Scene 3.1 - A street in London
Prince Edward and his escort, including Richard and Buckingham, arrive in London. Richard observes that the prince appears melancholy, and the prince responds that this is because he is troubled by the arrest of his mother's kinsmen: "I want more uncles here to welcome me." Richard tells him that he is too inexperienced to suspect deceit in those around him: he does not yet understand that a person's appearance and behavior, or his or her "outward show," oftentimes does not reflect his or her "heart." While his maternal uncles spoke "sugar'd words" to the prince, their hearts were filled with secret "poison." Richard has imprisoned them in order to protect the prince from such "false friends." The prince agrees that false friends are dangerous, but maintains that "they were none."
The Lord Mayor of London arrives to welcome the prince ceremonially to the city. The prince asks why his mother and younger brother have not met him along the way. Hastings, who has been sent to look into their whereabouts, arrives with the news that the queen and young Duke of York have taken sanctuary. Buckingham asks the Lord Cardinal to persuade the queen to send the prince's brother to him; if the Cardinal fails, Hastings is to take him from her by force. The Cardinal objects that this would "infringe the holy privilege / Of blessed sanctuary," but is soon convinced by Hastings that this privilege only applies to grown men and women, for "sanctuary children" have never been heard of.
Richard recommends that the prince stay in the Tower of London, an ancient fortress on the outskirts of the town, until the coronation. The prince is frightened of the building, however, probably because it also served as the main prison for traitors awaiting execution. Richard tells the prince that his belief that the Tower's foundations were built by Julius Caesar is supported by written records, as well as oral history. The prince believes that even if it hadn't been written down, the fact that Caesar built the Tower would be told from generation to generation, for "the truth should live from age to age." Richard, speaking in a double sense, agrees that "without characters fame lives long," which could mean that fame like Caesar's is remembered even without being recorded in written "characters," or letters, or that individuals become famous by acting without character, or in an evil manner, or that bad people live a long time. Richard observes in an aside that his use of double entendre likens him to stock characters from the medieval morality plays, such as the personification of the vice called Iniquity. Unaware of Richard's sinister thoughts, the prince praises Caesar not only for acting with "valor" but for using his wit to record his courageous actions. Inspired by Caesar's memory, he plans to reconquer France, which had been lost by Henry VI, "or die a soldier as I liv'd a king." Richard remarks in an aside that "short summers," or those who are destined to die young, often follow a "forward spring," or precocious youth.
Hastings and the Cardinal arrive with the young Duke of York. The prince, remembering Richard's past comment that "idle weeds are fast in growth," points out to his uncle that his brother has outgrown him and asks Richard if he is therefore "idle." When Richard politely declines to say so, York asks him for the dagger which his uncle carries about him. Richard agrees and adds that he would also give him his sword "were it light enough" for York to carry. York puns on another sense of the word "light," implying Richard that is only willing to part with worthless gifts. York puns again on Richard's use of the word "little," saying that he will give Richard "little" thanks for the gift of his sword even as Richard calls him a "little" lord. The prince compliments his uncle's patience with his brother's punning conversation. York twists the prince's praise of Richard's ability to "bear with him" into an insult about Richard's bear-like humped back, pretending that the prince is really saying that Richard should carry York on his shoulders like carnival bears were made to carry apes. Richard sends the princes along to the Tower, telling the prince that he will go to the queen to persuade her to join them. York is surprised to find that his brother intends to stay at the Tower, claiming that he won't sleep well there out of fear of the ghost of Clarence, who was murdered in the building. The prince pointedly remarks that "I fear no uncles dead," rightly implying that his living uncles, including Richard, are more dangerous to his safety.
Buckingham, Catesby, and Richard remain on-stage. Buckingham and Richard agree that York was probably incited to insult Richard by his "subtile" mother. They have apparently formulated a plot to make Richard himself king instead of the young prince. They discuss whether Hastings and Stanley will go along with their plot or will oppose it. Catesby predicts that Hastings will remain loyal to the prince, and that Stanley will concur with Hastings. Buckingham orders Catesby to broach the matter delicately with Hastings. If he is open to the idea, Catesby should tell him their reasons for supporting Richard; if not, Catesby should say no more on the matter and inform the rest tomorrow at their secret meeting. Richard reminds Catesby to mention to Hastings that his old enemies, Rivers and Grey, will be executed tomorrow at Pomfret Castle in the hopes that this will encourage him to side with Richard. Richard also jokes that he hopes Hastings will give an extra kiss to his mistress, Jane Shore (formerly the mistress of Edward IV), when he hears the news. Catesby is to report back to Richard at Crosby House.
Alone with Richard, Buckingham asks what they will do if Hastings resists their plans. Richard immediately suggests that they "chop off his head!" To confirm Buckingham's loyalty, Richard promises him that when Richard becomes king, the title of Earl of Herford will be his for the asking. Buckingham says that he "will claim that promise" when the time comes.
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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