Richard III

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Richard III Act 3, Scene 2 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
At Lord Hasting's house, a messenger knocks at 4 a.m. with an urgent message from Lord Stanley recounting a dream in which "the boar" [Richard's heraldic symbol] knocked off Stanley's helmet and decapitated him. That dream, combined with the ominous rumor he's heard that one of tomorrow's two councils will yield threatening results, have convinced Stanley to escape northwards, away from potential danger. He urges Hastings to come with him. Hastings pooh-poohs Stanley's fears and tells the messenger to tell Stanley not to believe nightmares, to abandon his escape plan, and to meet Hastings at the Tower where "the boar will use us kindly." The councils will be safe, Hastings insists, for he and Stanley will attend one and "my good friend Catesby" the other. The messenger exits to deliver Hastings' message.
Stanley's dream speaks in symbols, implying that Richard is a deadly threat by showing his heraldic symbol (the boar) killing Stanley. Trusting the dream as a legitimate warning, Stanley wants to take measures to respond to that warning in waking life. Hastings, though, insists that dreams can't affect waking life, that they have no prophetic power and should be ignored. He thinks Richard is kind and doesn't see any threat. Previous scenes have showed that Catesby, the friend Hastings thinks he can trust, is involved in Richard's scheme. Hastings' trust is misplaced.
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Catesby then enters and floats the idea of Richard taking the throne to Hastings. Hastings is appalled. Catesby says Richard hopes for Hastings support and sends along the "good news" that Hastings' enemies will be killed today at Pomfret Castle. Hastings is glad to hear the news but still firmly opposes Richard's plot to take the crown. In an aside, Catesby alludes to Hastings' imminent death. Stanley enters, still worried about the divided councils. Hastings, cheerful, assures him "I know our state secure."
Richard intended for Hastings to interpret the news of the Pomfret executions as a reason to support Richard's rise to the throne, but Hastings doesn't. He's glad that his enemies will be killed, but remains loyal to Prince Edward—loyal to the normal order of secession to the throne. Though Hastings doesn't realize it, the words he has exchanged with Catesby have already sealed his fate: he will soon be killed, as Catesby says in his aside.
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A Pursuivant (a low-ranking heraldic officer), whom Hastings met back when he was imprisoned, enters just as Stanley and Catesby exit. Hastings brags that those who once imprisoned him will now be killed and "I in better state than e'er." He gives the Pursuivant money for a drink. A Priest enters and Hastings discusses a past favor. Buckingham enters and jokes that Hastings doesn't need a priest like those who are about to be killed at Pomfret Castle do. Buckingham and Hastings go off to the Tower for dinner. In an aside, Buckingham suggests that, unbeknownst to him, Hastings will be killed there.
Hastings boasting shows how confident he feels about his situation: he doesn't perceive any impending threat to his person, even though the audience knows (from Catesby's and Buckingham's asides) that Hastings will soon be murdered for refusing to support Richard's rise to the throne.
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