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Summary Act 5

SCENE 1

As he is being led away to his execution by the Sheriff, Buckingham is denied a conference with King Richard. Buckingham finds it ironic that he will be executed on All Soul’s Day, the day he had jokingly hoped to be condemned on for betraying King Edward and his children.

SCENE 2

One day’s march away from King Richard, Richmond exhorts his soldiers on. His soldiers are resolved, arguing that Richard has no friends and that the friends he does have will flee Richard at the critical moment.

SCENE 3

The respective forces of King Richard and Richmond make camp at Bosworth Field. Tomorrow will be the day of battle. Presently, the two commanders draw their plans. A message is sent from each camp to Lord Stanley. Richard goes to sleep. Meanwhile, Richmond’s message is answered by Stanley and the two meet. Stanley explains that his forces will remain neutral on account of his and Richmond’s step-brother, George, whose life Richard will otherwise take. The two part and by and by Richmond sleeps.

The ghosts of Prince Edward, Henry VI, Clarence, Rivers, Grey, Vaughan, Hastings, the two young princes, Lady Anne, and Buckingham respectively haunt the dreams of Richard and Richmond, cursing and condemning the former and blessing and praising the latter.

King Richard awakes in a panic. He fears that he is doomed and that his men will abandon him. To a degree, Ratcliffe persuades the king otherwise, and at Norfolk’s prompting Richard composes himself to address his army. Arguing that Richmond’s forces comprise of vagabonds, beggars, and peasants, Richard exhorts his men to not let men of such low degree to get the better of them. Suddenly a messenger arrives to inform Richard that Lord Stanley has refused to deploy his forces. Richard gives the order to have Stanley’s son, George, to be beheaded. Arguing that the enemy is already deployed, Norfolk persuades Richard to delay the execution until after the battle.

Meanwhile, informing his men of the wonderful dream that he has had, Richmond awakes refreshed and alert. He suits up and addresses his army. He argues that in fighting Richard that they are fighting on the side of God, that the atrocities that Richard have committed in the name of his ambition must and will be avenged.

SCENE 4

Catesby entreats Norfolk to come to Richard’s aid--Richard whose horse has been slain and is bravely, almost recklessly, engaging the enemy without regard to his safety. When Catesby urges Richard to withdraw, Richard dismisses Catesby, arguing that he will take his chances.

SCENE 5

As Richmond has slain Richard, Lord Stanley, informing Richmond that George Stanley (Stanley‘s son) is safe and sound, does the honor of removing the crown from Richard’s head and placing it on Richmond’s. By and by, ordering the nobles who have been slain to be given burial befitting their status, Richmond proclaims the following: Those who have fought for Richard and who have fled will be pardoned as long as they swear their fealty to Richmond and his newly crowned queen Elizabeth. Peace will reign in England at long last as the houses of York and Lancaster are at long last reconciled.

William Shakespeare