Richard III

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Richard III Act 2, Scene 2 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
In another room in the Palace, the Duchess of York (mother of King Edward, Richard, and Clarence) weeps beside Margaret Plantagenet and Edward Plantagenet (Clarence's children). When they ask her to explain, she says their father is dead but that it is "lost sorrow to wail one that's lost" and that her tears are for King Edward, sick but alive. Edward and Margaret Plantagenet blame King Edward for their father's death, based on what Richard has lovingly told them. The Duchess laments "that deceit should steal such gentle shape" and tells them Richard killed Clarence.
Though Clarence's young children take Richard at his loving word, the Duchess knows better – she sees through Richard's façade of kindness to his cruel, dishonest interior. The Duchess' claim that it's no use mourning the dead shows how hardened she's become from witnessing so much violence and tragedy in her life, a topic she'll expound on later in the play.
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Queen Elizabeth enters distraught with Rivers and Dorset, and reports that King Edward is dead. The Duchess is devastated. Margaret Plantagenet and Edward Plantagenet at first question how they can partake of her grief after she neglected to cry for Clarence but the women and children soon start to mourn together, echoing each other's laments.
Queen Elizabeth's and the Duchess' laments here prove extremely moving. As they elicit empathy even from Clarence's reluctant children, so the women's words touch audience members, inspiring pity and sympathy (and jarring the audience from its status up until now of being complicit and almost cheering on Richard the anti-hero's efforts).
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Dorset and Rivers interrupt the women to urge Queen Elizabeth to have her son, young Edward Prince of Wales, crowned immediately. Richard, Buckingham, Stanley, Hastings, and Sir Ratcliffe enter and discuss how young Edward should travel to the Palace from his home in Ludlow. Richard asks the Duchess and Elizabeth to go help negotiate the transport and everyone exits except Buckingham and Richard.
Dorset and Rivers, like every other male character in the play, are more concerned with politics and practicalities than with emotion. Still, they're right to urge haste: crowning the young prince quickly will secure his power and shorten the period in which the throne is kingless – a dangerous condition for the state, especially when power-hungry Richard's around.
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Buckingham refers to some prior private conference between the two of them, telling Richard they must be present in the party chaperoning young Edward Prince of Wales trip so that they can be sure to keep the prince distant from the queen's friends. Richard praises Buckingham's loyalty.
As usual, Richard's plot aims to grab power by sneaky means. Here, he will feign allegiance to the young prince while actually trying to subvert him. Richard's words of praise encourage Buckingham to keep working for Richard.
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