The Tragedy of King Richard III highlights the brief reign of an evil king bent on destroying everyone in line for the throne, securing himself as king at any cost.
The War of the Roses is over, and the House of York emerges victorious. Richard is the brother of King Edward IV and George Duke of Clarence, and he is determined to take the throne and destroy everyone in his path to make sure it stays secure. He has George murdered and the very sickly Edward IV dies shortly thereafter. While Edward’s son Prince Edward is next in line for the throne, he is too young to rule. Richard has Edward’s sons sent for and brought to the Tower of London. He convinces the Lord Mayor of London and Parliament that Edward’s sons are illegitimate; he marries Lady Anne and they are crowned king and queen the following day.
Meanwhile, Richard wants to make sure that Edward’s sons will not be a threat to his reign, so he asks Lord Buckingham to kill them. When Buckingham refuses, he falls out of favor with Richard, and Richard hires an assassin named Tyrell instead. The two boys are murdered in the Tower of London. Richard also plans to kill Queen Anne and marry Edward’s daughter Elizabeth, his niece, to solidify the lineage and his position as king. Queen Elizabeth arranges to have her daughter marry the Earl of Richmond instead, who raises up forces to attack Richard. The night before the final battle, the ghosts of all of the people Richard has murdered visit him and tell him he will not win the next day. These prophecies come true when most of Richard’s forces desert him, and Richmond eventually finds Richard wandering on the battlefield and kills him. Richmond is crowned King Henry VII and marries Elizabeth, uniting the houses of Lancaster and York and beginning the Tudor dynasty.
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Date Published: 1593
Major Themes: Ambition and power; manipulation; evil; fate vs. free will
Famous Quote: “Now is the winter of our discontent.”