The final act of Henry VI Part One begins in London, with Henry receiving messages from the Pope and other powerful figures around Europe to end the violence with France. Gloucester brings up the idea of a tactical marriage with the daughter of the Earl of Armangac in an effort to strengthen his ties to France and maybe get a little cash out of the whole business. Henry says he’s way too young to be thinking about girls and besides, he should really be concentrating on his studies, but if all the ambassadors say he should get married… In a quick aside, Winchester says he will invite insurrection before he will ever bend his knee to Gloucester. It seems petty squabbles consume everyone in this play.
Meanwhile, back in France, Charles the Dauphin and his retinue hear that Paris may be swinging in his favor, though it could be faulty intelligence. He and the gang decide to bet on themselves and march on France anyway, figuring they can always kill the Parisians if they’re not willing to give their support after all. A scout arrives and tells them that the combined forces of York and Somerset are about to crash on them. They aren’t worried, since Talbot is dead. Joan says it’s better to leave fear to the weak and fight with zeal. In the next scene, Joan consorts with fiends to gain their infernal aid in winning the war against the English, but no matter what sacrifice she promises, they turn away from her. She knows now that she is lost. She rushes into the fray and after intense one-on-one combat with York, she is bested. The French retreat and Joan bitterly curses Charles along with York.
We move to another part of the battlefield where Suffolk has captured Margaret, the daughter of King Reignier of Naples. After being charmed by her beauty, he lets her go and when she tries to leave, he takes her again. She wants to know what ransom her father needs to pay for her return and rather than answer, he just stares at her like a weirdo. After realizing he can’t seduce her because he’s already married and as a single noblewoman she would never consent to be his mistress, he decides to seduce her on Henry’s behalf so that maybe once she’s married, he can make her his mistress. As far as plans hatched in this play go, it’s fairly sophisticated, though disgusting. Anyway, Suffolk talks up the king and Margaret is open to the idea of marrying Henry if her dad is on board. Suffolk immediately holds a parley with Reignier, who seems uninterested and perhaps a shade impatient, but after hearing what Suffolk is suggesting, offers him land as payment for brokering such a favorable alliance. Throughout, Suffolk makes passes at Margaret.
Back at York’s camp, Joan is brought before the Duke for her sentence. Her father, a poor shepherd, arrives to beg clemency. However, Joan spits on him and says he is no father of hers. He is so upset by her outburst that he says hanging is too good for her and they should burn her. Yeesh. York agrees, but Warwick, the lone semi-compassionate voice in the crowd, asks for plenty of oil and wood to be laid down in order to shorten her suffering. Suddenly, Joan shouts that she’s pregnant. The guys all look at each other, then say that it’s best to not bring a bastard of the Dauphin into the world. She says it’s not Charles’ baby, but Alençon’s. York & Co. say that’s even worse and Joan says no, it’s actually Reignier’s. They say that’s the worst yet. Joan is destined to die a fiery death and leaves the scene and this world. A Cardinal shows up and says the Pope wants the fighting to stop, like right now. Charles is on his way and y’all need to make peace. When the Dauphin arrives, he wants to know the terms of the truce. Essentially, he has to bend the knee to Henry and pay a tribute and he will retain the title of Viceroy of France. Charles says thanks but no thanks and York retorts that if Charles does not accept these conditions, England “will plague thee with incessant wars”. The French advisors tell Charles to accept the terms. He does forthwith.
Finally, back in London, Suffolk has arrived and is talking up Margaret to the boy king. Henry says that all sounds great to him, what with the pretty lady loving on him and so on. Gloucester reminds the king that he’s already engaged to a much better match, meaning stronger ties to Charles and more money. Suffolk says for shame on y’all for being so mercenary, our dear king just wants to marry for love, sight unseen. Henry agrees enthusiastically and goes whistling gaily off the stage while Suffolk laughs his sinister laugh and tells us that he plans on controlling Margaret, thereby controlling the king and the REST OF ENGLAND! The play ends on this dramatic note. At least we already have a villain for Part Two.