Scene 1: Richard Duke
of Gloucester, presents himself to us as the cunning plotter; he
comforts his brother George Duke of Clarence as he betrays him and tells
us of his scheme.
Scene 2: The body of the murdered king Henry VI is carried in, with his daughter-in-law Anne (widow of Edward Prince of Wales) his only mourner (the limited rites suggest suspected "suicide"). Richard appears and is accused of killing the king by Anne, he being confirmed as the killer by the wounds bleeding afresh. Anne challenges him, but he woos her. He invites her to kill him, she accepts his ring. He makes a closing soliloquy in self-praise.
Scene 3: News of King Edward's sickness (Edward IV, elder brother of Richard). We hear echoes of the conflicts at court, Richard comes in complaining that he is being falsely insulted. Queen Margaret, widow of Henry VI, curses all who have caused her sorrows (calling for revenge). Richard describes his methods and sends murderers to kill his brother Clarence.
Scene 4: Clarence in the Tower describes his ominous dream; the murderers come, there is a long discussion before they kill him (the only on-stage violence in the play).
Scene 1: The dying
king Edward tries to make every one friends (an orgy of hypocrisy). Richard
reveals Clarence's death, the king regrets having given his consent to
Scene 2: The Duchess of York (Richard's mother) with the children of Clarence; she identifies Richard with Vice. Lamenting over her son Clarence's death, she learns from the Queen (Elizabeth) that her other son, the King, is dead. Great formal lament. The great lords send to Ludlow for the young prince Edward, his son.
Scene 3: Citizens express forebodings at having a child-king, given Richard's power.
Scene 4: Elizabeth the widow of King Edward IV talking with her youngest son (duke of York) learns that her supporters (her brother and son by a first marriage) have been arrested; she takes her son to Sanctuary. Constitutional crisis suggested.
Scene 1: Richard,
Buckingham, Hastings (the great lords) welcome Prince Edward to London;
Buckingham orders his brother York to be taken from Sanctuary (since he
has committed no crime) and Richard suggests they sleep in the Tower.
The two child-brothers are reunited. Catesby, Buckingham and Richard
prepare coup d'etat plot.
Scene 2: Hastings rejects a warning sent by lord Stanley after a dream. Catesby (who knows that Hastings is in danger) tells him of the ambition of Richard and the coming execution of the Queen's supporters but Hastings does not see his own danger. Ironic meeting with another man whose name is also Hastings; Lord Hastings boasts of his position. Meets a priest, then Buckingham, whose comments aside are full of ironic forebodings.
Scene 3: short scene of the leading members Queen's party going to execution, recalling the curses of Margaret.
Scene 4: Council scene : when shall we crown the Prince? Richard asks for strawberries, all smiles, and leaves. Suddenly he returns, saying he has been bewitched, his arm is withered (it always was). He accuses and arrests Hastings and condemns him to instant death. Lament of Hastings, prophecy.
Scene 5: Richard and Buckingham stage "psychodrama" to convince the Lord Mayor (representing London's citizens) that they did well to have Hastings killed. They prepare to convince the citizens that the two Princes in the Tower are not really the King's children but bastards.
Scene 6: Ironic commentary by a clerk of the court, who knows that it is all a plot ('a palpable device').
Scene 7: Buckingham reports to Richard the citizens' response to his first efforts to get support for making Richard king (silence). They prepare a new psychodrama for the Mayor, insisting that there is no hope of persuading Richard to be King, he is too deeply religious. Organized dialogue of Richard (framed by bishops) and Buckingham. "Never!" "Please!" "If you insist, yes"
Scene 1: The Royal
ladies meet, learn that the Princes in the Tower may not be seen, then
that Richard is to be crowned (with Anne as his queen). Anne laments,
foretells her own death. Fears for princes.
Scene 2: Richard at Coronation consults Buckingham about killing the princes; Buckingham hesitates. Richard decides to give the task to the killer Tyrell. News comes that Dorset, afraid, has gone to join the Earl of Richmond (Henry Tudor) in exile. Richard decides that Anne must die soon, being dangerous; he shows signs of panic insecurity. He decides he will marry king Edward's daughter Elizabeth to make sure of his right to the throne. Gives Tyrrel the task of killing the child princes. Buckingham asks for reward promised for earlier services, not seeing the situation. Richard angrily refuses. Buckingham revolts.
Scene 3: Tyrrel describes the death of the Princes. Richard pleased, announces that Anne is also now dead, so his only problem is now Richmond, and also getting Elizabeth to marry him. News comes that Buckingham and other are in rebellion.
Scene 4: A great lament-competition of the 3 mothers, Margaret wife of Henry IV, the Duchess of York, and Queen Elizqbeth. Richard comes, refuses to accept their messages. Very long interview of Richard with Queen Elizabeth about marrying her daughter, grotesque arguments, seeming almost to convince the Queen. Richard starts to give incoherent orders to deal with the uprising. Stanley tells that Richmond is coming to claim the crown. Richard distrusts him, sends him to organize things while keeping his son as hostage. Two more messengers with bad news. Irony that 3rd, with good news, is beaten. Good and bad news alternate, Richmond has arrived in England.
Scene 5: Short scene showing Stanley in contact with Richmond.
Scene 1: Buckingham,
Richard's prisoner, being led to execution, ackowledges that Margaret's
curses are now coming true.
Scene 2: Richmond's first appearance, as bringer of new hope, peace.
Scene 3: The two leaders' tents are pitched. Parallels/contrasts between the two, Richmond peaceful, Richard depressed. Stanley visits Richmond. Richmond prays and sleeps. The ghosts of all Richard's victims come, curse Richard, bless Richmond. Richard has soliloquy of despair, Richmond reports good dreams. Richmond addresses the army. Richard addresses his forces. Stanley stays away. His son is safe.
Scene 4: The battle, Richard shown is panic: "A horse, a horse, my kingdom for a horse!"
Scene 5: Richmond kills Richard, battle ends. Richmond proclaims peace to all, reunites York and Lancaster by marrying Elizabeth (end of the Wars of Roses) and becomes Henry VII, first Tudor monarch.
The division between York and Lancaster begins with the two sons of Edward III, the dukes of York and Lancaster. It is not in itself a regional conflict but a struggle for power between powerful families with titles deriving from the regions.
Edmund, Duke of York (who was murdered by order of his brother Richard II ), had a son Richard whose son, Richard Duke of York, was father of Edward IV, Rutland, Clarence, Richard III.
Edmund's younger brother John of Gaunt, the Duke of Lancaster, and his wife Blanche were the parents of Bollingbroke (Henry IV) who dethroned his cousin Richard II. His son was Henry V, who died when his son was an infant; he grew up to become the victim-king Henry VI. Richmond (Henry Tudor) was descended from John of Gaunt through a son born in Gaunt's second (irregular) relationship with Catherine Swinford. Edmund Tudor married Margaret Beaufort, the daughter of Gaunt's grandson on this side, and their son Henry Tudor claims the throne as a descendant of Gaunt (Lancaster).