Richard III: Novel Summary: Act 1 Scene 2

Act 1, scene 2In a London street, Lady Anne is accompanying the corpse of her father-in-law, Henry VI, to its burial. She curses his killer, whom she knows to be Richard, who also killed her husband. Richard enters, and Anne is horrified. She calls him a devil and tells him to go away. Richard denies that he killed her husband, saying that it was Queen Margaretwho blamed him for the murder. Anne does not believe him and then asks Richard if he killed the king, Henry VI. This Richard does not deny. Anne says he is damned for it; hell is the only place for him.Richard then takes the initiative and starts to woo Lady Anne. He says the only reason he committed murder was because of her beauty. Anne does not believe him. She just wants her revenge for what he did. Richard counters by saying that he loves her more than her former husband did. She responds by spitting at him. Undeterred, Richard continues to try to flatter and charm her, emphasizing the depth of his feelings for her. He even says that since it appears she cannot forgive him, he will give her his sword with which to kill him. She takes the sword but does not know how to use it properly. He tells her to try again, confessing that he did indeed kill King Henry and Prince Edward, saying he did it because of her beauty. She drops the sword, and he offers then to kill himself, if she should ask it of him. Anne tells him not to. He then offers her a ring, placing it on her finger. Anne appears to be softening in her attitude toward him.Richard then offers to accompany the king’s body to his final resting place while Anne goes to Crosby House, where he will meet her later. He pretends that he repents of killing the king. Anne believes him and is delighted by his apparent change of heart.After Anne exits, Richard soliloquizes. He expresses his surprise that he appears to be having some success with Anne, given the circumstances. He admits that he is only half the man that Prince Edward was. But then he changes tack, saying that, well, Lady Anne seems to find him a “marv’lous proper man,” so maybe he should think more highly of himself. He resolves to visit some tailors and get some new outfits.AnalysisRichard shows here that he actually has some of the qualities that he denied possessing in the previous scene. In that scene he claimed not to have the skill of the lover on account of his ugly appearance. But here he is quite confident and indeed shameless in his dealings with Lady Anne. He has the presumption to think that he might have a chance with the woman whose husband he killed. Richard knows how to act a part when it fits in with his goals. He is very persistent in the face of her understandable hostility, and he seems to be able to master the language of courtly love. He even, at the end of the scene, expresses surprise at what he has managed to accomplish. Richard may be a villain, but he is a very self-aware one, and he shows that he is a master at manipulating people, whether in love or politics.