King Henry VI Part 2: Novel Summary: Act 4, Scene 6 - 10
Act 4, scene 6
Cade strikes his staff on London Stone, a famous landmark in Cannon Street, and proclaims himself lord of the city. He also declares that from now on he is to be known as Lord Mortimer. To address him in any other way will be treason.
A soldier runs in, calling out “Jack Cade!” Cade orders his soldiers to knock the soldier down because he did not address him as Lord Mortimer. The soldiers kill the man.
Dick informs Cade that there is an army gathered at Smithfield, and Cade says they will go and fight, but first they will set London Bridge on fire and, if they can, the Tower, too.
Act 4, scene 7
As the rebels continue to have success, Cade proclaims that he is now England’s lawgiver. Whatever he says, will be the new law. He orders all previous statutes to be burned.
George Bevis enters with the captured Lord Say. Cade tells him he will be beheaded for losing England’s French territories. He also accuses Say of corrupting the youth of England by creating grammar schools and printing presses and paper-mills. Another charge leveled against Say is that he created justices of the peace who imprisoned the poor and hanged them because they could not read.
Say is given a chance to defend himself. He denies that he is responsible for losing the French territories and says he would give anything to get them back. He also claims that he has always stood for justice and has never been guilty of corruption. He states that he is in favor of knowledge rather than ignorance, and has always been a loyal supporter of the King and the welfare of the realm.
Cade is unimpressed, and after a brief and hostile exchange with Say, sends him off to execution. Say pleads for his life to be spared, and although Cade admits in an aside that he is remorseful about ordering Say’s death, he does not alter his judgment. He also orders that Say’s son-in-law, Sir James Cromer, also be seized and beheaded and that the heads of both men be displayed on a pole.
Cade boasts about the powers he will take to himself, and promises his men he will soon allow them go to Cheapside to seize whatever goods they want.
One of Cade’s men enters with the heads of Say and Cromer on poles. Cade says they will ride through the streets and at every corner make the two heads kiss.
These two scenes show the rebels at the height of their success, and once again, Shakespeare emphasizes their brutal and unruly behavior. They vent their anger on Say with a long list of their grievances. Shakespeare also emphasizes their resentment of any form of education or learning, of progress of any kind. (The reference to the introduction of the printing press is anachronistic, since the first printing press in England was not established until 1477, twenty-seven years after the events depicted in this scene took place.) The rebel mob are not prepared to listen to reason, so Say has no chance of saving his life. As the representative of the political establishment, he makes a convenient target for the anger of the mob.
Cade is presented as an arrogant man who delights in seizing all the power he can and observing no moral scruple. He is quite ready to unleash on London a reign of terror, and his men will loot whatever they can and try to make themselves rich.
Act 4, scene 8
There is a pause in the hostilities, and a parley begins as Buckingham and old Clifford enter. Buckingham says that a pardon awaits anyone who deserts Cade and go home in peace. Clifford encourages the rebels to embrace this offer, and the rebels are persuaded. They all shout “God save the King!” Cade is not finished, however. He warns his men that they will probably be hanged, in spite of the pardon. He accuses them of reneging on their desire to win their freedom, and now they will live as slaves to the nobility. He curses them. His tactics are effective, because the men rush back to his side, saying they will follow him. Clifford addresses the men again, saying that Cade is an unworthy leader who can only live by robbing others, including them. He warns that if they continue to follow Cade and England is weakened by civil discord, the French may invade the country and conquer it. But if they join forces with the King, the French will be defeated. The men are convinced by this argument and desert Cade once again. Cade runs away, and Buckingham promises a reward for any man who brings Cade’s head to the King.
This scene reveals that the rebels are easily persuaded to switch their allegiance from one side to the other. It is not uncommon for Shakespeare to express such a view of the common people, who are easily led and manipulated by others. Clifford wins the rebels over by using that staple argument of the politician that if they continue in their disruptive actions they will endanger national security. The specter of domination by a foreign power is enough to bring the men round to the royal side.
Act 4, scene 9
Buckingham and Clifford bring the news of the failure of Cade’s rebellion to the King and Queen as well as Somerset, who has assumed much power since the fall of Suffolk. Many prisoners, former rebels, are brought in for the King’s judgment. He pardons them all and dismisses them.
A messenger enters and reports that the Duke of York has returned from Ireland and is marching to the castle where the King is. York is claiming that he is marching only to ensure that Somerset is removed from power, calling him a traitor. The King tells Buckingham to meet with York and find out more about why York has taken up arms. He tells Buckingham not to be too hard or demand terms too harsh, for York will resist such an attitude. Somerset offers to go to prison voluntarily.
The principal characters in this scene behave as expected, given their characters. The King once more reveals his merciful nature in pardoning the rebels. He gives thanks to God for such a happy outcome. This is a King who does not really want to be King, since the office does not suit his nature. He says as much in lines 5 and 6, when he says he longs to be subject, not a King.
York continues his duplicity, saying (as reported by the Messenger) that he comes with his army only to remove Somerset from power, which is only partially true. He is also determined to get the crown for himself but he does not yet want to show his hand.
Act 4, scene 10
Cade hides in the garden of a man named Alexander Iden. He has been on the run for five days and is starving. He sees Iden walk in his garden and confronts him, saying that he expects Iden to try to kill him for the reward money. He vows to resist. Iden does not know who he is, but is angry that Cade has broken into his garden. After more challenging words, they fight. Cade is wounded and falls. For the first time, Iden realizes who his adversary is. Cade dies. Iden drags the body off, saying he will cut off Cade’s head and take it to the King.
Shakespeare developed this scene showing Cade’s miserable end from just one sentence in the work of the historian Hall. Hall states that many people sought for Cade, hoping to win the proffered reward, but few people actually saw him until Iden found him in his garden.