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Richard III Act 1, Scene 2 Summary

  • A coffin holding King Henry VI's corpse is being carried through the streets by a group of pallbearers. Henry's grieving daughter-in-law, Lady Anne, follows.
  • Lady Anne orders the pallbearers to stop and take a break so she can deliver a big speech about how sad she is.
  • Anne curses the man responsible for murdering her husband and father-in-law and says she hopes the guy's future children will be deformed and that his future wife will be miserable. (Uh oh. Every student of history knows that Richard gets his way and marries Anne, so, she's basically just cursed herself. Check out "Symbolism, Imagery, Allegory" for more on this.)
  • Richard strolls up to Anne and orders the pallbearers to scram, or else.
  • Anne calls Richard a "minister of hell" and some other not-so-nice names.
  • Anne points out that Henry VI's corpse is bleeding. (In Shakespeare's day, it was thought that a murdered man's wounds would bleed in the presence of his murderer.)
  • Then Richard does the unthinkable: he begins to put the moves on Anne...right in front of her father-in-law's bleeding corpse!
  • At first Anne resists but, before we know it, Richard has convinced her to accept his ring, and the two are going steady. Here's the quick and dirty version of how it all goes down:
  • Anne: You're disgusting. I hate you.
  • Richard: You're hot when you're angry.
  • Anne: You killed my husband and my father-in-law.
  • Richard: I didn't kill your husband, but I might have killed King Henry, who should probably thank me for sending him to heaven.
  • Anne: I hate you.
  • Richard: I plan to take you to bed and "lie with you." By the way, your husband and King Henry are dead because I'm so in love with you.
  • Anne: I hope you die.
  • Richard: I think we should get married, and, come to think of it, I probably did kill your husband.
  • [Anne spits on Richard.]
  • Richard: Sweet poison! I love it when you spit on me.
  • Anne: Looking at you makes me sick.
  • Richard: I love it when you look at me with those beautiful eyes.
  • ...
  • Richard: Your luscious lips were made "for kissing."
  • ...
  • Richard: Fine. If you hate me so much, why don't you just take my sword and stab me through the heart?
  • Anne: I wish you were dead, but I'm not going to be the one to kill you.
  • Richard: OK. Tell me to kill myself and I'll totally do it.
  • Anne: No.
  • Richard: I swear I'll kill myself...if that's what you really want.
  • Anne: "I wish I knew thy heart." Translation: "I've just spent the last three minutes telling you why you're so revolting, but I'm going to let myself think that you might actually love me."
  • Richard: I think you should wear my ring.
  • Anne: OK, but that doesn't mean I love you or anything.
  • Psst. If you love Shakespeare on film as much as we do, you might want to check out how this scene was adapted in the 1995 film Richard III, which sets the play in 1930s London and features Richard (Ian McKellen) wooing Lady Anne (Kristen Scott Thomas) a morgue. Or if you're a traditionalist, check out how the oh-so-dreamy actor Laurence Olivier does it in the 1955 film adaptation.
  • Now that he's got Lady Anne under his thumb, Richard convinces her to abandon the funeral procession and go to Richard's bachelor pad (Crosby House).
  • He promises he'll get Henry's corpse to Chertsey monastery to have the body buried. He'll even spend some time weeping and repenting his evil deeds.
  • Anne is skeptical, but she leaves for Crosby House, stoked about Richard's apparent turnaround.
  • As soon as she leaves, Richard gleefully instructs the pallbearers to take Henry's body to White-friars (not where it's supposed to go).
  • Richard asks the audience, "Was ever woman in this humour wooed? / Was ever woman in this humour won?" (Translation: "Can you guys believe how smooth I am? I can hardly believe it myself!")
  • Richard jokes that even though he knows he's ugly, Anne must think he's pretty hot, so he better go out and buy new clothes and a fancy mirror.
  • First, though, he'll toss Henry's corpse into the ground and go back to Anne with all the appearances of mourning.
  • Richard also informs us that, though he's ecstatic over winning Anne, he doesn't intend to keep her as his wife very long.

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