12 Nov 2008

Shakespeare's King Richard III summarized

by Corry Shores
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Shakespeare's King Richard III


Now is the winter of our discontent

Made glorious summer by this sun of York;

And all the clouds that lour'd upon our house

In the deep bosom of the ocean buried.

Now are our brows bound with victorious wreaths;

Our bruised arms hung up for monuments;

Our stern alarums changed to merry meetings,

Our dreadful marches to delightful measures.

Richard Duke of Gloucester announces that a war has ended, and the readiness of war has turned to the merriness of peace.

Grim-visaged war hath smooth'd his wrinkled front;

And now, instead of mounting barded steeds

To fright the souls of fearful adversaries,

He capers nimbly in a lady's chamber

To the lascivious pleasing of a lute.

Back from battle, many turn to romance.

But I, that am not shaped for sportive tricks,

Nor made to court an amorous looking-glass;

I, that am rudely stamp'd, and want love's majesty

To strut before a wanton ambling nymph;

I, that am curtail'd of this fair proportion,

Cheated of feature by dissembling nature,

Deformed, unfinish'd, sent before my time

Into this breathing world, scarce half made up,

And that so lamely and unfashionable

That dogs bark at me as I halt by them

But not so for Richard, who is unsightly and deformed.

And therefore, since I cannot prove a lover,

To entertain these fair well-spoken days,

I am determined to prove a villain

And hate the idle pleasures of these days.

Because he cannot enjoy life, he will try to ruin others’ lives.

To set my brother Clarence and the king

In deadly hate the one against the other:

And if King Edward be as true and just

As I am subtle, false and treacherous,

This day should Clarence closely be mew'd up,

About a prophecy, which says that 'G'

Of Edward's heirs the murderer shall be.

Richard declares he is plotting to set his brother George (the Duke of Clarence) and their brother King Edward IV against each other, with the intent that Clarence eventually die from his scheme. Gloucester somehow arranges a prophesy saying that someone with the letter G will cause the king's heirs to lose their inheritance (or perhaps it is a true prophesy, and the true 'G' is Gloucester).

Clarence enters with a guard, Brakenbury, because he is being held prisoner (is mew'd up) on account of Richard's scheming. As Clarence explains:

And says a wizard told him that by G

His issue disinherited should be;

And, for my name of George begins with G,

It follows in his thought that I am he.

Clarence says the king sent him to the prisoner tower, but Gloucester says it was the king's wife Lady Grey. Brakenbury breaks the conversation to take Clarence away. Gloucester promises to try to free Clarence, then the guard takes his prisoner away. Alone, Gloucester expresses his intent to kill Clarence.

Lord Hastings enters, recently freed from imprisonment. He gives news of King Edward's illness. Hastings leaves for the king, and Gloucester remains, saying he will come later. Alone, Gloucester wishes that his brother die first, so that he may inherit the thrown after Edward's subsequent death. He announces he will marry the daughter of Warwick, whose father and husband he killed.


King Henry VI's corpse is carried down a street. His daughter-in-law, Lady Anne (daughter of Warwick?) laments the death of the king and her husband Edward, both of whom fell in the war. She curses their murderer. Perhaps it will later prove ironic that she says of the killer:

If ever he have wife, let her he made
A miserable by the death of him
As I am made by my poor lord and thee!

Gloucester enters and orders the guards to lay down the corpse. Lady Anne objects:

Thou hadst but power over his mortal body,
His soul thou canst not have; therefore be gone

and she curses Gloucester, accusing him of their death. Gloucester objects, saying it was Edward who killed her husband (presumably a different Edward). Lady Anne replies that Queen Margaret witnessed their murder. Gloucester confesses. Lady Anne says Gloucester is fit for hell; Gloucester says he is fit for Anne's bed-chamber. He then explains that he murdered them for love of her, and speaks eloquently at length about his love. He then gets on his knees, bears his breast, gives her his sword, and invites her to kill him. But she begins-to, but drops the sword. Then Gloucester invites her to ask him to kill himself:

I have already.
Tush, that was in thy rage:
Speak it again, and, even with the word,
That hand, which, for thy love, did kill thy love,
Shall, for thy love, kill a far truer love;
To both their deaths thou shalt be accessary.

Gloucester puts a ring on Anne's finger, and tells her to meet him later at Crosby Place. Alone, he expresses his joy over manipulating Anne's feelings for him even while she mourned the deaths of the husband and father he murdered.

But first I'll turn yon fellow in his grave;
And then return lamenting to my love.
Shine out, fair sun, till I have bought a glass,
That I may see my shadow as I pass.


Queen Elizabeth enters a palace scene with her brother Earl Rivers and her son Lord Grey. She expresses concern over her sick husband the king. If he were to die, "It is determined, not concluded yet" that Richard Gloucester will inherit the thrown. The Duke of Buckingham and Lord Stanely the Earl of Derby enter, and say that the king is cheerful, and that he wants to amend relations between Gloucester and his brothers.

Gloucester enters with Lord Hastings and Marquis of Dorset, and he complains that

Because I cannot flatter and speak fair,
Smile in men's faces, smooth, deceive and cog,
Duck with French nods and apish courtesy,
I must be held a rancorous enemy.
Cannot a plain man live and think no harm,
But thus his simple truth must be abused
By silken, sly, insinuating Jacks?

But despite claiming innocence, the Queen explains that

The king, of his own royal disposition,
And not provoked by any suitor else;
Aiming, belike, at your interior hatred,
Which in your outward actions shows itself
Against my kindred, brothers, and myself,
Makes him to send; that thereby he may gather
The ground of your ill-will, and so remove it.

Elizabeth tells Gloucester that

You envy my advancement and my friends'
God grant we never may have need of you!

(perhaps meaning she hopes he never inherits the thrown). Gloucester says Elizebeth is needed, because her brother Clarence is imprisoned on account of her actions (even though Gloucester was responsible for that). Elizabeth says she never conspired against Clarence. Gloucester then accuses her of being responsible for Hastings imprisonment. Elizabeth says she will tell the king of Gloucester's behavior.

Queen Margaret enters and threatens to tell the king of Gloucester's murders, which she witnessed. Gloucester claims rather that he fought for Henry and Edward.

Rivers says he and the others obeyed the king, which they would also do if Gloucester were king. Gloucester denies:

If I should be! I had rather be a pedlar:
Far be it from my heart, the thought of it!

Margaret then curses them all for the destruction of her family and rule:

That Henry's death, my lovely Edward's death,
Their kingdom's loss, my woful banishment,
Could all but answer for that peevish brat?
Can curses pierce the clouds and enter heaven?
Why, then, give way, dull clouds, to my quick curses!
If not by war, by surfeit die your king,
As ours by murder, to make him a king!

And complains of Elizabeth's rule:

Thyself a queen, for me that was a queen,
Outlive thy glory, like my wretched self!

And curses Gloucester:

No sleep close up that deadly eye of thine,
Unless it be whilst some tormenting dream
Affrights thee with a hell of ugly devils!
Thou elvish-mark'd, abortive, rooting hog!
Thou that wast seal'd in thy nativity
The slave of nature and the son of hell!

Buckingham tells Margaret to cease "for shame, if not for charity," and she replies:

Urge neither charity nor shame to me:
Uncharitably with me have you dealt,
And shamefully by you my hopes are butcher'd.
My charity is outrage, life my shame
And in that shame still live my sorrow's rage.

Margaret tells Buckingham that she trusts him, and that he should not trust Gloucester. Margaret leaves saying her curses will be prophesies. Gloucester says he regrets harming her:

I cannot blame her: by God's holy mother,
She hath had too much wrong; and I repent
My part thereof that I have done to her.

Sir William Catsby enters saying the king wants to see Elizabeth, then all leave for him except Gloucester. Alone, Gloucester speaks of his schemes and how he covers by acting pious:

But then I sigh; and, with a piece of scripture,
Tell them that God bids us do good for evil:
And thus I clothe my naked villany
With old odd ends stolen out of holy writ;
And seem a saint, when most I play the devil.

Two murderers whom Gloucester hired enter, asking for the warrant to enter where Clarence is held. Gloucester tells them to kill him quickly, because Clarence might sway them not to with his speech. Afterward they are to go to Crosby Place. The first murderer replies:

Fear not, my lord, we will not stand to prate;
Talkers are no good doers: be assured
We come to use our hands and not our tongues.

Gloucester replies:

Your eyes drop millstones, when fools' eyes drop tears:
I like you, lads; about your business straight;
Go, go, dispatch.

All exit.


Sir Robert Brakenbury, the tower lieutenant guarding Clarence, asks his prisoner why he looks so grave. Clarence describes his nightmare in which he escapes the tower and flees with his brother Gloucester to Burgendy. While crossing the ship's planks, Gloucester slips and strikes Clarence so to take him overboard with him. As he sinks to the bottom of the sea, he sees skelletons covered in jewels. His dream continues after his drowning, where he is carried across Styx:

O, then began the tempest to my soul,
Who pass'd, methought, the melancholy flood,
With that grim ferryman which poets write of,
Unto the kingdom of perpetual night.

He was then tormented by the ghosts of his enemies who died in the war.

And so he vanish'd: then came wandering by
A shadow like an angel, with bright hair
Dabbled in blood; and he squeak'd out aloud,
'Clarence is come; false, fleeting, perjured Clarence,
That stabb'd me in the field by Tewksbury;
Seize on him, Furies, take him to your torments!'
With that, methoughts, a legion of foul fiends
Environ'd me about, and howled in mine ears
Such hideous cries, that with the very noise
I trembling waked, and for a season after
Could not believe but that I was in hell,
Such terrible impression made the dream.

Clarence says he is guilty of killing these people, although he did it for Edward's sake, who now imprisions him.

Clarence is worried something might happen, and ask Brakenbury to remain with him while he sleeps. Brakenbury agrees, Clarence sleeps, and Blakenbury says that princes' glory comes at the cost of inner rest:

Sorrow breaks seasons and reposing hours,
Makes the night morning, and the noon-tide night.
Princes have but their tides for their glories,
An outward honour for an inward toil;
And, for unfelt imagination,
They often feel a world of restless cares:
So that, betwixt their tides and low names,
There's nothing differs but the outward fame.

The murderers enter and show Brakenbury their warrant. Brakenbury gives up responsibility for Clarence to the murderers and leaves. The murderers debate whether they should kill him in his sleep. The second murderer expresses reluctance to kill him, out of fear for his soul.

'Faith, some certain dregs of conscience are yet
within me.

The first murderer reminds him of the reward, which convinces the second murderer, who condemns conscience:

I'll not meddle with it: it is a dangerous thing: it
makes a man a coward: a man cannot steal, but it
accuseth him; he cannot swear, but it cheques him;
he cannot lie with his neighbour's wife, but it
detects him: 'tis a blushing shamefast spirit that
mutinies in a man's bosom; it fills one full of
obstacles: it made me once restore a purse of gold
that I found; it beggars any man that keeps it: it
is turned out of all towns and cities for a
dangerous thing; and every man that means to live
well endeavours to trust to himself and to live
without it.

The first murderer then says he has just become troubled by his conscience. The second one says:

Take the devil in thy mind, and relieve him not: he
would insinuate with thee but to make thee sigh.

Clarence awakes amid their chattering. He says to the second murderer:

Thy voice is thunder, but thy looks are humble.

Clarence asks if they will murder him, and reluctantly they affirm. Clarence doubts they have the heart to do it, and asks why they might, and demands they not. The murderers say the king orders them to kill him, on account of his killings in the war. Clarence says he did them for the king's sake. The murderers say,

Thy brother's love, our duty, and thy fault,
Provoke us hither now to slaughter thee.

Clarence replies:

Oh, if you love my brother, hate not me;
I am his brother, and I love him well.
If you be hired for meed, go back again,
And I will send you to my brother Gloucester,
Who shall reward you better for my life
Than Edward will for tidings of my death.

The murderers then explain it was Gloucester who sent them, but Clarence disbelieves and implores them not to damn their souls. They stab him and take him to the next room to drown him in wine. The second murderer repents, and leaves the burial to the first.


A sick King Edward enters the palace scene with Queen Elizabeth, Dorset, Rivers, Hastings, Buckingham, Grey, and others. Edwards says that before he dies he wants his company to make peace with one another. Rivers and Hastings swear their love for each other. Hastings kisses Elizabeth's hand. Hastings and Dorset embrace. Buckingham and Elizabeth embrace. Gloucester pledges his good will:

Amongst this princely heap, if any here,
By false intelligence, or wrong surmise,
Hold me a foe;
If I unwittingly, or in my rage,
Have aught committed that is hardly borne
By any in this presence, I desire
To reconcile me to his friendly peace:
'Tis death to me to be at enmity;
I hate it, and desire all good men's love.

Then he pledges his loyalty to each member of the company. Elizabeth says the king should free Clarence. Gloucester says the king's reprieve came too late, and Clarence died. Edward laments, praising his brother's loyalty. Edward, Margaret, and some others exit. Gloucester says he will depart to comfort the king with the company.


The Duchess of York, mother to the royal brothers, enters the palace scene with Clarence's two children. She denies to them that Clarence died, to their disbelief. The boy explains how Gloucester weeping told him that the king, under the influence of the queen, killed their father by sending him to prison. The duchess, doubtful, replies:

Oh, that deceit should steal such gentle shapes,
And with a virtuous vizard hide foul guile!

Queen Elizabeth enters upset with Rivers and Dorset following her. Wailing, she declares King Edward IV dead. The duchess says two of her sons are now dead, and she is ashamed of the third, Gloucester

Ah, so much interest have I in thy sorrow
As I had title in thy noble husband!
I have bewept a worthy husband's death,
And lived by looking on his images:
But now two mirrors of his princely semblance
Are crack'd in pieces by malignant death,
And I for comfort have but one false glass,
Which grieves me when I see my shame in him.

The grieving lament their losses. Rivers tells the dutchess to find solace in the crowning of her grandson Prince Edward (Edward V, the rightful heir to king Edward IV).

Madam, bethink you, like a careful mother,
Of the young prince your son: send straight for him
Let him be crown'd; in him your comfort lives:
Drown desperate sorrow in dead Edward's grave,
And plant your joys in living Edward's throne.

Gloucester, Buckingham, Derby, Hastings, and Ratcliff enter. Gloucester asks for the dutchess' blessing, which she imparts. Buckingham suggests the accompaniment delivering Edward to London for coronation be a small, given the lingering unrest from the war. Buckingham and Gloucester agree to be the only two to go, and all exit except them. Buckingham says that he has planned a way to create further divisions in Queen Elizabeth's family:

For, by the way, I'll sort occasion,
As index to the story we late talk'd of,
To part the queen's proud kindred from the king.

The two depart for Ludlow to fetch Edward.


On a London street three citizens meet discussing news of Edward's death and his son's coronation. They worry that the son is young, but rather him than Gloucester (or the queen's other near relations):

Better it were they all came by the father,
Or by the father there were none at all;
For emulation now, who shall be nearest,
Will touch us all too near, if God prevent not.
O, full of danger is the Duke of Gloucester!
And the queen's sons and brothers haught and proud:
And were they to be ruled, and not to rule,
This sickly land might solace as before.

One citizen says they are neadlessly fearing the worst, but another citizen explains there is cause:

When clouds appear, wise men put on their cloaks;
When great leaves fall, the winter is at hand;
When the sun sets, who doth not look for night?
Untimely storms make men expect a dearth.
All may be well; but, if God sort it so,
'Tis more than we deserve, or I expect.

Before the times of change, still is it so:
By a divine instinct men's minds mistrust
Ensuing dangers; as by proof, we see
The waters swell before a boisterous storm.
But leave it all to God. whither away?

The citizens are called by the justices and exit.


At the London palace, Thomas Rotherham, the Archbishop of York, tells Queen Elizabeth, the Duchess of York, and young York that Edward should be arriving tomorrow. Young York discusses his rate of growth, comparing it to Edward's and Gloucester's. A messenger enters to report that Gloucester and Buckingham have imprisoned Lord Rivers, Lord Grey, and Sir Thomas Vaughan, but the messenger does not know why. Elizabeth predicts the downfall of her family:

Ay me, I see the downfall of our house!
The tiger now hath seized the gentle hind;
Insulting tyranny begins to jet
Upon the innocent and aweless throne:
Welcome, destruction, death, and massacre!
I see, as in a map, the end of all.

The duchess decries the feuding:

Make war upon themselves; blood against blood,
Self against self: O, preposterous
And frantic outrage, end thy damned spleen;
Or let me die, to look on death no more!

The archbishop leads them all to the sanctuary for safety.


A trumpet introduces onto a London street Prince Edward, Gloucester, Buckingham, Cardinal Catesby, and others. Gloucester and Buckingham welcome Edward to London, and observe he looks weary from the travel, but Edward replies he is bothered by the arrests of his relatives:

No, uncle; but our crosses on the way
Have made it tedious, wearisome, and heavy
I want more uncles here to welcome me.

Gloucester tries to deceive Edward into believing his uncles were criminals:

Sweet prince, the untainted virtue of your years
Hath not yet dived into the world's deceit
Nor more can you distinguish of a man
Than of his outward show; which, God he knows,
Seldom or never jumpeth with the heart.
Those uncles which you want were dangerous;
Your grace attended to their sugar'd words,
But look'd not on the poison of their hearts :
God keep you from them, and from such false friends!

The prince stands unconvinced. The Mayor enters and welcomes Edward, who merely wants to see his relatives. Hastings enters to report that that his mother the queen and his brother York have been taken to sanctuary. Buckingham asks the cardinal to fetch them. The cardinal explains he will try to persuade them, but cannot deny them their right of sanctuary. Buckingham argues that the purpose of sanctuary does not cover this situation, and he is allowed to remove them. The cardinal is convinced and leaves with Hastings. Gloucester tries to convince the prince to stay in the tower while deciding where to hold his coronation, and to make his case he claims that Julius Caesar built the tower. The prince questions the veracity of the claim, and says that even if this historical event were not recorded, someone could still confirm it, because the fact would be passed down through the generations:

But say, my lord, it were not register'd,
Methinks the truth should live from age to age,
As 'twere retail'd to all posterity,
Even to the general all-ending day.

Aside, Gloucester comments:

So wise so young, they say, do never
live long.

The young York enters with Hastings and the Cardinal and the brothers welcome each other. The young York tries to disarm Gloucester by requesting first his knife, which he gives, and then he sword, which he withholds. Gloucester says he will go try fetch the queen while the young princes stay in the tower. Young York says he is too afraid to sleep there:

Marry, my uncle Clarence' angry ghost:
My grandam told me he was murdered there.

But Prince Edward is not afraid:

I fear no uncles dead.

Gloucester replies, implicitly referring to himself:

Nor none that live, I hope.

The princes leave for the tower, and all others leave except Gloucester, Buckingham, and Catesby. Buckingham asks Catesby if they can trust Hastings or Stanely to favor Gloucester's ascension to the thrown. Catesby thinks that Hastings' loyalty to his father would cause him to support the prince, and that Stanely will do whatever Hastings does. Buckingham asks Catesby to bring Hastings to the tower for the coronation, but also to discover his sympathies. Buckingham says they will hold two councils, and Catesby will have an importance place in them. Gloucester tells Catesby to inform Hastings that his imprisoned relatives, also his enemies, will be killed, and to

Give mistress Shore one gentle kiss the more.

Gloucester says that Catesby can find them at Crosby place, then Catesby exits. Buckingham asks what they will do if Hastings supports the prince, and Gloucester replies:

Chop off his head, man

Gloucester then promises Buckingham the earldom of Hereford after he becomes king.


Lord Stanely's messenger arrives at Hastings' house at 4AM to fetch him. The messenger reports that Stanely had a foreboding dream and that he thinks the divided councils will cause a rift in the family:

He dreamt to-night the boar had razed his helm:
Besides, he says there are two councils held;
And that may be determined at the one
which may make you and him to rue at the other.

Stanely bids Hastings come

To shun the danger that his soul divines.

Hastings tells the messenger to assure Stanely and accompany him to the coronation:

Go, fellow, go, return unto thy lord;
Bid him not fear the separated councils
His honour and myself are at the one,
And at the other is my servant Catesby
Where nothing can proceed that toucheth us
Whereof I shall not have intelligence.
Tell him his fears are shallow, wanting instance:
And for his dreams, I wonder he is so fond
To trust the mockery of unquiet slumbers
To fly the boar before the boar pursues,
Were to incense the boar to follow us
And make pursuit where he did mean no chase.
Go, bid thy master rise and come to me
And we will both together to the Tower,
Where, he shall see, the boar will use us kindly.

Catesby enters as the messenger exits, and he suggest the world will not be settled until Richard (Gloucester) is king. Hastings, offended, says:

I'll have this crown of mine cut from my shoulders
Ere I will see the crown so foul misplaced.

and asks Catesby if Gloucester aspires to the thrown. Catesby confirms and links the affirmation with news of his enemies' death:

Ay, on my life; and hopes to find forward
Upon his party for the gain thereof:
And thereupon he sends you this good news,
That this same very day your enemies,
The kindred of the queen, must die at Pomfret.

Hastings, glad at the news, is not persuad to side with Richard.

Indeed, I am no mourner for that news,
Because they have been still mine enemies:
But, that I'll give my voice on Richard's side,
To bar my master's heirs in true descent,
God knows I will not do it, to the death.

Catesby suggests he might lose his lordship if he does not comply, but Hastings predicts ruin for Richard:

But I shall laugh at this a twelve-month hence,
That they who brought me in my master's hate
I live to look upon their tragedy.

Catesby again suggests that Hastings will die if he does not side with Gloucester:

'Tis a vile thing to die, my gracious lord,
When men are unprepared and look not for it.

and tells him also that Gloucester and Buckingham favor him, but aside says that is only because they expect him murdered afterward anyway.

Stanely enters, asking Hastings if he is bringing his boar-spear (to defend against Richard the boar), and Stanely tells Catesby that he does not approve of the two councils. Hastings thinks they are safe, but Stanely says that Hastings' enemies also felt safe before Gloucester killed them. A herald enters as Stanely and Catesby exit. Hastings tells the herald how safe he feels now that his enemies are dead, and throws him his purse to have himself a drink. The herald exits as a priest enters; Hastings thanks him and while whispering something in his ear, Buckingham enters and takes Hastings to the tower, but aside suggests he will die.


At the Pomfret Castle where Sir Richard Ratcliff will execute Rivers, Grey, and Vaughan, the three prisoners curse their condemners. Ratcliff announces their death:

Make haste; the hour of death is expiate.


n the London tower, Buckingham, Derby, Hastings, the Bishop of Ely, Ratcliff, Lovel, and others meet for council. Hastings asks when the coronation will take place. The Bishop naively thinks tomorrow, while Buckingham tries to stall it. Gloucester enters, and Buckingham explains that Hastings suggests Gloucester should crown the new king. Gloucester then excitedly asks the Bishop to run to his garden to pick him strawberries, so he exits. Gloucester takes Buckingham aside to report that Hastings is on Edward's side, and the two exit. Derby tells the council he is not ready for the coronation to be tomorrow, then the Bishop returns with the strawberries. Hastings praises the bishop's innocence and goodness, as his face reveals. Gloucester and Buckingham reenter, and Gloucester makes grave accusations:

I pray you all, tell me what they deserve
That do conspire my death with devilish plots
Of damned witchcraft, and that have prevail'd
Upon my body with their hellish charms?

Gloucester accuses Edward's wife queen Elizabeth and his mistress Shore of using witchcraft to mark his arm, which

like a blasted sapling, wither'd up

Hastings denies the accusation, and Gloucester orders his death;

If I thou protector of this damned strumpet--
Tellest thou me of 'ifs'? Thou art a traitor:
Off with his head!

he asks Lovel and Ratcliff perform the execution, and asks all who are loyal leave with him. All depart except Hastings, Ratcliff, and Lovel. Hastings expresses his regrets for not suspecting his demise, and tells of the folly of trusting people according to their looks:

O momentary grace of mortal men,
Which we more hunt for than the grace of God!
Who builds his hopes in air of your good looks,
Lives like a drunken sailor on a mast,
Ready, with every nod, to tumble down
Into the fatal bowels of the deep.

Hastings curses Richard, and prophesies more destruction and death to follow his demise:

O bloody Richard! miserable England!
I prophesy the fearful'st time to thee
That ever wretched age hath look'd upon.
Come, lead me to the block; bear him my head.
They smile at me that shortly shall be dead.


loucester and Buckingham enter the tower-walls in armor, and Gloucester asks why Buckingham seems so terrified. Buckingham says that he is trying to seem as though he feels gravely threatened. Catesby enters with the Lord Mayor. They stand guard as men approach, but take ease when seeing they are their friends Ratcliff and Lovel. They carry Hastings' head. Gloucester speaks condescendingly of Hastings, saying he trusted him, but he was guilty of conversing with Shore's wife:

So dear I loved the man, that I must weep.
I took him for the plainest harmless creature
That breathed upon this earth a Christian;
Made him my book wherein my soul recorded
The history of all her secret thoughts:
So smooth he daub'd his vice with show of virtue,
That, his apparent open guilt omitted,
I mean, his conversation with Shore's wife,
He lived from all attainder of suspect.

Buckingham proclaims Hastings was a traitor and meant to kill him and Gloucester. The mayor asks for confirmation, and Gloucester argues that the only explanation for them acting so harshly would be if the accusations were true:

What, think You we are Turks or infidels?
Or that we would, against the form of law,
Proceed thus rashly to the villain's death,
But that the extreme peril of the case,
The peace of England and our persons' safety,
Enforced us to this execution?

The mayor condones his execution, citing Hastings' relationship with Mistress Shore. Gloucester regrets that Lovel and Ratcliff killed Hastings before the mayor could hear his confession, but the mayor says he trusts Gloucester's word and exits. Gloucester then instructs Buckingham to go after the mayor and insinuate that Edward's children are illegitimate. Buckingham will say that Edward never wanted his supposed bastard son to take the throne, and that Edward fathered children with his servents, and claim even that Gloucester's mother once begot children with Edward when her husband was at war. Buckingham agrees:

Fear not, my lord, I'll play the orator
As if the golden fee for which I plead
Were for myself: and so, my lord, adieu.

Gloucester instructs Buckingham to return to Baynard's Castle where he will be accompanied by clergymen. Buckingham exits, and Gloucester tells Lovel to fetch Doctor Shaw, and Catesby to get Friar Penker, to have them brought to Baynard's castle. After everyone else exits, Gloucester says he plans on getting rid of Clarence's childrens and preventing people from accessing the princes.


A copyist enters the tower-wall scene and explains to the audience that he just copied Hastings indictment onto the paper he holds, which will be read that day. He started writing it before Hastings' death, and he condemns what is obviously a deceitful plot:

Here's a good world the while! Why who's so gross,
That seeth not this palpable device?
Yet who's so blind, but says he sees it not?
Bad is the world; and all will come to nought,
When such bad dealings must be seen in thought.


Gloucester and Buckingham enter Baynard's Castle. Buckingham tells Gloucester the citizens are silent and he confirms that he passed on the rumors of Edward's infidelity and of the bastardy of his children. Buckingham also reports that

And when mine oratory grew to an end
I bid them that did love their country's good
Cry 'God save Richard, England's royal king!'

But instead of the mayor and the people cheering, they turned silent and stunned. The mayor then tells the people these rumors again, but still no response. Then some of Buckingham's allies

At the lower end of the hall, hurl'd up their caps,
And some ten voices cried 'God save King Richard!'

Then Buckingham imputed this scant approval to the whole crowd:

And thus I took the vantage of those few,
'Thanks, gentle citizens and friends,' quoth I;
'This general applause and loving shout
Argues your wisdoms and your love to Richard'

Buckingham says the mayor will come, so Gloucester should position himself between clergymen, and hold a prayer-book while Buckingham sings a holy song. Then they will try to convince the mayor to ask Gloucester to be king, although at first Gloucester will pretend to be reluctant.

The mayor with citizens then knocks on the door; Gloucester exits before they are let in. Buckingham says Gloucester will not be able to speak, but his servant Catesby enters to say that Gloucester is busy praying with priests and invites everyone tomorrow. Buckingham tells Catesby that Gloucester must come because they have something gravely important to discuss. Catesby exits, and Buckingham praises Gloucester's piety in contrast to Edward's lewd tendencies:

Ah, ha, my lord, this prince is not an Edward!
He is not lolling on a lewd day-bed,
But on his knees at meditation;
Not dallying with a brace of courtezans,
But meditating with two deep divines;
Not sleeping, to engross his idle body,
But praying, to enrich his watchful soul:
Happy were England, would this gracious prince
Take on himself the sovereignty thereof:
But, sure, I fear, we shall ne'er win him to it.

Again Catesby comes alone, because he says Gloucester is afraid of Buckingham's intentions, but Buckingham reassures him and sends him back for Gloucester. Gloucester then enters between two bishops and Catesby returns. Buckingham declares of the bishops:

Two props of virtue for a Christian prince,
To stay him from the fall of vanity:
And, see, a book of prayer in his hand,
True ornaments to know a holy man.
Famous Plantagenet, most gracious prince,
Lend favourable ears to our request;
And pardon us the interruption
Of thy devotion and right Christian zeal.

Gloucester piously asks what is wanted of him, expressing worries that he will be accused of some crime. Buckingham replies:

Then know, it is your fault that you resign
The supreme seat, the throne majestical,
The scepter'd office of your ancestors,
Your state of fortune and your due of birth,
The lineal glory of your royal house,
To the corruption of a blemished stock:
Whilst, in the mildness of your sleepy
Which here we waken to our country's good,
This noble isle doth want her proper limbs;
Her face defaced with scars of infamy,
Her royal stock graft with ignoble plants,
And almost shoulder'd in the swallowing gulf
Of blind forgetfulness and dark oblivion.
Which to recure, we heartily solicit
Your gracious self to take on you the charge
And kingly government of this your land,
Not as protector, steward, substitute,
Or lowly factor for another's gain;
But as successively from blood to blood,
Your right of birth, your empery, your own.
For this, consorted with the citizens,
Your very worshipful and loving friends,
And by their vehement instigation,
In this just suit come I to move your grace.

Gloucester pretends to be offended, and complains that he does not want to "bear the golden yoke of sovereignty" and denies the request, claiming that

So mighty and so many my defects,
As I had rather hide me from my greatness

and noting that already there are proper heirs to the throne. Buckingham then informs Gloucester that young Edward is illegitimate, because his mother is the sister to the King of France, and pleads with him to consider the crown. The mayor concurs, "Do, good my lord, your citizens entreat you." Gloucester still refuses, but Buckingham says they will then have to put someone less worthy on the throne "to the disgrace and downfall of your house." Still, Gloucester refuses, then Buckingham exits with the citizens. Catesby then begs Gloucester call them back and accept. Finally Gloucester gives-in and decides to accept the throne. Everyone returns, and Gloucester tells Buckingham to defend him if his rightfulness is challenged. Buckingham then proclaims:

Then I salute you with this kingly title:
Long live Richard, England's royal king!

and the citizens and mayor say "amen." Then Buckingham announces he will be crowned tomorrow. Gloucester announces he must return to his prayers, and all exit.


Before the tower stands Queen Elizabeth, the Duchess of York, Dorset, Anne, the Duchess of Gloucester, Lady Platagenet, and Clarence's young daughter. They are there to see the princes, but Brakenbury enters and informs them they are not allowed, by order of the king. Lord Stanely enters and tells Lady Anne she must go to Westminister to be crowned Richard's queen. Queen Elizabeth orders her son Dorset to flee overseas. Lady Anne goes with Stanely unwillingly:

And I in all unwillingness will go.
I would to God that the inclusive verge
Of golden metal that must round my brow
Were red-hot steel, to sear me to the brain!
Anointed let me be with deadly venom,
And die, ere men can say, God save the queen!

The Duchess of York then sends Dorset to Richmond, Lady Anne to Richard, and Queen Elizabeth to sanctuary.


A proud crowned King Richard III (formerly Gloucester) enters with Buckingham and Catesby, a page, and others. But Richard does not feel his throne is yet completely secured, so he orders Buckingham to murder Edward's children:

Shall I be plain? I wish the bastards dead;
And I would have it suddenly perform'd.

Buckingham deliberates before agreeing and exits, but Richard notes he seems too circumspect to carry out the order, so he has his page fetch the scoundrel Tyrrel to perform the deed instead, and announces Buckingham will no longer be his closest counsel. Stanely brings news that Marquis Dorset fled to Richmond. He orders Catesby to spread rumors abroad that Anne is sick and must be kept near, and to find a "mean-born gentleman" to marry Clarence's daughter. Richard then explains:

I must be married to my brother's daughter,
Or else my kingdom stands on brittle glass.
Murder her brothers, and then marry her!
Uncertain way of gain! But I am in
So far in blood that sin will pluck on sin:
Tear-falling pity dwells not in this eye.

Tyrrel enters and agrees to kill the princes. Buckingham returns to request the earldom of Hereford he was promised, but Richard pretends not to hear him while chattering with other people. Finally Richard refuses and all leave except Buckingham, who regrets:

Is it even so? rewards he my true service
With such deep contempt made I him king for this?
O, let me think on Hastings, and be gone
To Brecknock, while my fearful head is on!


At the same empty court scene, Tyrrel enters and declares he killed the princes. Richard enters, and Tyrrel confirms to him that they are dead. Richard tells Tyrrel to come back to tell the tale over dinner and to decide what his reward should be. Richard announces that Anne is dead and he intends to woo young Elizabeth, Edward's daughter, who is currently courted by Breton Richmond. Catesby brings bad news: Ely has escaped to Richmond and Buckingham now is leading the Welsh army nearby and is gaining power. Richard decides to waste no time and meet his enemy on the battlefield.


Before the palace, Queen Margaret expresses her dismay over the destruction Richard wrought, and tells she will flee to France:

So, now prosperity begins to mellow
And drop into the rotten mouth of death.
Here in these confines slily have I lurk'd,
To watch the waning of mine adversaries.
A dire induction am I witness to,
And will to France, hoping the consequence
Will prove as bitter, black, and tragical.

Queen Elizabeth enters with the Duchess of York and bemoans the death of her children. Queen Margaret consoles:

Hover about her; say, that right for right
Hath dimm'd your infant morn to aged night.

All three grieve their losses. Queen Margaret curses Richard:

Thou hadst a Clarence too, and Richard kill'd him.
From forth the kennel of thy womb hath crept
A hell-hound that doth hunt us all to death:
That dog, that had his teeth before his eyes,
To worry lambs and lap their gentle blood,
That foul defacer of God's handiwork,
That excellent grand tyrant of the earth,
That reigns in galled eyes of weeping souls,
Thy womb let loose, to chase us to our graves.
O upright, just, and true-disposing God,
How do I thank thee, that this carnal cur
Preys on the issue of his mother's body,
And makes her pew-fellow with others' moan!
Richard yet lives, hell's black intelligencer,
Only reserved their factor, to buy souls
And send them thither: but at hand, at hand,
Ensues his piteous and unpitied end:
Earth gapes, hell burns, fiends roar, saints pray.
To have him suddenly convey'd away.
Cancel his bond of life, dear God, I prey,
That I may live to say, The dog is dead!

Margaret continues eloquently:

I call'd thee then vain flourish of my fortune;
I call'd thee then poor shadow, painted queen;
The presentation of but what I was;
The flattering index of a direful pageant;
One heaved a-high, to be hurl'd down below;
A mother only mock'd with two sweet babes;
A dream of what thou wert, a breath, a bubble,
A sign of dignity, a garish flag,
To be the aim of every dangerous shot,
A queen in jest, only to fill the scene.
Where is thy husband now? where be thy brothers?
Where are thy children? wherein dost thou, joy?
Who sues to thee and cries 'God save the queen'?
Where be the bending peers that flatter'd thee?
Where be the thronging troops that follow'd thee?
Decline all this, and see what now thou art:
For happy wife, a most distressed widow;
For joyful mother, one that wails the name;
For queen, a very caitiff crown'd with care;
For one being sued to, one that humbly sues;
For one that scorn'd at me, now scorn'd of me;
For one being fear'd of all, now fearing one;
For one commanding all, obey'd of none.
Thus hath the course of justice wheel'd about,
And left thee but a very prey to time;
Having no more but thought of what thou wert,
To torture thee the more, being what thou art.
Thou didst usurp my place, and dost thou not
Usurp the just proportion of my sorrow?
Now thy proud neck bears half my burthen'd yoke;
From which even here I slip my weary neck,
And leave the burthen of it all on thee.
Farewell, York's wife, and queen of sad mischance:
These English woes will make me smile in France.

Queen Elizabeth, impressed by her eloquence, asks Margaret to remain to teach her how to curse, and Margaret advises she over-dramatize her losses:

Forbear to sleep the nights, and fast the days;
Compare dead happiness with living woe;
Think that thy babes were fairer than they were,
And he that slew them fouler than he is:
Bettering thy loss makes the bad causer worse:
Revolving this will teach thee how to curse.

Margaret the leaves for France, and Elizabeth says to the Duchess of York that such eloquent cursing does not resolve the problems but does lessen the pain:

Let them have scope: though what they do impart
Help not all, yet do they ease the heart.

The Duchess of York proposes they both direct their scorn at Richard, who enters at that moment with flourish. The duchess and the queen speak their venom to Richard, who has his musicians sound their horns to drown their scornful rebukes. Richard's mother the duchess entreats him to let her speak, saying she bore him in anguish, pain and agony. When Richard replies that he now comforts her, she denies:

No, by the holy rood, thou know'st it well,
Thou camest on earth to make the earth my hell.
A grievous burthen was thy birth to me;
Tetchy and wayward was thy infancy;
Thy school-days frightful, desperate, wild, and furious,
Thy prime of manhood daring, bold, and venturous,
Thy age confirm'd, proud, subdued, bloody,
More mild, but yet more harmful, kind in hatred:
What comfortable hour canst thou name,
That ever graced me in thy company?

Before she departs, the duchess curses him and tells him she prays for his adversary. She exits saying:

Bloody thou art, bloody will be thy end;
Shame serves thy life and doth thy death attend.

Richard then asks Elizabeth about her daughter Elizabeth, and the queen says she will protect her from him. Richard asks her to forget her hatred and let him marry her, and he asks her advice on how to woo her. The queen gives a mocking answer, but Richard persuades her by saying she will be mother of the queen instead of the king. He tells her to go convince her daughter to marry him. The queen counters ironically all Richard's instructions for what to tell young Elizabeth. But eventually Richard persuades her by claiming that the country's stability depends on their union, and she exits, following the entrance of Ratcliff and Catesby. They report that Richmond attacks the western shore with his navy. He sends Catesby to the Duke to tell him to meet-up in Salisbury, and he sends Ratcliff straight to Salisbury. Catesby exits, but Richard tells Ratcliff to stay. Stanley enters to report that Richmond is invading with Dorset, Buckingham, and Ely so to claim the crown. Stanley reports that their northern neighbors are invading out of their own accord. Richard sends Stanly to gather more forces, but mistrusts him, demanding he leave his son as collateral, and Stanley agrees before exiting. Messengers arrive one-by-one each with news of another group rising against Richard. Another messenger brings news that Buckingham's army was defeated, and another that Richmond's fleet was scattered by storm, and returned to Brittany. Catesby brings news that Buckingham is captured, but also that Richmond landed. Richard rallies everyone to meet Richmond's forces in Salisbury.


At Stanley Lord of Derby's house, Derby instructs Sir Christopher Urswick to tell Richmond that because Richard holds his son George as collateral, he cannot revolt without his son dying. Urswick is also to inform Richmond that Richard seeks young Elizabeth's hand.


At an open place in Salisbury, the Sheriff leads Buckingham to execution. Buckingham is refused access to Richard, and he dwells on his turn of fate before being beheaded.


At a camp near Tamwork, Richmond, Oxford, Blunt, Herbert, and others enter to the beat of drums and brandishing of colors. Richmond shares news from Stanley of Richards troop movements. The other men comment that they have right on their side, and so many others will join them against Richard. Richmond encourages his men:

All for our vantage. Then, in God's name, march:
True hope is swift, and flies with swallow's wings:
Kings it makes gods, and meaner creatures kings.


On Bosworth Field stands an armed Richard with Norfolk and Surrey; Richard orders they camp there. He then asks his enemy's number, and notes his forces are triple, and also that they have the advantage of being the army of the king:

Besides, the king's name is a tower of strength,
Which they upon the adverse party want.

They all exit, and on the other side of the field enters Richmond, Sir William Brandon, Oxford, and others. As soldiers pitch Richmond's tent, he interprets good omens for tomorrow's battle:

The weary sun hath made a golden set,
And by the bright track of his fiery car,
Gives signal, of a goodly day to-morrow.

Richmond then announces that Brandon will bear his standard, and asks for ink and paper to formulate the battle plan. He orders Oxford, Brandon, and Herbert remain with him, and Pembroke will stay with his troops. He asks Blunt where Stanley is, and he replies half a mile south from the king. Richmond bids them all goodnight as they withdraw into the tent.

In Richard's tent enters Richard, Norfolk, Ratcliff, Catesby, and others. Richard begins battle-planning, sending Norfolk to his men; and Catesby will go tell Stanley to bring his troops or lose his son. Richard then orders Ratcliff to come back at midnight to arm him.

Then Derby (Stanley) enters Richmond's tent. Derby says he will help as much he can, but not overtly for fear of losing his son. All exit but Richmond, who prays for victory and pledges his faith, then sleeps.

Then enters the Ghost of (former king) Prince Edward, son of King Henry VI, and he says to Richard he will weigh down his soul tomorrow, and then wishes Richmond be cheerful in his righteousness.

Then enters the Ghost of King Henry VI, who curses Richard and blesses Richmond.

Then enters the Ghost of Clarence, who does the same. Likewise for the Ghosts of Rivers, Gray, and Vaughan. All ghosts then say to Richmond:

Awake, and think our wrongs in Richard's bosom
Will conquer him! awake, and win the day!

Hastings enters to express these same sentiments, saying to Richard:

Bloody and guilty, guiltily awake,
And in a bloody battle end thy days!
Think on Lord Hastings: despair, and die!

and to Richmond:

Quiet untroubled soul, awake, awake!
Arm, fight, and conquer, for fair England's sake!

Then the ghosts of the two young princes enter to also curse Richard and bless Richmond. Then enters as well the Ghost of Lady Anne, followed by the Ghost of Buckingham, who says to Richard:

Dream on, dream on, of bloody deeds and death:
Fainting, despair; despairing, yield thy breath!

and to Richmond:

I died for hope ere I could lend thee aid:
But cheer thy heart, and be thou not dismay'd:
God and good angel fight on Richmond's side;
And Richard falls in height of all his pride.

Richard then wakes from dream sweating with goose flesh and wonders:

What do I fear? myself? there's none else by:
Richard loves Richard; that is, I am I.
Is there a murderer here? No. Yes, I am:
Then fly. What, from myself? Great reason why:
Lest I revenge. What, myself upon myself?
Alack. I love myself. Wherefore? for any good
That I myself have done unto myself?
O, no! alas, I rather hate myself
For hateful deeds committed by myself!
I am a villain: yet I lie. I am not.
Fool, of thyself speak well: fool, do not flatter.
My conscience hath a thousand several tongues,
And every tongue brings in a several tale,
And every tale condemns me for a villain.
Perjury, perjury, in the high'st degree
Murder, stem murder, in the direst degree;
All several sins, all used in each degree,
Throng to the bar, crying all, Guilty! guilty!
I shall despair. There is no creature loves me;
And if I die, no soul shall pity me:
Nay, wherefore should they, since that I myself
Find in myself no pity to myself?

Ratcliff enters to say the men are preparing, and Richard tells of his nightmare, then asks if they can trust their allies. Ratcliff assures, but Richard remains fearful. He asks Ratcliff to join him in eavesdropping on his allies to see if they intend to defend him; then they exit.

Then the Lords enter Richmond's tent, and Richmond tells them he slept sweetly and had pleasant dreams. It is four o'clock, and time to arm and order. Richmond reminds the lords that God is on their side, and Richard's allies are weakened by their disdain for fighting a tyrant's cause. Rallying, he proclaims:

Then, in the name of God and all these rights,
Advance your standards, draw your willing swords.
For me, the ransom of my bold attempt
Shall be this cold corpse on the earth's cold face;
But if I thrive, the gain of my attempt
The least of you shall share his part thereof.
Sound drums and trumpets boldly and cheerfully;
God and Saint George! Richmond and victory!

They all exit, and Richard and Ratcliff reenter. Ratcliff gives report on his allies. The sun is not up in time, and Richard claims:

The sun will not be seen to-day;
The sky doth frown and lour upon our army.
I would these dewy tears were from the ground.
Not shine to-day! Why, what is that to me
More than to Richmond? for the selfsame heaven
That frowns on me looks sadly upon him.

Norfolk brings news that the enemy has taken to the battlefield. Richard orders him call for Stanley and announces he will lead his soldiers to the field. Norfolk and Surrey will lead with both cavalry and ground troops. Norfolk then presents a paper which indicates that his master has changed sides. Richard claims it is a lie planted by the enemy, then he rallies his men:

March on, join bravely, let us to't pell-mell
If not to heaven, then hand in hand to hell.

Richard then rallies his men further by speaking ill of the enemy in a slanderous way and with appeals to their fears. They hear the enemy's drums, and Richard orders them fight. A messenger arrives to say Stanley will not come to the king's aid, and Richard orders his son George's execution. Norfolk says that the enemy is too close to bother with executions, so they should wait until after the battle. Richard then calls the charge to battle.


At another part of the battlefield, Norfolk fights with his men, and Catesby reports that the king's horse is down, but the king fights on foot seeking Richmond. Richard enters exclaiming:

A horse! a horse! my kingdom for a horse!

After Catesby offers to help him to a new horse, Richmond says:

Slave, I have set my life upon a cast,
And I will stand the hazard of the die:
I think there be six Richmonds in the field;
Five have I slain to-day instead of him.
A horse! a horse! my kingdom for a horse!


At still another part of the battlefield, Richard and Richmond enter fighting. Richard is slain. The survivors exit, and Richmond reenters with Derby, who bears the crown, and they are followed by other lords. Richmond declares victory, and Derby presents Richmond with the crown. Derby assures Richmond that Stanley's son is safe, and reports that Norfolk, Ferrers, Brakenbury, and Brandon from the other side have fallen. Richmond declares that after burying the bodies

We will unite the white rose and the red

He tells of the strife that split the kingdom and how his union with Elizabeth will repair the royal house. He then proclaims at last:

Now civil wounds are stopp'd, peace lives again:
That she may long live here, God say amen!

Shakespeare, King Richard III: The Life and Death of Richard the Third.
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