I have been looking forward to reading this since Henry VI Part 2. I saw the movie with Ian McKellen in college and loved it, but I’m really looking forward to reading it outside of the classroom setting. Richard is such a compelling character. Here we have a lead who is also the villain. 

Last we left Richard, he had already given us a few solid villain speeches with his plans to get the crown. It is a few weeks/months/years later….Shakespeare doesn’t often adhere to a strict historic timeline.

Scene 1

Richard laments his family’s success and resulting peace. Why? Because now he’s bored. Being ugly, he can’t get a girl to keep him busy, so he might as well cause some shenanigans to get some power and maybe some lady-loving too. He’s going to start with turning his brothers against each other, which he has started already by convincing Edward that a prophesy about the death of his sons was about George.

Just then, George enters, under guard. Richard asks what on earth is the problem. George explains that there is a prophesy which states that Edward’s sons will be murdered by G, and since George starts with a G, Edward decided to imprison him. Richard quickly blames that on the Queen, who did the same thing to Lord Hastings (who is being released today). She’s apparently mad because the King has a mistress and Hastings was helping him.

The guard, Brackenbury, tells Richard and George that they are not supposed to be talking. They tell him they were just talking about how lovely the Queen is and Mistress Shore. He stops them talking and takes George off.

Then Lord Hastings comes by, fresh from the Tower. Richard congratulates him on being let out and he expresses “thanks” to those who out him there. Richard explains that George is imprisoned now because those that were Hastings enemies have now turned their hate toward George (cough, cough, Queen Elizabeth, cough). Hastings tells Richard that the King is weak and sickly because it’s apparently much easier to keep up on the news in prison. 

After Hastings leaves, Richard explains that he needs to kill George real quick before Edward dies, so he can get started on being King. He also plans to marry Warwick’s youngest daughter, who was married to Henry VI’s son, Edward, even though he killed her husband and father…

Scene 2

Anne mourns the loss of her father-in-law, Henry VI, by repeatedly cursing the person who stabbed him. Enter Richard, the very man who stabbed Henry VI…and Prince Edward….and Warwick, her father, ready to woo the lady who personally mourns them all. He starts his flirtation by stopping Anne and the pallbearer from continuing to the burial. 

Anne hurls pretty much every insult she can think of at Richard. He’s ugly and evil and ugly and heartless and ugly and a monster…and ugly. He quips back with compliments and then starts the gaslighting. His argument is first that he isn’t really the one that killed her loved ones. It was all King Edward’s bidding. When he realizes she’s having none of that, he argues that Henry is better off in heaven, where she asserted he was. Anne says Richard is only fit for hell. Richard says he is also fit to be in her bedchamber. Her response can only be summed up as “oh heck no.” 

This is when Richard starts his winning argument. He only killed all of Anne’s loved ones because he loves her so much. She wishes she could rip away her own beauty. He explains that she can’t possibly hate someone who loves her so much and that he would be such a better husband than Prince Edward. She spits on him and wishes death upon him.

He feigns regret at killing those she loved. She definitely doesn’t believe him, so he hands her a sword, bears his chest to her, and begs her to kill him. Anne, being a nice person, refuses to do so. She gives up on killing him and asking him to kill himself and instead accepts his marriage proposal.

He promises to take Henry’s body on to the monastery where he was to be buried. Anne thanks him and leaves. He tells them to take the body elsewhere, which they do. Then, he marvels at his own ability to woo a woman “in such a way.”

Scene 3

Queen Elizabeth’s closest allies, Lord Rivers and Grey, comfort her as she worries over the sickly King. They say to take comfort in the fact that she has a son should Henry die. She takes little comfort in this fact since Richard is intended as the protector should the King die.

Derby and Buckingham enter, having just seen the King. First, the Queen says she doesn’t blame Derby for his wife being terrible. He defends his wife by saying if it’s true, it’s just because she’s sick. Rivers quickly changes the subject to inquire after the King. They explain that he is in good spirits and wishes to make peace between his wife and her brothers, and his brothers and Hastings. They are all supposed to go to him.

Now Gloucester comes in ranting about how all these people are saying slanderous things about him. The Queen explains that the King is calling them all together to fix the problems he has with then, namely that she and her friends have advanced so much in the world. He counters that with the fact that his brother and other nobility have been imprisoned under her advisement. She denies having anything to do with Clarence. He asks about Hastings. Lord Rivers tries to take credit for that one, but again Richard is having none of that. The Queen goes off on Richard saying that she has taken his crap for much too long.

While she’s doing that Margaret sneaks up behind her to start hurling curses all over the place. She starts with Richard because he pretty much murdered her whole family. Gloucester starts questioning the Lords that fought with Margaret, but now have a place in Edward’s court. They defend themselves by arguing that they were simply being loyal to their King and would be loyal to any King, even Richard if he were. Richard pretends to be taken aback by this. So is Queen Elizabeth, but she’s probably mor sincere. Margaret then starts cursing everybody and they all decide to stop fighting with each other because she’s the worst and needs to be taken down. They ask her why she’s even here since she was permanently banished. She would apparently rather die than be in France. 

Gloucester curses her for her cruel treatment of his father and his brother, Rutland. She humiliated York, brought him to tears, and then offered to dry those tears with a handkerchief dipped in his son’s blood. Everyone agrees with him that it was an awful thing for her to do. 

This is when the good cursing/prophesy starts:

  • She tells the Queen that her sons will be killed and she will live to see another become King. Margaret wants Elizabeth to live out her long days as a widow, a grieving mother, and an abandoned Queen.
  • She wishes for Grey and Rivers to have an early and unnatural death.
  • She hopes that after Richard’s evil ways have come to light that he will suffer the most horrible plague the heavens can come up with. However, Richard cuts her off in such a way that the curse ends in her name, not his.

There’s more back and forth between Margaret and everyone present. It basically consists of them attempting to insert logic and getting cursed. She only pardons Buckingham until he calls her crazy. Then he’s cursed too. She finally leaves.

Richard prays for Margaret and all those he wronged in the war. All but Gloucester leave to see the King. Richard explains that he has convinced the others that Margaret was behind Clarence’s imprisonment, even though it was him. He also explains that some murderers are going to kill Clarence tonight. They enter to talk with Richard about the plan. He tells them not to speak with Clarence, lest they be moved to show him mercy.

Scene 4

Clarence, in prison, tells his keeper, Brackenbury, about a horrible dream he had. In his dream, he was escaping the Tower with Richard. As they crossed the bridge, Richard tripped and knocked Clarence into the water below. Clarence drowned and as he drowned he saw all sorts of skulls and gems at the bottom of the river. Then, he was ferried into the underworld where he was faced with Warwick and Prince Edward. He was so horrified with this dream he asked Brackenbury to stay with him through the night.

Brackenbury is there when the murderers enter. He is sent away by a warrant saying they were sent to retrieve Clarence. The murderers decide whether or not they should kill Clarence in his sleep. They decide that’s a bad idea. The second murderer starts feeling guilty about killing Clarence. The first murderer tells him to stop being a girl and remember their pay. The money assuages the second murderers guilt. The first murderer starts to feel guilty, so they decide to get on with it and plan to drown him in the next room.

Clarence wakes up. He asks them why they have come to murder him. He hasn’t done anything to them. They say the King sent them. He asks why. They say it’s because he betrayed his King (Henry) and killed the Prince. He dismisses that since it was all for Edward. He begs them to go to his brother Gloucester because surely he will convince – or pay them – not to kill him. The laugh and tell him the Richard is the one who sent them. He doesn’t believe them.

The first murderer stabs him and then takes him off to be drowned. The second murderer feels guilty again and repents. The first murderer calls him a girl again and decides to take the money for himself. Now he has to hide the body on his own.

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