Richard III Act III Summary
by William Shakespeare

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Act III Summary

Scene 1
On a street in London, the young Prince of Wales arrives and meets with his uncle Richard and his confederate Buckingham. Richard tells the young prince that he and his younger brother are to be housed in the Tower of London until the ceremony takes place. The young Prince of Wales says that he does not like the Tower; and in an exchange with his uncle Richard, the youth shows himself to be wise beyond his years, and we sense that he sees through Richard's false, tender front. The Prince's younger brother arrives, and the two are sent to the Tower to repose. When the other characters exit, Richard conspires with Buckingham. He says that he has sent the noble Catesby to sound out Lord Hastings about whether he would support Richard's plans to become king. If Hastings refuses to support this plot, then Richard will have him executed. Richard also tells Buckingham that his loyal service will be rewarded with an earldom once he becomes king.

Scene 2
At the home of Lord Hastings, a messenger arrives from Lord Stanley who says that a plot is afoot, that two councils of state will be held, and that Hastings should flee with him at once. Hastings tells Stanley's messenger that he does not fear the divided council. Just then, Catesby arrives and reveals Richard's plan to become King of England. Hastings refuses to join Richard's side, affirming his support for the Prince of Wales and thereby inadvertently seals his own doom.

Scene 3
At the execution grounds of Pomfret Castle, several of Richard's political opponents (the nobles Rivers, Grey and Vaughn) are seen in chains and bound for execution. They curse Richard and the fate that has befallen them.

Scene 4
At the Tower of London a council of state is in session, with Buckingham and several of Richard's other minions in attendance, including the defiant Hastings. Richard leaves for a moment and then returns in a furor, claiming that he is under a spell of black magic cast by Edward's widow, Queen Elizabeth. When Hastings defends her honor, Richard calls him a traitor and commands that Hastings's head be cut off. The victim now realizes what Richard has had in mind all the time, and he predicts that Richard and his ilk will soon be in the grave alongside him.

Scene 5
In front of the Tower walls, Richard and Buckingham tell the Mayor of London that Hastings is a traitor and is about to be executed without trial. The Mayor believes their false stories about Hastings and says that he will report Hastings's execution to the people as being justly caused. When the Mayor leaves, Richard instructs Buckingham to raise questions about the legitimacy of Edward's...

(The entire section is 688 words.)