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Scenes 4.4 and 4.5

Scene 4.4 - Before the palace

Old Queen Margaret gleefully observes that "now prosperity begins to mellow / And drop into the rotten mouth of death." She has watched the national crisis develop and now plans to go back to France to await its consequences. When the duchess and the queen arrive, she hides in a corner and listens to them as they bewail the deaths of the princes. As they alternate laments for their sorrows, she chimes in with her own. When the duchess and the queen sit down, she emerges from her hiding-place to sit and compare woes with them. Margaret points out the divine justice of their miseries: like them, she too had a husband and son "till a Richard kill'd him." Their Edward is now dead in revenge for the death of her Edward. The duchess can't forgive Margaret for helping to kill her husband and her young son, Rutland. Margaret reminds the duchess that her remaining son, Richard, is the chief source of their woes: "From forth the kennel of thy womb hath crept / A hell-hound that doth hunt us all to death." She thanks God for allowing this "cur" to prey on his brothers and make his mother a fellow mourner with the rest of his enemies. Divine vengeance has fallen upon all of Margaret's enemies with the exception of Richard, whom Margaret calls an agent of the devil, "hell's black intelligencer" and "factor," or buyer, allowed to live for a time in exchange for sending other souls to hell. Soon she expects to learn of his death, too. Elizabeth recalls that Margaret once prophesied that she would someday need Margaret's help in cursing Richard. Margaret asserts that Elizabeth was never more than "a poor shadow" and "painted queen" made for show, who was elevated to great heights only to fall. All of her blessings-- her royal husband, children, and status-- have now been taken away. Elizabeth now finds herself in Margaret's position, and Margaret declares that she will rid herself of the burden of her sorrows by passing them on to Elizabeth. When the queen asks Margaret to teach her how to curse, Margaret tells her to lie awake at nights, fast during the day, compare her present sorrow with her past happiness, remember her dead children as sweeter than they actually were, and see their murderer as even worse than he is. Margaret promises that in time Elizabeth's "woes will make them [her words] sharp and pierce like mine." Margaret departs.

As the trumpet announces that Richard is about to pass by with his train, the duchess and the queen resolve to stand by and "smother" Richard with their complaints. They reproach Richard with the deaths he has ordered, and he attempts to drown them out by calling for more trumpets and drums. The duchess begs to be allowed to speak, and tells Richard that he has made "the earth my hell" since his birth. Instead of a final blessing on her son, she gives him a mother's "most grievous curse," which is that in the forthcoming battle her prayers will fight for the opposing side, alongside the ghosts of Edward's murdered children who will whisper encouragement to Richard's foes. She leaves, prophesying that "bloody will be thy end."

Elizabeth plans to depart with her, but is held back by Richard, who wishes to get her consent to marry her daughter. Elizabeth threatens to announce falsely that her daughter is illegitimate in order to save her from marrying Richard. He denies that he killed her sons and declares that he loves her daughter. She wonders how he can possibly woo her, sarcastically suggesting that he send her brothers hearts to her engraven with their names, or a handkerchief stained in their blood to wipe her eyes with. She suggests that he send her a letter recounting his "noble deeds"-- the murder of her uncles and her aunt, Anne. Richard seems slow to catch on to the fact that she is mocking him. He proposes that her daughter be told that he did these things out of love for her-- the same argument that worked before when he wooed Anne. When Elizabeth rejects this as futile, he offers a grotesque solution to his murder of her sons: "if I have kill'd the issue of your womb, / To quicken your increase, I will beget / Mine issue of your blood upon your daughter." Surely Elizabeth will be as happy as a grandmother as she was as a mother. The marriage he proposes would also safeguard Dorset, who would thereby become Richard's brother. With Richard as her son-in-law, Elizabeth would again be able to say that she was the mother to the king. All Elizabeth has to do is "prepare her ears to hear a wooer's tale," so that he can marry her when he returns from defeating Buckingham's rebellion. Yet Elizabeth doesn't trust Richard that he will not harm her daughter-- she points out that Richard cannot even swear on anything he has not wronged, for he has mistreated himself, the world, his father's memory, God, and the future times. Finally he swears that only marriage with her can avert the coming civil wars, which will bring destruction and ruin to the state and the people.

Elizabeth appears to relent, pondering "shall I be tempted of the devil so?" He renews his pledge to "bury" her dead children "in that nest of spicery" that is her daughter's womb. She departs, allowing him to think that she will speak to her daughter on his behalf and send him a letter when the princess has decided. After she departs, Richard reverts to his true colors, calling her a "relenting fool, and shallow, changing woman."

Ratcliffe and Catesby arrive to inform Richard that Richmond is heading a naval invasion from the west, and that Richmond expects Buckingham's troops to welcome them to land. In his fury, Richard gives out confused commands, telling Catesby to go to the duke of Norfolk but omitting to tell him what he should deliver to Norfolk. Stanley arrives to inform the king that the rebels seek to seize the throne. Because Stanley has brought no troops with him to fight for Richard, the king suspects that he is a double-agent for the rebels. Stanley assures him that his supporters await orders in the north and offers to muster them. Richard allows him to depart only after he has agreed to leave his son, George, with Richard to ensure that he does not join the rebels.

One after another, messengers bring news of noblemen who have joined the rebellion, until Richard strikes a newcomer angrily. This messenger, however, brings the good news that Buckingham's army has been defeated. Richard gives him money to make up for hitting him and offers a reward for anyone who apprehends Buckingham himself. News arrives also of the alleged dispersal of Richmond's navy. Buckingham has been caught and Richard orders that he be brought to Salisbury, where Richard intends to fight the rebels.

Scene 4.5 - A private place, perhaps Derby's house

Stanley sends a priest to inform Richmond that he cannot come to his assistance because the boar, Richard, possesses Stanley's son as collateral for his loyalty. He tells the priest also to let Richmond know that the queen "hath heartily consented / He should espouse Elizabeth her daughter." The priest tells Stanley that Richmond has advanced into Wales, where he has joined with the armies raised by the nobles. They intend to march on London.

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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