Richard III: Novel Summary: Act 3 Scene 7

Act 3, scene 7At Beynard’s Castle in London, Buckingham reports back to Richard about what he has achieved. He reported at the Guildhall that Edward and his children were illegitimate, citing Edward’s betrothal to two different women before he married Elizabeth—to a Lady Lucy and then to a French noblewoman, a match that was negotiated by Warwick and the King of France. Then Buckingham lauded the virtues of Richard. At the end, he invited his audience to cry “God save Richard, England’s royal king!” But no one uttered a word in response. Buckingham gets the mayor to repeat his speech, but again, no one acclaims Richard as king, save a few of Buckingham’s own supporters at the end of the hall.The mayor has now come to the castle, and Buckingham has a plan: Richard is to be unavailable until he is persuaded reluctantly to appear. He must have clergymen with him. Then Buckingham will praise Richard’s piety, but Richard must not immediately accept what Buckingham and his supporters are urging him to do.The mayor enters with a crowd of citizens, followed by Catesby. Catesby says that Richard is engrossed in meditation with the clergymen; they should visit him another day. Buckingham tells Catesby to make another request to Richard, saying it is important that they should see him. Catesby exits.Buckingham praises Richard’s piety to the mayor, contrasting him favorably with the former king, who had a reputation for lechery. Buckingham says Richard would make a good king, but he fears that Richard will not accept the crown if it is offered to him.Catesby reenters, saying that Richard wonders why they are all assembled there, and he fears they mean him ill. Buckingham tells Catesby to reassure Richard on that point.Finally, Richard appears, between two bishops. Catesby also returns. Buckingham once more praises Richard’s piety, and Richard apologizes for keeping them waiting. He asks them what they want. Buckingham gives a long speech in which he urges Richard to take the crown because otherwise the country will languish under illegitimate rule. He insists that Richard has a right to inherit the throne.Richard thanks him but declines, citing his unworthiness. He claims humility, and the knowledge that his flaws are too great to permit him to be king. He then says there is no need for a new king, since there is an heir who as he matures will prove a capable king. Buckingham responds by pointing out that Edward’s children are not legitimate, and therefore the crown is rightfully inherited by Richard. The mayor and Catesby urge him to accept. But Richard repeats that he is unworthy and cannot do as they say. Buckingham responds by once more lavishly praising Richard and saying that if he does not accept the crown, he, Buckingham, and others, will place someone else on the throne, not Edward V, but someone whose rule will result in Richard’s downfall.All but Richard and Catesby exit. Catesby urges Richard to call them back. Richard finally gives in. Catesby calls them back, and Richard tells Buckingham and the rest that he will accept the crown, even though he does not want to. Buckingham salutes him as King Richard and says they will crown him tomorrow.
AnalysisThe Lady Lucy that Buckingham mentions in this scene is a reference to Elizabeth Lucy, a mistress of Edward IV before he became king. But historically it was not Lucy with whom Edward made a marriage precontract with, if indeed he did so with any woman.The second part of the scene, after the mayor and the citizens enter at line 61 is an example of dramatic irony, which occurs when the audience, or some of the characters, know things about the situation or the motivation of the characters that either all or some of the characters do not know. In this scene the audience knows what the mayor and the citizens do not, that this is an elaborate sham perpetrated by Buckingham and Richard. They are both good actors, conspiring to present Richard as a pious man who is so humble he feels he does not deserve the office of king and has to be repeatedly persuaded to accept. Buckingham and Richard play their parts to perfection. They have to, because as the first part of the scene showed, Richard does not in fact enjoy much public support.