Act five scene five opens with Richard alone in prison at Pomfret Castle. Speaking a soliloquy, Richard says that he would want to compare his prison to the world, but cannot since the world is filled with people and the prison is complete solitude. To solve this problem, he says his brain will “prove the female” to his soul, his soul will be the father, and together they will create thoughts that will people his isolated prison world. His many thoughts give him many roles to play in prison, but in none of them is he happy, for he has always been “unkinged” by Henry.
In this interesting theatrical soliloquy, Richard reflects on losing the throne and his own despair. Suffering in prison, he envisions a marriage and procreation between his brain, which he figures as female, and his soul, which he figures as male. Together, soul and brain create thoughts and experiences, as well as theatrical roles. Interestingly, his body is left out of this discussion, as he has lost the body politic of England and smashed his body in the form of the mirror.
Suddenly, Richard hears faint music, which is painful, since he cannot hear it uninterrupted. He reflects on time, which he wasted and which now wastes him. He compares himself to a clock, and says that his perception of time is now only marked by sighs and tears and groans. He is afraid that the music will make him insane, but he values it as a sign of love to himself, which is extremely rare in what he views as the “all-hating world.”
In his last moments, Richard continues to reflect on himself with figurative language, this time conceiving of himself as a clock. His experience of time, an external thing, is modified by his internal state of sadness, suggesting the power of the interior over the world, which he now views as terrible and “all-hating.”
Here a groom from the stable enters to look at the man that was once his king. The groom explains that he dressed the horse that Henry rode on recently, and Richard asks if the horse bore Henry proudly, hoping that it might have thrown him to the ground. As Richard again laments being usurped by Henry, the prison keeper enters and instructs the groom to leave.
Richard imagines an image of a falling Henry, since he himself has fallen, but for now the image is only imagined, as Henry sits proudly on the English throne and Richard nears his death.
After a few exchanges, Richard, who is tired of his imprisonment, begins beating the keeper. The keeper calls for help, and in rush the murderers—Exton and servants. Richard is able to kill two servants, but Exton ultimately strikes him down. In his final breath, Richard tells Exton that he has stained the king’s land with the king’s blood. He cries that his soul is going up while his body sinks, and he dies.
For pretty much the first time in the play, Richard takes action and tries to change his situation. But beating the keeper only ushers in the murderers, and though Richard is able to kill two of them, Exton is ultimately able to slay the former king. The king’s final experience of a rising soul and sinking body is another powerful example of the dual imagery of rising and falling that parallels Henry’s ascension to the throne and Richard’s downfall.
Exton then laments spilling valor and royal blood, and wishes that the deed was good. He decides to take the dead king back to the living king.
Exton seems distraught to have killed a former king and spilled what still seems like sacred blood, though he believed he was acting according to the new king’s wishes.