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Summary Act 4

SCENE 1

Brackenbury, citing Richard’s prohibition, bars Queen Elizabeth, Dorset, the Duchess of York, and Anne (the Duchess of Gloucester) from visiting the Prince of Wales and the Duke of York. Presently, Lord Stanley emerges with a disturbing commission: He is to escort Anne to Westminster where she will be crowned Richard’s royal queen. Distressed, Queen Elizabeth advises her son, Dorset, to flee to Brittiny and there seek asylum with Stanley’s stepson, Richmond, and at once, lest Dorset meet the fate of Grey and Rivers. Stanley seconds the advice. Meanwhile, Anne laments the fact that in a moment of weakness she had given her hand to Richard with whom her life has been a living hell, and the Duchess of York laments that she had ever given birth to Richard who has caused her enough grief to last her several lifetimes.

SCENE 2

Richard, now King Richard, orders a page to fetch a reliable murderer when Buckingham hesitates to give his consent to have the Prince of Wales and the Duke of York murdered. The man the page fetches is James Tyrrel who unhesitatingly gives his oath to murder the aforementioned princes. In addition to murdering his brother’s male heirs, King Richard decides to kill off his current wife, Anne, and to marry his brother’s lone female heir (Elizabeth), all for the purpose of consolidating his power. Presently, having been told that Dorset has fled to Richmond, King Richard ruminates on the prophecies that Richmond will be England’s King and that Richard will die shortly after meeting Richmond. King Richard warns Stanley not to exchange any correspondences with Richmond, and then turning to Buckingham, who has been harping on the promised rewards which King Richard has yet to grant, dismisses his suit. Embittered yet fearful, Buckingham resolves to flee King Richard lest his head be chopped off.

SCENE 3

As Tyrrel has confirmed the deaths of King Richard’s brother’s male heirs, and as Anne has died, King Richard decides to go and marry his brother’s lone female heir (Elizabeth), lest Richmond beat him to the punch and marry Elizabeth and thereby pose a threat to King Richard’s crown, when Ratcliffe delivers bad news: The Bishop of Ely, who has been confined at Brecknock, has escaped and joined Richmond, and Buckingham has raised an army of Welshmen to oppose King Richard. Citing the greater danger posed by Ely and Richmond, King Richard orders preparations be made to oppose them.

SCENE 4

Queen Elizabeth and the Duchess of York are lamenting their misfortunes when Queen Margaret, who is scheduled to leave for France, chides and mocks their misfortunes. Gloating on the fact that she had predicted this outcome, Queen Margaret argues that they are only getting what they deserved and that it is only now that they can begin to understand how Queen Margaret must have felt when she had been deprived of her husband, her son, and her crown. Thus upbraided, Queen Elizabeth and the Duchess decide in turn to upbraid King Richard who tries in vain to avoid them. The Duchess informs her son that she regrets the day he was born, that she will pray that Richard’s enemy, Richmond, will prevail, and that she is certain that God will see to it that Richard will not survive the war with Richmond. As to Queen Elizabeth, she merely seconds the Duchess’ curses and is about to leave only to be detained by Richard who makes a staggering proposal. He asks Queen Elizabeth to give Richard her daughter‘s hand in marriage, arguing that the union will undo whatever perceived wrongs that Richard had done unto the Queen and that the union will yet make Queen Elizabeth happy and prosperous many times over. At first, what with the Queen’s lengthy and thorough denunciation of Richard’s devilish works, it would seem that the Queen would never accede to the proposed offer. Incredibly, however, she takes up the offer, or at the very least, she accepts to give it due consideration. Alone, Richard scorns and mocks the wavering inconstancy of women.

Presently, news of Richmond’s and Buckingham’s respective movements on sea and land prompt Richard to make preparations to head them off when four messengers arrive one after the other. The first two messengers have bad news: rebel factions in league with Richmond are forming everywhere. The latter two have good news: Suspecting Buckingham to be of Richard’s faction, Richmond has turned back to Brittany rather than land on shore and be welcomed by Buckingham and his party. Consequently, Buckingham’s forces have scattered, leaving Buckingham at Richard’s mercy. By and by, Catesby arrives with good and bad news. Buckingham has been captured, but Richmond has landed at Milford.

SCENE 5

Lord Stanley has Christopher (a priest allied with Richmond) deliver the following message to Richmond. To protect his son, George Stanley, who is in King Richard’s custody and who will be beheaded if Lord Stanley allies his forces with Richmond‘s, Lord Stanley will withhold his forces from joining Richmond’s. In addition, Richmond is to be informed that Queen Elizabeth has acceded to grant her daughter’s hand in marriage to Richard.

William Shakespeare