Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)

*Westminster Palace

*Westminster Palace. London residence of the rulers of England from the eleventh through sixteenth centuries (later used for the Houses of Parliament), alongside the River Thames, near Westminster Abbey. Built by William the Conqueror, the palace was long the central locus of both the home of the royal family and the royal court. In this play its dynamics are volatile, given the presence of the Yorkist king Edward IV and his kin, victorious but internally divided, and the widows of the defeated Lancastrian king Henry VI and his Prince of Wales. The palace as crucible of Richard’s power is compared metaphorically to his mother’s womb, which she herself calls “The bed of death” for nurturing her “damned son,” and to the womb of the Princess Elizabeth, where Richard expects to legitimize his reign.

*Tower of London

*Tower of London. Ancient, fearful edifice where King Henry VI, the last Lancastrian king, was imprisoned and killed. The prison threatens everyone who may stand in the way of Richard’s kingship. It sees the confinement and murder of Richard’s brother Clarence, the queen’s relatives and supporters (killed at Pomfret Castle), King Edward’s sons and heirs, and Lord Chamberlain Hastings, who calls the tower a “slaughterhouse.”

*Tewkesbury

*Tewkesbury (TEWKS-behr-ee). Town on the Severn River in west-central England, north-northeast of Gloucester, near which the Lancastrian army was defeated by Yorkist forces in 1471. The battlefield is continually referred to in the play, as the characters relive scenes of the murders of the Lancastrian prince of Wales and Richard’s father and youngest brother. The battle is a monument to the families’ hatred.

*Bosworth Field

*Bosworth Field. Place in central England near Leicester that was the site of the most famous battle of the War of the Roses, in 1485, that is the setting for the last battle in William Shakespeare’s play. Here Richard is defeated and killed, ending his evil rule afoot and alone, speaking his most famous words, “A horse! A horse! My kingdom for a horse!” The victor is the earl of Richmond, who is crowned King Henry VII. He became the first Tudor king and was grandfather to Queen Elizabeth I, during whose reign this play was written.