Richard III

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Richard III Act 2, Scene 1 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Back at the Palace, King Edward announces to Queen Elizabeth, Dorset, Rivers, Hastings, Buckingham, Grey, and others that, though he is near death, he feels much more at peace knowing that he has orchestrated peace between his friends on earth. He calls on Rivers and Hastings to shake hands and swear love, which they do. He calls on the others to echo them, which they do too. Edward notes that they now only need Richard to swear to keep peace.
Edward is using his kingly power to the general benefit of his people by trying to heal damaged relationships between his subjects. He may not be physically healthy, but he is serving the health of the state and proving himself a king who deserves to sit on the throne because of both his blood and his character.
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Richard enters and, at King Edward's prompt, duly swears to keep friendly peace and claims he has no enemies in all of England. Queen Elizabeth asks the King to forgive Clarence and, when Richard interjects that Clarence is dead, everyone is shocked. Edward protests that the original death order was reversed, but Richard says he was killed by the first order. Stanley enters asking Edward to do him a favor and pardon his servant, who has just killed a man. Edward agrees but, deeply distraught, laments that no one spoke up earlier to plead Clarence's pardon. He remembers all Clarence has done for him and chastises those around him for failing to remind Edward of Clarence's goodness when he was angry. Edward fears God's vengeance. He exits along with Elizabeth, Hastings, Rivers, Dorset, and Grey.
For Richard, words can be thrown around regardless of their truth and he will say (or swear) anything as long as it serves his plot. His promise to Edward is utterly hollow but it helps bolster the image he's trying to spread of himself as a peace-loving, gentle guy. Richard uses time to his advantage by pretending that Clarence's death was just the too-hasty fulfillment of Edward's own order. Edward wishes those around him had taken the time to articulate Clarence's innocence to him – their words might have saved his life.
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Richard notes to Buckingham how pale "the guilty kindred" of Queen Elizabeth looked upon hearing Clarence was killed. "O, they did urge it still unto the king!" he cries, "God will revenge it." They exit.
Richard is a shrewd director, making sure to manipulate every character in his favor – here he directs Buckingham's opinion of Queen Elizabeth.
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