Act 1 Scene 1
In the first lines of the play, Richard, Duke of Gloucester, reviews the current state of affairs in England. War is over and the house of York is on the throne. Everyone has put aside the rigors of warfare for the pleasures of peacetime, except for Richard. He says he is not interested in such playfulness. Because he is physically deformed, he cannot see himself playing the role of courtier. Instead he commits to villainy. He plots to set King Edward against his brother George, Duke of Clarence, using as provocation the prophecy that someone with the letter G in his name will murder Edward’s heirs. Directly, George is led forth by soldiers on the way to the Tower to be imprisoned. Richard suggests that this is really the doings of the king’s wife, Lady Grey, and that no one is safe from her treachery. Richard promises to intercede for Clarence, but as soon as he is led away, Richard reveals his true motive is to kill Clarence and get him out of the way. Lord Hastings, who is the Lord Chamberlain, brings news of the king’s sickness. This adds to Richard’s desire to get George out of the way. Once the king is dead Richard believes he will be in a strategic position to take over the kingdom. He also plans to marry Lady Anne, Warwick’s youngest daughter, even though he has killed her husband Edward and her father-in-law, King Henry VI.
Answer these questions
1. What does Richard reveal about his character and motives in his opening speech?
2. What does Richard think of his brothers, King Edward and Clarence? What picture does Richard paint of Edward’s character?
3. Why does Richard insinuate to Clarence that he shouldn’t blame Edward for his imprisonment but the King’s wife, Elizabeth?
4. Why is Hastings willing to ally with Richard?