The captured Buckingham is led to his execution by an armed sheriff. Buckingham asks to speak to King Richard, but the sheriff denies his request, leaving him time to ponder before his head is cut off. Upon discovering that it is All-Souls Day, Buckingham’s thoughts turn to repentance and judgment, and he recalls the promises he made to King Edward IV that he would always stand byEdward’s children and his wife’s family. He also recalls his own certainty that Richard, whom he trusted, would never betray him and seems to be recalling Margaret’s prophecy: “[R]emember this another day, / When he [Richard] shall split thy very heart with sorrow” (I.iii.297–298). Buckingham concludes that Margaret was right, and that, moreover, he deserves to suffer for his own wrongdoing—forbreaking his vows, for being an accomplice to foul play and murder, and for his folly in trusting Richard, who has indeed broken his heart. He tells the officers to bring him to “the block of shame,” and he is led away to die (V.i.28).
Act V, scene ii
At the camp of Richmond’s army, which is marching through England to challenge Richard, Richmond tells his men that he has just received a letterfrom his relative Stanley, informing him about Richard’s camp and movements. Richard’s army, it seems, is only a day’s march away. The men recall the crimes that Richard has perpetrated and the darkness he has brought to the land. A nobleman points out that none of Richard’s allies is with him because they believe in his cause—they stay with him only out of fear and will flee when Richard mostneeds them. Eager for the battle, Richmond and his men march onward toward Richard’s camp.
Summary: Act V, scene iii
In his camp, King Richard orders his men to pitch their tents for the night. He says that they will engage in their great battle in the -morning. Richard talks to his noblemen, trying to stir up some enthusiasm, but they are all subdued. Richard, however, says he has learned thatRichmond has only one-third as many fighting men as he himself does, and he is confident that he can easily win.
Summary: Act V, scene iv
Meanwhile, in Richmond’s camp, Richmond tells a messenger to deliver a secret letter to his stepfather, Lord Stanley, who is in an outlying camp. Stanley is forced to fight upon Richard’s side, but Richmond hopes to get some help from him nonetheless.Summary: Act V, scene v
It is now dead midnight.
Cold fearful drops stand on my trembling flesh.
What do I fear? Myself?
(See Important Quotations Explained)
Back in King Richard’s tent, Richard issues commands to his lieutenants. Because Richard knows of Stanley’s relationship with Richmond, he is suspicious of Stanley, and is holding Stanley’s young son, George, hostage. He has an order sent toLord Stanley telling him to bring his troops to the main camp before dawn, or else he will kill George. Declaring that he will eat no supper that night, Richard then prepares to go to sleep for the night.
Stanley comes secretly to visit Richmond in his tent. He explains the situation, but promises to help Richmond however he can. Richmond thanks him and then prepares for sleep.
As both leaderssleep, they begin to dream. A parade of ghosts—the spirits of everyone whom Richard has murdered—comes across the stage. First, each ghost stops to speak to Richard. Each condemns him bitterly for his or her death, tells him that he will be killed in battle the next morning, and orders him to despair and die. The ghosts then move away and speak to the sleeping Richmond, telling him that they are onRichmond’s side and that Richmond will rule England and be the father of a race of kings. In a similar manner, eleven ghosts move across the stage: Prince Edward, the dead son of Henry VI; King Henry VI himself; Richard’s brother Clarence; Rivers, Gray, and Vaughan; the two young princes, whom Richard had murdered in the tower; Hastings; Lady Anne, Richard’s former wife; and, finally, Buckingham....