Richard III has achieved power through absolute ruthlessness and brutality. He has murdered a slew of his rivals, starting with Edward IV. As the army of Richard and the rebel army under Richmond sleep at Bosworth Field before the night's action, the audience learns that the spiritual world will intervene (or at least wants to intervene) on Richmond's behalf. The spirits of the people whose lives Richard has taken appear and, starting with Prince Edward, give Richmond their blessing and curse Richard. Henry VI, for example, tells Richard as he sleeps:
When I was mortal, my anointed body
By thee was punched full of deadly holes:
Think on the Tower and me: despair, and die,--
Harry the Sixth bids thee despair and die!
He then turns to Richmond and gives his blessing on his arms:
Virtuous and holy, be thou conqueror!
Harry, that prophesied thou shouldst be king,
Doth comfort thee in thy sleep: live, and flourish!
One after another the spirits place curses on the king and blessings on the rebel. The evil that Richard has done in this world will be visited on him from the spiritual world.