Washington State University
Lord Mountford swears allegiance to Edward via the Earl of Salisbury, thankful that his own enemy Sir Charles of Blois has been killed. A French lord, Villiers, is brought before Salisbury as prisoner. Salisbury wants from Charles, Duke of Normandy, a passport for himself and his men through enemy territory so they can get to Callice and join Edward. Villiers will go free if he can procure this. “Only before thou goest, swear by thy faith, / That if thou canst not compass my desire, / Thou wilt return, my prisoner, back again; / And that shall be sufficient warrant for me” (IV.i.36-39). It seems an unlikely trust, but Villiers vows and sets off.
Edward and Derby are beseiging the city and have cut off supplies and food. Six poor Frenchmen come along. Since they are sick or lame, the city has sent them out so as not to burden the food supply. Edward agrees to take care of them, “And give to every one five crowns apiece” (IV.ii.32). Lord Percy brings news that Edward’s Queen (Philippa) will arrive and that an esquire, John Copland, has taken King David of Scotland prisoner and insists on surrendering him only to Edward directly.
The burgesses of Callice propose their surrender, but Edward demands that the six wealthiest merchants in the town come to him within two days in their linen with nooses around their necks and bow before him.
Prince Charles of Normandy can’t believe that Villiers intends to return to Salisbury and imprisonment just because of a vow if he doesn’t cough up the passport. But Villiers is adamant, so Charles complies.
King John gloats about their superior numbers, but Prince Charles recounts a prophecy about “feather’d fowl” (IV.iii.68) freaking out the army and flint-stones rising against them. But it’s not like that could ever happen.
Prince Edward commiserates with Audley about how doomed they are. Three Heralds consecutively bring harsh offers to the Prince, the last a taunting prayer-book from Philip with which Ned might prepare for his journey to the afterlife. Audley waxes philosophical about death:
For from the instant we begin to live
We do pursue and hunt the time to die:
First bud we, then we blow, and after seed;
Then presently we fall, and as a shade
Follows the body, so we follow death.
If, then, we hunt for death, why do we fear it?
This actually works to embolden the Prince.
King John and Prince Charles wonder about the weird atmosphere, and Philip remarks on the clamor of ravens hovering over their soldiers. A French soldier escorts in Salisbury, now a prisoner. John wants him hanged immediately, but Charles stands by his word and the safe conduct passport he issued. Salisbury and his men are allowed to pass on to Callice and join King Edward, but John wants him to convey the message to King Edward to “prepare a noble grave / To put his princely son, black Edward, in” (IV.v.110-111).
Artois remarks to the Prince that the French are confounded by the ravens. If only we had more arrows — the “feather’d shafts” (IV.vi.9) of the prophecy. The Prince orders the English to chuck rocks — the flint-stones of the prophecy.
John, Charles, and Philip are panicked. “An arm hath beat an army: one poor David / Hath with a stone foil’d twenty stout Goliahs” (IV.vii.18-19).
Audley is mortally wounded and helped by two esquires. He stoically asks to be brought to the Prince.
Prince Edward has captured King John and Prince Charles. John says, “Thy fortune, not thy force, hath conquer’d us” (IV.ix.10), to which Prince Edward replies, “An argument that heaven aids the right” (IV.ix.11). Artois brings in Prince Philip. The wounded Audley is brought in; the Prince tries to be encouraging:
Cheerly, bold man! thy soul is all too proud
To yield her city for one little breach,
Should be divorced from her earthly spouse
By the soft temper of a Frenchman’s sword.
Artois passes on his rewards to the two esquires who rescued him. Onwards to Callice and Daddy.