In a room at the Tower, Buckingham, Stanley, Hastings, the Bishop of Ely, Ratcliffe, Lord Lovel (another of Richard's minions) and others sit around a table while Officers of the Council stand attendant. The men are gathered to discuss the coronation date for Edward Prince of Wales, and decide on the next day, though they agree to wait for Richard (the lord protector to the Prince) to approve. Buckingham says he doesn't know what Richard's feelings will be as he is not as close to Richard as Hastings is. Hastings offers to endorse the date on Richard's behalf, as he assumes Richard will approve it. Just then, Richard enters.
Though everyone claims to agree on a coronation date, they must wait for Richard (who, as lord protector of the young prince, is the designated decision-maker for Edward Prince of Wales while Edward is still too young to rule England on his own) to give the final OK. Buckingham is, of course, lying when he says that Hastings knows Richard better than he does – Hastings' notion of Richard as a kind, peace-loving guy is totally mistaken, and Buckingham knows that Richard is actually about to have Hastings executed.
Richard sends the Bishop of Ely off to get strawberries for everyone, then takes Buckingham aside and recounts Catesby's report of Hastings' resistance to Richard's coronation. Richard and Buckingham exit. Ely returns. Hastings observes that Richard looked cheerful and that you can always tell how Richard is feeling based on his appearance – he never hides anything.
Hastings continues to be a deeply mistaken reader of Richard's character – Richard, masterminding liar, faker, and dissembler, is nothing like the transparent, honest man that Hastings' thinks he is.
Richard and Buckingham return and Richard asks everyone what should be done to those who "conspire my death with devilish plots of damned witchcraft." Hastings pipes up that such conspirators should be killed. Richard extends a withered arm as evidence of witchcraft worked against him by Queen Elizabeth and Mistress Shore. When Hastings' hesitates to agree the women are guilty, Richard orders Hastings to be decapitated. All exit except for Hastings, Lovel, and Ratcliffe.
Ever the calculating director, Richard lays a trap for Hastings in language – by making a ridiculous accusation, Richard tricks Hastings' into expressing doubt, then uses that doubt to accuse Hastings of disloyalty towards him. Richard thus swiftly disposes of Hastings.
In despair, Hastings regrets neglecting the signs given by Stanley's nightmare and his own horse's strange unwillingness to approach the Tower that day. He cries out that Queen Margaret's curse on him has been fulfilled. Ratcliffe and Lovel shush Hastings and hurry him along. "O bloody Richard!—miserable England!" Hastings cries, "I prophesy the fearfull'st time to thee…" All exit.
Too late, Hastings realizes how mistaken he was to ignore the warnings uttered by Stanley's dream and Margaret's curses. His exclamation links the misery of the state in the face of Richard's cruelty.