All the important ladies of the play assemble before the Tower to go and meet the young Princes. Unfortunately, the guard denies them access by order of the King…uh, he means Richard…the Lord Protector…definitely not King…nope. Queen Elizabeth protest because they are her sons. The Duchess of York protests because she is their father’s mother, which somehow makes her argument stronger? #motherinlawissues Anne gives the most compelling argument because she is Richard’s wife and agrees to take the blame. Still they are denied.
Lord Stanley walks up to escort Anne to her coronation as Queen. Pretty much everyone is upset by this news. Elizabeth orders her son, Dorset, to leave the country immediately and meet Lord Stanley’s son, Henry Tudor. She remembers Margaret’s curse that she will live to be a mother, wife, and queen no more. Not to be outdone, the Duchess curses her womb for giving birth to Richard. Stanley tells Anne that they really need to go. She and Elizabeth wish each other well and Anne remembers that she cursed herself by accident. If you remember, in Act I she cursed whoever married Richard before she decided that he was the man for her. They all say their farewells.
The Duchess tells Dorset to go the Richmond, Anne to go to Richard, Elizabeth to take sanctuary, and the Duchess? Well, the Duchess is just going to go ahead and die now. 80 years of these shenanigans is enough. Elizabeth and the Duchess look on the Tower one last time and pray for the Princes.
Richard sits on his throne and calls Buckingham to him. He wonders aloud how he can be King if Edward lives. Buckingham, trying to play dumb, insists that Richard is King. Richard doesn’t care that Buckingham wants to play dumb and spells it out plainly: he wants the Princes killed. Buckingham is understandably taken aback by this suggestion because even conniving villains have lines they don’t cross. He asks if he can have a moment to think about it. Richard, who apparently has no line, is not happy with that (which is explicitly pointed out by Catesby, also known as Captain Obvious).
While Buckingham contemplates whether or not he’s willing to murder some children, Richard executes plan B by asking his page to find a murderer for hire. Luckily, his page knows just the man!
Stanley delivers the news that Dorset has fled to Richmond, Henry Tudor. Richard immediately shouts for Catesby and tells him to spread the word that Anne is sick and about to die. You see, Richard needs to legitimize his claim by marrying his niece, Edward’s daughter, after he kills her brothers of course.
Tyrell, the murderer for hire comes in and agrees to kill the young Princes.
Buckingham comes in to request the Earldom that was promised to him. Richard pays no attention and wonders about Richmond because some psychic told him he would die by Richmond. Buckingham is not a fan of being ignored and presses Richard further. Turns out Richard is not a fan of having people ask for stuff when they don’t even want to murder some kids for him. Buckingham decides to flee before Richard kills him. Probably a good call.
Tyrell recounts how the two men he sent to actually do the killing felt pretty guilty about smothering some sweet little kids. They did it, but they felt pretty bad afterwards. Richard, of course, is pumped to hear his nephews are dead and buried.
Once Tyrell leaves, he launches into a solid villain speech about how everything is going according to plan. The Princes are dead, Clarence’s son his dead, his daughter has been “meanly” married off, Anne is dead, and now he’s off to woo Edward’s daughter, Elizabeth, before Henry Tudor can get all up in there.
Unfortunately, his super villain groove is thrown off by Catesby informing him that Ely and Buckingham have run off and joined forces with Henry. Richard’s pretty annoyed by this and decides is time to go to war.
And so begins the longest scene so far…
Margaret remarks how well her curse is working and how she has just been lurking around in the shadows watching everything unfold. She ninjas herself into the shadows again when Queen Elizabeth and the Duchess of York enter. They cry over all of their dead loved ones and Margaret inserts snarky comments about her own grief before taking a seat beside them. She points out that Richard seems to be doing a lot of the killing. The Duchess points out that Margaret killed her husband and her son. Margaret brushes that off and goes back to hating on Richard. The other two join in the hate fest. They aren’t too buddy-buddy though and squabble about who lost the most in all this. Margaret points out to them how well her curse is working. Elizabeth asks her to teach her how to curse. Margaret explains that Elizabeth must let grief consume her soul and then she’ll be good at cursing people.
Margaret leaves and Elizabeth and the Duchess conspire to kill Richard. Richard enters, leading his army to war, but his mom gets in the way. She asks to speak and then proceeds to tell him how terrible he is. Unsurprisingly, Richard doesn’t want to hear this and tries to make her be quiet multiple times. He only lets her speak when she promises to never speak to him again after this. She curses him to die and leaves.
The next two and a half pages consist of Richard trying to convince Elizabeth to woo her daughter on his behalf. Elizabeth asks him exactly how she should do that since he killed her brothers and her uncle. He basically argues that all of that is in the past and they should look to the future. Sure, Richard killed her sons, but he’ll give her grandchildren through her daughter, and aren’t grandchildren so much better than children. Elizabeth mocks him some more before presumably getting exhausted and just agreeing to talk to her daughter. (side note: this whole thing was one of my favorite exchanges)
The rest of the scene is taken up by battle movements. Richmond (Henry Tudor) is sailing toward England and will meet up with Buckingham. Richard sends out his friends to rally troops, but he doesn’t totally trust Stanley so he keeps Stanley’s son as collateral. Two messengers enter bringing bad news of more people revolting. A third messenger enters and Richard punches him, but he had good news. Buckingham’s army was dispersed by a flood. Richard apologizes and pays the messenger for his face wound. Richmond’s navy was broken up by the same storm. Richmond tried to land but didn’t trust the army there and sailed on. By the next messenger, Richmond has landed in Britain.
Richard was correct to not trust Stanley because Stanley is working for Henry Tudor. He passes on the message that Queen Elizabeth has agreed to marry her daughter to Henry Tudor.