Richard III: Novel Summary: Act 3 Scene 1

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Act 3, scene 1

Edward, the young Prince of Wales, arrives in London. He is greeted by Richard, Buckingham, and others. The prince says he wants more of his uncles there, but Richard tells him that the men he is referring to were false friends. The prince does not believe him, however.

Hastings arrives with the news that the Queen and her son, the prince’s brother, have sought sanctuary. The boy wanted to come to meet his brother, but the Queen refused to let him go. Buckingham tells Cardinal Bourchier, the Archbishop of Canterbury, to persuade the Queen to send her son to London, by force if necessary. The Cardinal protests that it would be a sin to take him against his mother’s will, since they have sought sanctuary, but Buckingham replies that sanctuary does not apply to children, since they do not freely choose or claim it.

Richard tells the Prince of Wales that he, the prince, will be staying for a few days in the Tower of London. The prince says he does not want to stay there.

Hastings arrives with Richard, the young Duke of York, the Prince of Wales’s brother. York speaks with a thinly disguised hostility to Richard, and when he learns that he and his brother are to be staying at the Tower, he expresses his displeasure. Richard asks him what he fears, and York replies the ghost of Clarence, since he has heard that his uncle was murdered there. The two boys, however, agree to go to the Tower.

Everyone exits except for Richard, Buckingham, and Catesby. Buckingham suggests that York is hostile to Richard because his mother the Queen put him up to it. Buckingham then consults Catesby about the plan to install Richard as king. Buckingham asks Catesby about Hastings. Could he be persuaded to support them? Catesby says that Hastings is a strong supporter of the former king and therefore of his son. Buckingham then inquires about Stanley. Catesby replies that Stanley will follow whatever Hastings does. Buckingham sends Catesby to sound out Hastings and see if he can be persuaded to support their plan. Richard then tells Catesby to inform Hastings that Rivers, Grey, and Vaughan, Hastings’s enemies, have been executed at Pomfret.

After Catesby exits, Buckingham asks Richard what they will do if Hastings refuses to support them. Richard gives a blunt reply: cut off his head. He tells Buckingham that when he, Richard, is king, he will make Buckingham the Earl of Hereford, as well as giving him all the former king’s personal property.



This scene briefly alludes to the historical fact that after Edward IV’s death, Richard was named Protector, as Edward had requested. This is why Prince Edward in this scene refers to Richard as Lord Protector (line 160). It was no surprise that Richard was appointed to this position. As Peter Saccio explains in Shakespeare’s English Kings, “Richard was, after all, the only surviving adult male in the house of York, a loyal, long-tested prop of the Yorkist throne, and the most powerful man in the realm” (p. 169).

Richard efficiently goes about eliminating his enemies. If Hastings cannot be won over, he must be killed, just as Rivers and his associates (all supporters of the Queen and the Woodville family) are to be executed. So keen is Shakespeare to keep the villainy of Richard front and center that he foreshadows, in this scene, the fate the two princes will meet in the Tower. This comes in lines 89-90, when Richard says in an aside, after he has been speaking with the young Prince of Wales, “So wise so young, they say, do never live long.”

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