Richard III Act V Summary
by William Shakespeare

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Act V Summary

Scene 1
At an open place near Salisbury, the captured Buckingham is led away to execution, ruing his involvement with Richard and the assassination of Henry VI.

Scene 2
At a camp on the English coast, Richmond relishes the prospect of relieving England of Richard's yoke of tyranny and accepts the message that Stanley is only on Richard's side because of the coercive threat to his son.

Scene 3
On Bosworth Field (where the remainder of the play unfolds), Richard and his remaining loyal allies appear in a tent on one side of the stage, while Richmond and his rebels are seen in a tent on the other side of the stage. Lord Stanley enters and goes to Richmond's tent, promising that he will try to sabotage Richard's battle plans by delaying the arrival of forces under his command. Between the two tents a succession of ghosts appears—Henry VI, Clarence, Rivers, Grey, Vaughn, the murdered princes, Hastings, Lady Anne and Buckingham—each of whom accuses the sleeping Richard of the foul deeds committed against them and curses his cause and then blesses the sleeping Richmond. Richard awakes and acknowledges his guilt; Richmond awakes ready for the battle at hand. Richmond addresses his troops, appealing to their patriotism; Richard speaks to his men, disparaging the enemy as lowly scum. Word arrives that Lord Stanley refuses to march into battle; Richard orders the execution of Stanley's son, but delays action until the battle of Bosworth Field has been won.

Scene 4
On the battlefield, we learn that Richard has fought like a man possessed, seeking out Richmond on foot because his own horse has been slain. Richard appears, crying out "A horse, a horse! My kingdom for a horse!"

Scene 5
In the plays final scene, Richard and Richmond come together in hand-to-hand combat, and Richard is slain. Stanley arrives and learns that no harm has come to his son. The crown of England is offered to Richmond. He, in turn, says that he will now marry the daughter of Queen Elizabeth, uniting the families of York and Lancaster, and thereby bringing England's protracted civil wars to an end.