Scene 1.2 - A street in London
Lady Anne enters with the funeral procession of the old king Henry VI, her father-in-law. Stopping to rest for a moment, she rails against the house of York for killing the old king and her husband, and prophetically curses whatever woman Henry VI's murderer may marry. As though on cue, Richard appears, determined to marry Anne as a way of smoothing his path to the throne. Anne has called upon the pallbearers to resume their march, but at Richard's command they halt again, although Anne terms the intruder a "fiend" and "minister of hell." Undeterred, Richard greets Anne as his "sweet saint." She demands that he leave the king's mourners in peace, and claims that the corpse's wounds have begun to bleed again, a sure sign (according to popular belief) that the murderer who inflicted them is nearby. Beside herself with anger, she prays that God will revenge the king's death by striking Richard dead by lightning or that the earth will swallow him up. Richard points out that according to the laws of "charity," or religious good will, a person should wish good things to come even to those who do ill to them. The more angry Anne becomes, the more beautiful Richard claims to find her; her rage is like that of the "angels," and she herself nothing less than "divine perfection."
In a battle of wits, Richard proposes that he did not kill the old king and Anne's husband, at which Anne scoffs that they must then still be alive. He claims that his brother Edward was the one who killed the prince, to which Anne responds that Richard's own dagger was found in her husband's body. Richard then admits that he killed Henry VI, but jokes that the good old king should be grateful to him for sending him to heaven "for he was fitter for that place than earth." When Anne responds that hell is the fittest place for Richard, he claims to know of a better one-her bedroom. Switching tactics, Richard asks whether the "causer" of the deaths of Henry VI and his son is as much to blame as the "executioner," or the one who actually murdered them. If this is so, Anne herself is at fault, for "your beauty was the cause of that effect." Even in sleep, Richard was haunted by his love for Anne, and he killed the prince "only to help thee to a better husband." He pretends that Anne's insults have made him weep, although he did not cry when his younger brother, Rutland, was killed, nor when Anne's father recounted how Richard's own father died during the war. Until forced by Anne's beauty, he has never been one to speak flattery or "sweet" words of love.
Anne remains unmoved, and Richard resorts to extreme measures. Handing her his sword, he opens his cloak to expose his chest and kneels before her. He gives her two choices; she can either kill him or marry him: "Take up the sword again, or take up me." Anne hesitates, and finally can't bring herself to stab him, even when he goads her by admitting that he killed her husband. She wishes him dead but does not want to be his "executioner." When he offers to kill himself if, upon serious reflection, she wants him to, she doesn't answer his question. Instead, she ponders whether he is perhaps telling the truth: "I wish I knew why heart." Although she fears that both Richard's "heart" and his "tongue" are false, she gives back his sword and reluctantly agrees to consider his proposal. Richard puts his ring on her finger, to which she warns him that her acceptance of the ring doesn't mean that she will consent to marry him, for "to take is not to give." Pretending to feel remorse for the king's death, Richard begs one last favor from Anne-that she will leave him to see the king buried at Chertsey monastery and wait for Richard at his residence at Crosby House. Professing joy to see him so "penitent" for his misdeeds, Anne grants his request and departs. The pallbearers pick up the corpse and prepare to continue on to Chertsey, but Richard tells them to take the body to White-Friars instead, where he will meet them later.
Left on stage with the old king's corpse, Richard marvels at his good luck and the fickleness of women. He asks, "Was ever woman in this humor woo'd? / Was ever woman in this humor won?" He congratulates himself on the amazing achievement of successfully courting a woman who hates him above all others, even in the presence of the dead and bleeding body of her murdered kinsman. It has only been three months since he killed her husband at Tewkesbury, "a sweeter and a lovelier gentleman" than any remaining in the world. Can she possibly intend to marry "me, that halts and am misshapen thus?" Richard jokes that he must be mistaken about his looks, because Anne seems to find him "a marv'llous proper man." Since she finds him attractive, he should buy a mirror and hire a dozen or so tailors to make his clothes. Until he can find a mirror to admire himself in, he commands the sun to shine brightly, so "that I may see my shadow as I pass."
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Scenes 2.3 and 2.4
Scenes 3.3 and 3.4
Scene 3.6 and 3.7
Scenes 4.2 and 4.3
Scenes 4.4 and 4.5
Scenes 5.1 and 5.2
Scenes 5.4 and 5.5