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Scenes 3.3 and 3.4

Scene 3.3 - Pomfret Castle

At Pomfret Castle, Sir Richard Ratcliffe calls the Rivers, Grey, and Vaughan forth to their execution. Rivers addresses the castle, a "bloody prison" that also was the site of the brutal murder of Richard II after he was deposed by Henry IV. Their innocent blood will now be added to that of Richard. Grey recognizes that Queen Margaret's curse on Rivers for standing by and doing nothing when her son was stabbed to death has now come true. Rivers adds that Margaret's curse has not yet been fully realized, for she also cursed Richard, Buckingham, and Hastings. Rivers prays that her curse will fall on them just as it now falls upon him. Nonetheless, he prays that God will exempt Elizabeth and her sons from Margaret's curse. The three nobles are led away to the block.



Scene 3.4 - The Tower of London



Buckingham, Stanley, Hastings, the Bishop of Ely and others assemble for a meeting. Hastings announces that they have met in order to make plans for the coronation, and the Bishop of Ely suggests that it be held on the following day. Buckingham suggests that someone speak who knows Richard's point of view on the question, claiming that while he and Richard know only one another's "faces" and not their "hearts," Hastings has access to Richard's inner thoughts because "you and he are near in love." Flattered by this, Hastings admits that he has not asked Richard's opinion on this particular matter, but that he will presume to speak for Richard if the others will suggest a time.

Richard enters, claiming that he has overslept. Buckingham tells him that Hastings was about to speak for him at the meeting, and Richard assures him that no one could speak for him better since Hastings knows him and loves him well. Richard sends the Bishop of Ely to call for strawberries to be sent from his garden at Holborn. In the Bishop's absence, Buckingham and Richard confer apart about how to handle Hastings given that Catesby has reported that he opposes Richard's seizure of the throne. They leave the room to speak more privately with each other. The Bishop returns, having sent a servant for the strawberries. Hastings declares that Richard is unusually cheerful today, and observes that Richard is less able to "hide his love or hate" than any man in the Christian world, because "by his face straight shall you know his heart." Stanley asks him what he sees in Richard's face today, and Hastings says that he sees that Richard is not angry at anyone in the gathering.

Richard returns with Buckingham, pretending that they have just discovered "devilish plots" by the queen and Mistress Shore to use witchcraft to wither his arm "like a blasted sapling." Richard displays a mangled arm. Hastings, whose mistress is among the women Richard has accused, begins to offer his opinion that "If they have done this deed, my noble lord--" only to be interrupted by Richard, who claims that Hastings' use of the conditional word "if" suggests doubt of Richard's truthfulness and therefore constitutes treason. Richard abruptly departs, demanding that Lovel and Ratcliffe send him Hastings' decapitated head before he dines. The rest of the lords, including Stanley, depart with Richard, leaving Hastings to marvel at how quickly his fortunes have altered. He ruefully recalls Stanley's prophetic dream and the fact that his horse stumbled three times on his way to London, as though the animal was unwilling to take him to the Tower. He recognizes that he now needs the priest he sent away, and repents gloating over his doomed enemies to the pursuivant. Margaret's "heavy curse / Is lighted on poor Hastings' wretched head!"

Ratcliffe urges Hastings to make a short confession since Richard is in a hurry to get on with his dinner. Hastings meditates on the "momentary grace," or good favor, "of mortal men," that people spend more time trying to gain than they spend on their eternal salvation. He imagines himself in his earlier complacence as a drunken sailor placed as a look-out on the mast of a ship, "ready with every nod to tumble down / Into the fatal bowells of the deep." Hastings pronounces a final prophecy that England is about to enter the most frightening age it has ever known. Many who now rejoice at his execution, as he rejoiced at that of Rivers, Grey, and Vaughan, will soon be led to their own.

Browse all book notes

Scene 1.1
Scene 1.2
Scene 1.3
Scene 1.4
Scene 2.1
Scene 2.2
Scenes 2.3 and 2.4
Scene 3.1
Scene 3.2
Scenes 3.3 and 3.4
Scene 3.5
Scene 3.6 and 3.7
Scene 4.1
Scenes 4.2 and 4.3
Scenes 4.4 and 4.5
Scenes 5.1 and 5.2
Scene 5.3
Scenes 5.4 and 5.5



 






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