Richard wants the crown and is beginning to plot to get it.
the moment we meet Richard, we learn that he's dissatisfied. He
announces that he's "determined to prove a villain." We then get the
outline of how this will happen: as Richard chats with a prison-bound
Clarence, it becomes clear that he has no qualms about deceiving and
conspiring against people. He hints at his full plan once Clarence is
safely in jail. He'll have Clarence killed, wait for Edward to die, then
marry Anne. While Richard details his plot to us, he's still careful
not to celebrate it, as a lot of things need to fall into place before
he has a chance at the crown.
Richard, Clarence is murdered, King Edward IV dies, the princes arrive,
Richard's enemies (Queen Elizabeth's family) are imprisoned and
Everything is going swimmingly for Richard. With both
his brothers dead, his path to the throne is only blocked by two little
boys, whom he has decided are sniveling and inconsequential little kids.
Richard has also successfully removed Queen Elizabeth's family from the
picture. Rivers, Gray, and Vaughn were politically irksome to Richard,
and they also provided some protection to the young princes. With the
protectors out of the way (and Queen Elizabeth's sanctuary for her young
son disabled), Richard has unfettered access to both boys, meaning he
can get them out of the way easily.
public is lukewarm about receiving Richard as King. Richard gets to the
throne, but some are already deserting for Richmond's side.
has to figure out who's with him and who's against him. Hastings is not
an easy sell, and Richard has him killed easily enough, but he has to
cover his tracks to the mayor and the people. Not surprisingly, the
citizens are not at all enthusiastic about Buckingham's suggestion that
Richard should be king. This frustrates Richard, and though he gets the
crown anyway, he's in a pretty foul mood about the whole thing.
after he's been crowned, Richard is worried about maintaining his
power; he has to have the little princes in the tower murdered. When
Buckingham hesitates on this point, Richard dismisses him without a
second thought. This might be Richard just being rash, but it also might
indicate that Richard knows that his position is precarious: he has no
time to appease people who don't support him wholeheartedly, because
he's beginning to gather a crowd that opposes him wholeheartedly.
is already receiving word of desertions to Richmond's side when
Buckingham readies to leave him. Weirdly, Richard's calm (if glum)
reaction to all of this is a reference to a prophecy he once heard that
Richmond would be the end of him. He's not yet in a panicky stage, and
he's still making plans to seal up his power by marrying young
Elizabeth. He also gets the comforting news that his nephews have been
smothered to death.
Buckingham are gathering forces, Richard's men continue to desert him,
his mother curses him to die, he has a nightmare, he goes to battle even
as men are abandoning him.
The situation begins to worsen when
Richard learns that Richmond is being joined by more powerful forces
than Richard had anticipated. After Richard's mother curses him to die a
bloody death, things just keep going downhill. Richard really seems to
break when he learns for certain that Richmond's navy, fat with
Richard-deserters, is headed for Richard's shores.
For the first
time, Richard appears disoriented and confused. He's not used to losing
control, and his inability to hold himself together doesn't bode well.
The best evidence that this is Richard's nightmare stage is that he, in
fact, has a literal nightmare. He's confronted by the ghosts of everyone
he's had a hand in murdering, and they all condemn him to die in the
next day's battle. (Just so we're clear on Richard's inevitable end, the
ghosts also visit Richmond and encourage him to defeat Richard.)
Richard awakens and is visibly shaken. He can't seem to get a grip on
who he is or what he's about.
Richard leaves his fate to chance; he obstinately chooses to go down fighting.
keeps receiving news of his supporters deserting him, and he seems to
content himself with the declaration that he and his men will face
whatever is coming to them head on. When Richard says "March on, join
bravely, let us to it pell-mell; If not to heaven, then hand in hand to
hell," it's a pretty good indicator that he's ready to meet his end.
He's determined not to be cowed, and he'll go down fighting. Richard has
no regrets, and his last-ditch effort is to try to kill Richmond. His
final lines on the stage illustrate that he's ready to face the
consequences of all the chances he's taken, even if he knows the odds
are against him.