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Edward and Richard meet on the field of battle and wonder about the whereabouts of their father. Richard says that he saw York fighting fiercely, and he is proud to be his son. The brothers notice light on the horizon, and they see three suns rise. Richard comments as the suns seem to join and embrace, as if they had made some unbreakable agreement together. Edward thinks it is a sign that the three York brothers, already blazing on their own merits, should join together to shine over the world like the united sun. Richard is a little more skeptical about the meaning of the sign.
A messenger enters and announces the death of York. The messenger tells how York was captured with great difficulty and killed by Clifford and Margaret after Margaret mocked him with the handkerchief covered with Rutland's blood. Edward mourns his father, wishing he were dead so he didn't have to endure the grief: "Now my soul's palace is become a prison / Ah, would she break from hence that this my body / Might in the ground be close up in rest. / For never henceforth shall I joy again" (2.1.74-6). But Richard cannot cry; instead, he is consumed with rage and swears he will revenge his father's death. Edward says that he now inherits his father's dukedom, but Richard insists he inherits the throne and kingdom, as well.
Warwick and Montague enter, and Richard reports the news. Warwick, too, has news; having already heard of the fall of York, he mustered his troops and marched to intercept the queen, who was on her way to London to undo Henry's agreement with York. When the two armies met, Warwick's soldiers fought bravely but lost the battle. Warwick also reports that George, the other brother of Richard and Edward, has returned from France. Richard says the battle must have been harsh, for he has never heard of Warwick retreating. Warwick says they must march to London to defend the agreement York made with Henry about the succession. Edward agrees, acknowledging he is now the Duke of York. As they prepare, a messenger announces the arrival of the Queen's army.
Henry, Margaret, Clifford, Northumberland, and Prince Edward arrive at the town of York. Margaret points out York's head on the city walls, but Henry warns her to restrain her desire for revenge. Clifford speaks, elaborating on the nature of family in the natural world, where animals are kind to their offspring and vicious to enemies who threaten their children. He urges Henry to reverse his stance of being kind to York, his enemy, and cruel to his son, now disinherited. He tells the king that he should learn from the natural world; he should seize his own kingdom, make sure the birthright passes on to his son, and undo his unnatural agreements.
But Henry says that sons aren't always happy with that which they receive from their father. His son will be left his father's virtuous deeds, as he wished his father had left him, instead of a kingdom. Margaret interrupts him to remind Henry that he promised to knight his son; he does so.
A messenger enters with news of Warwick's army's imminent arrival. Clifford urges Henry to leave the scene of the battle, since the queen does better without him present. Edward enters with Warwick, Richard, George, Norfolk, and Montague. George says to Margaret that she has heard that she caused Parliament to undo the agreement made between his father York and Henry. Richard and Clifford shout at each other, and Warwick interrupts to ask Henry to yield the crown. The lords all argue and threaten each other. Henry tries to speak; Margaret tells him to interrupt more forcefully or to be silent. He says he is the king and privileged to speak.
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