquerors, / Make war upon themselves, brother to brother." Elizabeth declares that she and her younger son will seek sanctuary (or protection from the law traditionally given to people who sought refuge in a church). The Archbishop urges her to do so, promising to protect her treasure and possessions himself. In token of his vow to her, he gives her the seal of his office.

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Scene 1.1
Scene 1.2
Scene 1.3
Scene 1.4
Scene 2.1
Scene 2.2
Scenes 2.3 and 2.4
Scene 3.1
Scene 3.2
Scenes 3.3 and 3.4
Scene 3.5
Scene 3.6 and 3.7
Scene 4.1
Scenes 4.2 and 4.3
Scenes 4.4 and 4.5
Scenes 5.1 and 5.2
Scene 5.3
Scenes 5.4 and 5.5


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