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Richard III

Period written: 1592-1593
First known performance:

Richard puts his plan to become king into action, first turning King Edward against his brother Clarence, having him imprisoned and later murdered. He then interrupts Henry VI’s funeral procession to woo Lady Anne, who had been betrothed to Henry VI’s son (killed by Richard at Tewkesbury), and after initial reluctance she agrees to his proposal.

Richard engages in argument with Queen Elizabeth and her family, suggesting that they are to blame for the imprisonment of Clarence and Hastings. Queen Margaret warns them against Richard. King Edward, now very sick, fosters a peace between the peers, but this is disrupted when Richard shocks everyone by announcing Clarence’s death. Soon after, Edward dies, leaving the lords and people apprehensive. The Duchess of York, Queen Elizabeth, and Clarence’s children all grieve for the death of Edward and Clarence.

Buckingham and Richard begin to plan for the removal of the young Prince Edward and the young Duke of York. They are sent to lodge in the Tower, and no one is allowed to see them. Rivers, Grey, and Vaughan are imprisoned on Richard’s instructions, and later executed.

Catesby is sent to establish if Hastings will support Richard’s claim to be king. Hastings ignores Stanley’s advice to flee and rejects Richard’s advances. At the Council meeting, Richard reports a plot against him and arraigns Hastings, who is promptly executed. He persuades the Lord Mayor of the existence of the plot, and obtains his support to influence the people in his favour. When the Mayor arrives to ask Richard to accept the crown, Richard feigns reluctance but finally agrees.

Richard plans the death of the princes, but is angered when Buckingham shows some reserve. He sends Tyrrel to the Tower to kill the princes, and hastens the death of his wife, Anne. He then brusquely rejects Buckingham’s claim for his promised earldom, and Buckingham decides to desert him. Queen Margaret, Queen Elizabeth, and the Duchess of York all grieve for their lost men and children killed by Richard, but when Richard arrives he persuades an initially antagonistic Elizabeth to accept his proposal of marriage to her daughter.

Dorset flees to join Henry Earl of Richmond, who has come to England with an army. Many join him, but Buckingham is captured and executed. The ghosts of Richard’s victims visit him and Richmond the night before the battle of Bosworth, prophesying doom to Richard and success to Richmond. Richard is killed by Richmond, who takes the crown as Henry VII. He announces his marriage to Elizabeth of York, thus uniting the houses of York and Lancaster.

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