Character Directory


King Edward IV of England (1442-1483) is the simply known as Edward until Act 3 in 3 Henry VI, King Edward IV receives his crown as a result of the machinations of his ambitious father, the Duke of York, and his heirs are murdered later by his brother, who succeeds him as Richard in.  

In 2 Henry VI Edward appears in 5.1 to support his father in his claim to the throne. Edward has only one line, which Richard immediately tops. In 3 Henry VI, although Edward comes into his own, he continues to be overshadowed by his brother. He becomes King, but the leadership of the Yorkist cause is clearly provided by Warwick, prior to that lord's defection, and by Richard. Edward displays the unscrupulous ambition that characterizes the aristocrats in all the Henry VI plays. He baldly displays his own dishonesty, claiming that '. . . for a kingdom any oath may be broken: /1 would break a thousand oaths to reign one year' (1.2.16-17). However, Edward is outclassed in criminality by his brother Richard.

Edward demonstrates a selfish disregard for the responsibilities of kingship, and his behavior necessitates a renewal of the Wars of the Roses. He ignores the benefits of an alliance with France and abandons a marriage to Lady Bonain order to satisfy his lust for Elizabeth). In the resulting war, he indulges in pointless bravado and permits himself to be captured in 4.3. After the final Yorkist victory, Edward casually allows Richard to murder the finally displaced King Henry, demonstrating a lack of concern for civil order that typifies England's corrupt public life. In Richard III Edward appears only in 2.1, on his deathbed. He learns of the death of Clarence, and his dismay, it is implied, leads to his own rapid demise. His death is reported in 2.2. 

Shakespeare's treatment of the reign of Edward IV is extremely unhistorical, for the playwright wished to emphasize the disruption of English public life that the coming of the Tudor dynasty repaired. Edward's 22-year tenure is presented as a rapid succession of quarrels and battles. In fact, though, Edward was a very competent ruler. He was judiciously merciful to most of the Lancastrians; he introduced badly needed financial reforms; he withdrew from France—at the cost of considerable personal popularity, but to the immense benefit of the country. His marriage to Elizabeth was not the chief, or even an important, cause of Warwick's rebellion. Although his lusty appetites, given much emphasis in the play, were well known to his contemporaries, they do not seem to have interfered with his public duty, although it has been suggested that over-indulgence in wine and women may have resulted in his early death.


Prince of Wales, Edward is the son and heir of King Edward IV whom Richard III murders. The Prince appears only once, when he arrives in London after his father's death. Although technically king, he is never crowned and is known as the Prince throughout the play. Being taken to the Tower of London and his eventual death the Prince, 12 years old, impresses us with his serious concern for history. He also provides an ironic commentary on the way the story of his own death has been transmitted, officially unrecorded but nonetheless known. -But say. my lord, it were not register'd /Methmks the truth should live from age to age (3.1 75-76). The murder—at Richard's instigation—of the Prince and his younger brother, the Duke of York, is reported in 4.3 and mourned thereafter It is clearly intended to be taken as the most heinous of Richard's crimes. 

Shakespeare had no doubt as to Richard's guilt and posterity, greatly influenced by Shakespeare ' has agreed. Modern scholarship, however, has thrown doubt on the whole question of the fate of the princes It is known that they entered the Tower in June 1483 and never emerged, but how they died and who was responsible are not clear and may never be, except in the unlikely event that new evidence is uncovered. 

In 3 Henry VI the Prince appears in the final scene as an infant, virtually a stage property, to be displayed by his father. The baby is kissed by his uncles, as a token of loyalty to King Edward. This incident is noteworthy for the behaviour of Richard, who characterizes himself in an aside as comparable to Judas in kissing one to whom he intends harm.

RICHARD Duke of York

Richard, Duke of York (1473-c. 1483) is the murdered nephew of Richard III.  The younger brother of the Prince of Wales and his successor to the throne, York is a flippant youngster, given to ill-considered jokes about Richard's deformity. He appears with his mother, Queen Elizabeth, and grandmother, the Duchess of York, in 2.4 and with his brother and others in 3.1. In the latter scene, he jests about Richard's dagger, in an ominous foreshadowing of his fate.  At the end of the scene, the two young brothers are escorted to the Tower of London, from which they will never emerge. Although their murder is commonly attributed to Richard, modern scholarship finds the fate of the princes to be impenetrably obscure, barring the unlikely emergence of new evidence. 

GEORGE Duke of Clarence

George York, Duke of Clarence (1449-1478) is the victimized brother of Richard III. Richard reveals in his opening soliloquy (1.1) that he has turned King Edward IV, his oldest brother, against Clarence, his next oldest. When Clarence is arrested, in the same scene, Richard sympathizes with him and promises him assistance, but in fact, he proceeds to hire two murderers to kill him. Thus Clarence is removed from the succession to the crown, leaving Richard in his place.  

In 1.4 we see Clarence in his cell in the Tower of London. He has just awakened from a terrible nightmare, in which he was drowned and went to hell.  There he encountered the spirits of both the Earl of Warwick, whom he had betrayed, and the one-time Prince of Wales, whom he had helped to murder (Both events are enacted, with Clarence appearing as George, in 3 Henry VI.) Awake but still afraid, he admits that his conscience is heavy. 

The murderers arrive, and Clarence learns that Richard, whom he had thought he might rely on in his distress, has hired them. He piteously bewails his fate. The Second Murderer, who had displayed pangs of conscience earlier, is prepared to relent, but the First Murderer proceeds to stab Clarence and, for good measure, seals him in a cask of wine to ensure that he won't survive. 

Clarence's death scene is an emotional highlight of the play. It has tremendous impact, shocking the audience, for Richard's villainy, which has been seductively entertaining up to this point, is now seen to have serious consequences. Clarence's account of his dream reveals a soul in torment; he speaks in passionate verse, the most lyrical in the play. His spiritual suffering—his heavy-hearted loss of hope and fear of death—is intense. The scene anchors much of the action that follows: although Richard's cold-hearted machinations result only in off-stage violence, they nevertheless cannot be witnessed without recalling this chilling evidence of their real weight. 

Shakespeare's account of Clarence's death has little relation to history, though the playwright certainly believed it to be true; he took it from his chief source for the History Plays, the account of the Wars of the Roses written by Edward Hall. Historically, Richard actually protested against Clarence's imprisonment and execution. However, Clarence's position was irreparable, for he had persisted in involving himself in plots against King Edward. After forgiving his brother several times (one of these occasions is dramatized in 3 Henry VI), Edward finally ordered Clarence's trial for treason, appearing in person as the prosecutor. Clarence was sentenced to death, and a few days later his death was announced, although there was no public execution, as would have been ordinary. This last detail may account for the persistence of the rumor that Richard had Clarence murdered, which was, by Shakespeare's time, accepted as fact.

RICHARD Duke of Gloucester

Richard III, King of England (1452-1485) is character in 2 and 3 Henry VI and title character of Richard III. Known simply as Richard or Gloucester until he is crowned in 4.2 of Richard ///, his ambition never ceases to drive him towards that moment. Richard is more than simply a villain; his dazzlingly evil nature, combining viciousness and wit, makes him as important and valuable to the drama, especially in Richard III, as any hero. He was Shakespeare's first great creation, marking a tremendous advance over earlier, more ordinary characters.  

Richard makes his first appearance late in 2 Henry VI, when he is called to support his father, the Duke of York. His role is minor; he is present chiefly as a foreshadowing of the sequels to the play. He is nevertheless a cleanly drawn figure, sardonically epigrammatic. For instance, he encourages himself in battle with the cry, 'Priests pray for enemies, but princes kill' (5.2.71). His bold and willfully, even pridefully, cruel nature is already evident, after only a few lines.  

In 1.1 of 3 Henry VI Richard's extraordinary personality bursts forth. As the nobles recount their exploits at the battle of St. Albans, Richard abruptly throws down the head of Somerset, saying, 'Speak thou for me, and tell them what I did (1.1. 16).' Richard's blood-thirstiness, not unmixed with dry humor, is evident throughout the play, pointing towards the horrors he is to commit in Richard III. In his famous soliloquy at the end of 3.2, he describes himself as able to '. . . smile, and murder whiles I smile'; he will 'set the murderous Machiavel to school' (3.2.182, 193). Killing the imprisoned King Henry VI, Richard raises'his bloody sword and sarcastically crows, 'See how my sword weeps for the poor king's death' (5.6.63). This bloody villain is fully conscious of his own viciousness and savors it with a cocky irony that seems very modern. At the close of the play, he even delightedly identifies himself with the arch-traitor of Christian tradition, Judas Iscariot. Richard's monstrously evil nature is thoroughly established in 3 Henry VI, in order that it may attain fullest fruition in Richard III

In Richard III the title character has the secondlongest part in all of Shakespeare's work (only HAMLET speaks more lines). He murders his way to the throne, killing his brother, his young nephews, his wife, and a number of political opponents. He is still a spectacular villain, with a fondness for commenting humorously on his atrocities before committing them. Once he becomes king, however, his wit and resourcefulness desert him; he clumsily alienates his allies, and quite simply panics when he first gleams of the approach of Richmond. In Act 5 he dies in battle, defeated at Bosworth Worth Field.  Richmond's triumph releases England from the violence and treachery of the Wars of the Roses

The personality of Shakespeare's Richard is formed in part by his physical deformity—a hunched back—referred to many times in the plays, often by Richard himself. At the end of.? Henry VI, for instance, he says, '. . . since the heavens have shap'd my body so, / Let hell make crook'd my mind to answer it' (5.6.78-79). He rationalies his rejection of human loyalties by theorizing that his physical nature has placed him beyond ordinary relationships. Thus he can claim, 'I am myself alone' (5.6.83). Others agree with him: a number of characters associate Richard's deformity with his evil nature. Queen Margaret, for example, asserts, 'Sin, death, and hell have set their marks on him . . .' (Richard III, 1.3.293), and various of his enemies identify him with a range of carnivorous animals and with such repulsive creatures as spiders, toads, and reptiles.

However, our fascination with Richard derives largely from the disturbing reality that he has undeniably attractive qualities as well. He has charisma and self-confidence, and he is plainly quite intelligent. He has great energy combined with immense self-control, and, probably most tellingly, he is extremely witty. He cracks a joke even as he plots the murder of his brother in 1.1.118-120 of Richard III

Richard wins admiration even as he repels because he plays to the audience directly. Through his monologues and asides, he brings us into an almost conspiratorial intimacy with him. He sometimes tells us what is shortly going to occur, and then comments on it afterwards. In practicing deceit, he also takes on different roles, much as an actor does: he plays a loyal follower of his brother King Edward IV, a lover opposite Lady Anne, a friend to his brother Clarence, and a pious devotee of religion before the Mayor and his entourage. 

With the collapse of his fortunes, Richard's personality changes. He loses his resilience and subtlety; he panics and is disorganized in the face of crisis. We learn that his sleep is troubled; such insomnia was a traditional consequence for royal usurpers, and Shakespeare's sources impute it to Richard conventionally, but the playwright makes more of it, letting both Anne and Richard himself remark on it, before presenting us with an actual nightmare vision in 5.3 of Richard III. At this low ebb, Richard seems almost deranged. He recognizes his terrible isolation from humanity and despairs, crying out in anguish that his death will neither receive nor deserve pity from anyone. However, Richard recovers his spirit later in the scene and leads his men into battle with renewed flippancy. 

Richard represents a well-known type who was a popular figure on the Elizabethan stage, the grandiose villain, first embodied in Tamburlaine, by Christopher Marlowe, still popular when Richard III premiered. However, the character has a longer pedigree than that. The medieval Morality Play featured a villain figure, the Vice, whose resemblance to characters in Shakespeare and Marlowe is not coincidental; both writers must have been familiar with the Vice since childhood. But Richard also incorporates a more modern archetype, the Machiavel, a calculating politician whose misdeeds are directed towards particular ends. The Vice's lewd jests and common horseplay give way to a grave assessment of political interest, although verbal wit is part of the Machiavel's character. The Machiavel is a naturalistic figure—a human being, if a depraved one—while the Vice is more allegorical in nature. Thus Richard's personality has a humanly believable quality that is lacking in the criminal-king of traditional history. 

It is plain that Shakespeare's character bears very little resemblance to the actual King Richard III, who ruled only briefly. Surviving accounts of his times were written largely by his enemies, and modem scholarship has discovered that the reality of his reign borelittle resemblance to the version Shakespeare received and popularized. 

Richard has long been envisioned as the physically repellent hunchback of legend. Thomas More first wrote of Richard's physical deformity, and Shakespeare followed suit. However, at his coronation Richard was stripped to the waist for anointing, in accordance with tradition, and this exposure seems to have provoked no comment. In fact, a hunched  back is nowhere evident in contemporary portraits or accounts of the man. It appears to have been a malicious fiction, although Shakespeare surely believed it to be true. More interesting are the playwright's purposeful alterations of the historical record as he had it. As was his usual practice, Shakespeare took many liberties with his already unreliable sources. For instance, at the end of 2 Henry VI, Richard is made to participate in a battle that occurred when he was only three years old. Richard actually lived in exile until after Edward was crowned. His part in history did not begin until the battle of Barnet, enacted in Act 5 of 3 Henry VI. Shakespeare wrote him into the action earlier, in order to begin to approach the grand denouncement in Richard III, which he must have foreseen as he wrote the Henry VI plays. Richard also provides an interesting foil for Edward's tenderer character. 

This premature introduction is magnified by giving Richard the desire to rule long before the question arises in the sources. Shakespeare's Richard begins to think, 'How sweet a thing it is to wear a crown' (3 Henry VI, 1.2.29), fully 23 years before he comes to put one on. Not only does this generate a long, slow rise in tension, but it also emphasizes Richard's nefarious ambition early. Thus, when he is finally brought down, the resolution of England's predicament is a clear one: Richard's career has been so strikingly criminal that his death stimulates no further fighting in revenge.  The historical Richard was a very different man, innocent of most, if not all, of the crimes imputed to him. Shakespeare's sources attributed the murder of Henry VI to Richard, and the playwright added urgency to his villain's action by inventing an impetuous journey to London for the purpose. Modern scholars hold that Edward gave the order for the ex-king's death; Richard, as Constable of England, would have been responsible for seeing the order carried out. Henry's son, the Prince of Wales, murdered by Richard and his brothers in 5.5 of,? Henry VI, actually died in battle. Richard appears to have opposed the execution of Clarence, which was definitely Edward's doing, historically. Richard's wife. Lady Anne, died naturally. 

That Richard did seize the throne is indisputable; that he had long plotted to that end seems unlikely. He could not have anticipated Edward's death at 40, and he seems to have been committed to a career as a ranking prince. He was clearly a trusted and reliable subordinate to his brother, governing the difficult northern provinces with marked success for 12 years. Edward had named Richard, the obvious choice, to serve as Protector after his death, ruling for his son, the Prince of Wales. But when Edward died, Queen Elizabeth and her relatives attempted a coup, keeping the news of the king's death from his brother, assembling military forces, and arrangeing for the Prince's hasty coronation. However, Richard overcame these manoeuvres and assumed his role as Protector. He apparently had plans for Parliamentary confirmation of this arrangement, along with the boy's later coronation, when another coup was attempted. Richard crushed this plot, but he now decided to forestall a third coup by taking the crown himself. It is impossible, with the evidence that is known today, to reconstruct the events of June 1483 precisely, but, as far as history indicates, this marks the beginning of the process that Shakespeare presents as starting two decades earlier. Also, Richard III compresses Richard's two-year reign into a few frantic weeks. He seems to have been a quite competent king, though the shortness of his troubled reign makes judgment difficult. Shakespeare was unconcerned with the strengths or weaknesses of Richard as ruler; he simply wanted to introduce Richard's splendid crash immediately after his seeming success. 

Richard may or may not have murdered Edward's two sons. Once presumed guilty—at least in good part on the strength of Shakespeare's evidence—Richard has attracted defenders in recent years. It has been observed that, once securely in power, he did not need to have them killed; that the Duke of Buckingham, thought to have coveted the crown himself, had a better motive; that Richmond, as Henry VII, might well have killed them, as he did a number of other possible pretenders to the crown.   However, the two youths were never seen again after entering the Tower in 1483, and responsibility must lie with Richard. 

This does not make him the fierce killer of the plays, of course; if he did have the princes murdered, he was simply following a fairly ordinary political convention of the day. However, what Shakespeare's rendering of Richard's career lacks in historical validity, it more than makes up for in theatrical success. Richard as a magnificent evildoer has entered our cultural consciousness, and there he remains; we can hardly wish it otherwise.

A young son of Clarence. (Boy)

Edward Plantagenet, Earl of Warwick, 1475-1499) is the son of Clarence. He appears in 2.2, in which he refuses to believe that his uncle, Richard in, has killed his father. He is not seen again, but we hear of his imprisonment by Richard in 4.3.36. Crimes against children are a recurring motif in the Henry VI plays and Richard III, and this instance is clearly intended to add to the enormity of Richard's crimes. The villain has felt it unnecessary to kill the boy, despite his position as a possible claimant to the throne, only because the boy is 'foolish' (4.2.55), meaning mentally retarded. It is unclear whether or not this was so, but it is known that the historical Boy, Edward of Warwick, was in fact imprisoned not by Richard but by his successor. Henry VII, the Richmond of the play. In fact, although the record is obscure, it is thought that Richard may have named Warwick his successor after the death of his own son (who does not appear in the play) in 1484. Later, after a number of people attempted to impersonate the imprisoned Warwick and seize power, Henry finally had him executed.


Henry Tudor Earl of Richmond (later King Henry VII 1457-1509) is the victor over King Richard III at the battle of Bosworth Field and his successor on the throne, as Henry VII. In 3 Henry VI Richmond plays a very minor but significant role. In 4.6 he appears as a child before the newly reinstated King Henry VI, who predicts that the boy will become a ruler and the salvation of England. This entirely fictitious episode, which Shakespeare took from his sources, reveals the extreme pro-Tudor bias of Elizabethan historiography and therefore of the History Plays. 

In Richard III Richmond's appearance in Act 5 is prepared for by Richard's panic in Act 4 at messages announcing his approach. Richmond himself arrives in 5.2; in 5.3 he is addressed by the spirits that appear to Richard on the night before the battle. In 5.5 he kills Richard in hand-to hand combat, and in the final episode, he pronounces an end to the Wars of the Roses, which had beleaguered England for a generation. He is a somewhat bloodless, if energetic, leader, pious and filled with an awareness of his own high mission. In addressing his troops, he can claim as allies, 'The prayers of holy saints and wronged souls' (5.3.242). He closes the play with a speech declaring a new era of peace and prosperity for England, ending with the sentiment, '. . . peace lives again. / That she may long live here. God say Amen.' 

Richmond is plainly an instrument of heavenly providence rather than a three-dimensional human being, as indicated by his rather stiff bearing and stuffy diction. He must be taken at his symbolic, ritualistic value: he is the antithesis of the ambitious nobility, exemplified by Richard, that has plagued England throughout the reign of Henry VI. He brings redemption for the crimes and sins that have been committed in the names of York and Lancaster. In a confrontation reminiscent of a medieval Morality Play, whose traditions still lived in Shakespeare's time, Richmond represents Good, winning a classic showdown against Evil. 

The historical Richmond was descended, through his maternal grandfather, from John of Gaunt, the original head of the Lancaster family, and he attracted the support of such former followers of Henry VI as the Duke of Oxford. He was the last surviving Lancastrian male and therefore fled England in 1471, after the battle of Tewkebury, and lived in Brittany and France. His mother, Margaret Beaufort, Countess of Richmond, remained in England, married Lord Stanley, and conspired against the Yorkist kings. She is mentioned in 1.3.20-29 of Richard III. She negotiated her son's marriage, announced by him in the final speech of the play, to the daughter of Elizabeth, thus uniting the York and Lancaster branches of the Plantagenet family.  Richmond's other grandfather was Owen Tudor, a minor Welsh nobleman who had married the widow of Henry V, the Princess Katharine of France who appears in Shakespeare's Henry V. Richmond inherited from his father his title and descent from the kings of France. 

After the time of Richard III, Richmond was to rule as Henry VII, the first monarch of the Tudor dynasty. He was a highly capable ruler, sometimes called England's greatest. He restored order following the wars and administered soundly, eventually leaving a large financial surplus to his heir, Henry VIII. Unhinted at in Shakespeare is the historical reality that Henry VII was every bit as ruthless as the Richard of the plays. While he adopted reconciliation as a general policy, he killed troublesome people when he saw fit. In fact, Shakespeare's Richard is saddled with several reprehensible deeds that Henry actually committed. For example, Richard says that he has imprisoned Edward of Warwick, the Boy of Richard III, at 4.3.36. But Henry incarcerated him because he was a potential claimant to the throne. After a number of people attempted to impersonate Warwick and seize power. Henry finally executed him in 1499. Shakespeare has Richard manipulate the life of Warwick's sister as well, marrying the Girl to a low-ranking man who cannot claim the crown. This was actually Henry's doing, too. 

Henry also sought to ensure the popularity of his usurpation by blackening the reputation of his predecessor, Richard. He encouraged the writing of vicious biographies that contributed to the legend embodied in Shakespeare's character. He also commissioned an official history of England from the Italian humanist Polydore Vergil; this work, published in 1534, helped create the understanding of the English past that was available to Shakespeare when he wrote his history plays.


Lord Cardinal (Thomas Bourchier, c. 1404-1486) In 3.1 the Cardinal is persuaded by Buckingham to remove the young Duke of York from sanctuary in a church.  The historical Bourchier was a politically accommodating prelate who crowned Edward IV, Richard III, and Henry VII, the Richmond of the play. In some modern editions of the play, the Archbishop of York is eliminated and his lines are given to the Cardinal, following the 16th-century Quarto editions. This change was presumably made as an economy for the acting company.


Thomas Rotherham Archbishop of York (1423-1500) Historical figure and minor character in Richard III, friend of Queen Elizabeth. In 2.4. when news arrives of the imprisonment of the Queen s allies the Archbishop urges her to seek sanctuary, and he offers her his assistance, even to the illegal extent of giving her the Great Seal of England, with which he has been entrusted. This incident, which Shakespeare took from Hall, emphasizes the villainy of Richard III by presenting opposition to it from a venerable the historical Rotherham was a powerful clergyman who held a number of secular posts, including that of Chancellor of England, bearer of the Great Seal. He was imprisoned for opposing Richard's accession but he was soon released. He withdrew from court politics for the remainder of his life, although he remained a prominent churchman.  In some modern editions of the play, the Archbishop of York is eliminated and his lines are given to Cardinal Bourchier, following the 16th-century Quarto editions. This change was presumably made as an economy for the acting company.


John Morton, Bishop of Ely (c. 1420-1500) is a pawn in the scenario arranged by Richard III as he strikes at Lord Hastings in 3.4. At a council meeting, Richard requests that the genial Ely send for some strawberries from his garden, thereby establishing a mood of cordiality that he shortly shatters with his accusations of treason. Both Hastings and the audience have been lulled into a false sense of security that is rudely smashed, in a manner symbolic of Richard's effect on the entire realm. As ineffectual as Ely seems here, he is later, at 4.3.46, said to have joined the forces of the Earl of Richmond, thus contributing to Richard's downfall. 

The historical John Morton had been a rising young ecclesiastical lawyer when the Wars of the Roses broke out. He became a firm Lancastrian, to the extent of joining Queen Margaret in exile. However, after the Yorkist victory, he submitted to the victors and resumed his clerical and legal career with great success. He was appointed Bishop of Ely in 1479, and he was the executor of the will of King Edward IV. But under Richard he fared less well. After the incident described above, Ely, as an adherent of the young Prince, was among those arrested. He was placed in the Tower of London, but the Duke of Buckingham took over his custody after several years and recruited him to his rebellious conspiracy. Ely joined Richmond abroad, and when that Earl was crowned as Henry VII, the Bishop became a prominent member of his government. Morton was also to become the patron of the young Thomas More, whose history was Shakespeare's source for the strawberry anecdote. Thus its historical accuracy seems certain.


Henry Stafford, Duke of Buckingham (1455-1483) is the most important supporter of Richard III before he deserts the King in response to his ingratitude. Buckingham acts as a spokesman for Richard's positions, especially to the Mayor and the people of London. His style of speaking, bombastic and obscure, is typical of devious politicians, and his wily, conspiratorial nature makes him an important adviser to Richard at several junctures, notably in hatching the plot against Hastings. He prides himself on his capacity for deceit in the remarkable conversation that opens 3.5. However, in 4.2, when Richard, now enthroned, proposes to go further and kill the young Prince of Wales and his brother, Buckingham is somewhat reluctant, perhaps sensing that a king should be more cautious. Richard, angered, then refuses Buckingham the earldom he had promised him.  Buckingham perceives that he is in danger of suffering Hastings' fate, and he decides to abandon the King. He raises an army in rebellion but is quickly captured. In 5.1 Buckingham, about to be executed, formally reflects on his circumstances, recollecting past oaths and prophecies almost in the manner of a Greek Chorus. Thus, in a prelude to the approaching doom of Richard, Buckingham invokes the sense of ordained fate that is central to the play. 

Shakespeare's sources offered several possible motives for Buckingham's revolt, but Shakespeare chose one that was definitely untrue, for Richard had given Buckingham his earldom prior to his defection. The question cannot be answered with the surviving evidence; he may simply have anticipated Richard's overthrow by Richmond. It has been suggested that Buckingham was ambitious to rule, for he had a distant claim to the throne himself, being descended from Thomas, Duke of Gloucester, the youngest brother of Richard II. Buckingham's father was the Duke of Buckingham of 2 Henry VI, and his son appears as Buckingham in Henry VIII.


John Howard, Duke of Norfolk (c. 1430-1485) is commander of the forces of Richard III at the battle of Bosworth Field. A quiet follower of orders, Norfolk brings Richard a note warning of treachery in the forthcoming battle, in 5.3. His death in the fighting is noted at 5.5.13. His son, his second-in-command, is the Earl of Surrey. Norfolk was a grandson of Thomas Mowbray, who appears in Richard II.  In 1483 the historical Norfolk received his dukedom for his services in securing for Richard the office of Protector. This may account for his silent presence in the stage directions to 3.4.


Thomas Howard, Earl of Surrey (1443-1524) a general under RICHARD HI at the battle of Bosworth Field. Surrey, second in command to his father, the Duke of Norfolk, appears briefly in 5.3. He seems despondent just before the fighting, but, when questioned by Richard, assures the King that his heart is lighter than his looks.  The historical Surrey was restored to his father's titles by King Henry VII, the Richmond of the play, following a period of disgrace. He appears in Henry VIII as the Duke of Norfolk). He was the father of another Earl of Surrey, who also appears in that play, and he was the grandfather of the poet Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey.


Rivers, Anthony Woodville, Earl of (c. 1442-1483) is the brother of Queen Elizabeth and one of the victims of Richard III. He is the son of Richard Woodville, who appears in 1 Henry VI. Rivers plays a very minor role in 3 Henry VI; in Richard III he is a pawn in a political game, being executed for no other offence than being the queen's brother and so a presumptive defender other son, the Prince of Wales who stands in the way of Richard in a climb to power' As he is led to his death with Grey and Vaughan, Rivers functions as a sort of Chorus referring to Pomfret Castle, scene of many such events and recollecting the curses of Queen who had foretold his end in 1.3.  The historical Rivers served King EDWARD IV as a viceroy governing rebellious Wales with great success. After the king's death, Richard assumed the office of Protector, ruling for the new heir.


Thomas Grey, Marquis of Dorset (1451-1501) is the son of Queen Elizabethby her first marriage. Dorset appears with his mother several times in the early scenes of the play. In 2.2 he offers her the rather cold comfort, on the occasion of the death of King Edward IV, that God is simply taking back the gift of royalty that He had given. In 4.1, when the Queen receives word that Richard III has seized the crown, Dorset is sent abroad to join Richmond. Following the First Folio stage directions, many modern editions include Dorset among Richmond's followers at Bosworth Field in 5.3, although he does not speak. In actuality, the invading Earl had left Dorset in France, as a hostage to ensure the co-operation of his mother's party.


Sir Richard Grey (d. 1483) is a kinsman of Queen Elizabeth and a victim of Richard III. Grey simply functions as a pawn in Richard's game of power politics.  He is executed in 3.3 solely because he is the Queen's relative. As he goes to his death, along with Rivers and Vaughan, he recollects the curses of Queen Margaret, who had anticipated this event in 1.3.  Shakespeare was apparently confused about Grey's relationship to Elizabeth, although his habitual carelessness about minor matters suggests that he probably did not concern himself about it. Historically, Grey was Elizabeth's son by her first marriage, but in the play he is implied to be her brother. However, in recalling Margaret's curse, he speaks as though he were Dorset, unquestionably a son of Elizabeth.


John de Vere, Earl of Oxford (1443-1513) is a follower of Queen Margaret and King Henry VI in the former play, and of Richmond in the latter. In 3 Henry VI Oxford supports Margaret against Warwick at the French court in 3.3. When Warwick changes sides and joins Margaret, Oxford participates in the campaign to reinstate Henry. He is captured at the battle of Tewkesbury and sentenced to imprisonment. The historical Oxford was not present at Tewkesbury, having fled the country after the earlier battle of Barnet. Several years later, he attempted another invasion but was defeated and 'captured, beginning the imprisonment mentioned in the play. After 10 years, he escaped and joined the Earl of Richmond in Paris. In Richard III Oxford, though historically an important general in Richmond's campaign, speaks only two lines.


Lord William Hastings (c. 1430-1483) is a Yorkist supporter who becomes a victim of political murder. In 3 Henry VI Hastings is only a minor nobleman attached to Edward IV, but in Richard III, he is more prominent. He exemplifies the pettiness of English public life during the Wars of the Roses. He profits from Richard's rise, as his old enemies are imprisoned and sentenced to death, but he is unwilling to aid his leader's attempt to seize the crown; he is reluctant to oppose the legal heirs. Richard accordingly turns on him, but Hastings, ignoring warnings, has too little imagination to conceive that his situation has changed. In 3.4 Richard fabricates a tale of treason, accuses Hastings, and condemns him to death in one sentence, as his victim sits speechless. In 3.7 Richard justifies Hastings' immediate execution, citing the dangers of the supposed plot.  The historical Hastings played an obscure role in the events surrounding Richard's accession. Shakespeare followed his source in having Richard fabricate Hastings' treason, but it was probably real. In June 1483 he apparently joined in an attempt to unseat Richard from his position as Protector of Edward's Young heir.  The plot failed, and Richard arrested Hastings and had him executed without a trial, as in the play.


Sir Thomas Stanley (c. 1435-1504) is a nobleman who betrays Richard III. Richard, suspecting a defection to the Earl of Richmond, requires Stanley's son as a hostage. Stanley allies himself with Richmond; at the battle of Bosworth Field, he refuses to march with his forces, to Richmond's advantage, but Richard's order to kill the hostage son is not carried out. After Richmond kills Richard in combat, Stanley places Richard's crown on the victor's head. 

Shakespeare's Stanley is a judicious, if not a very bold, politician. The career of the historical Stanley was rather less honorable, if similarly successful. He held a powerful position in the north of England, but he was difficult to trust. During the Wars of the Roses, he fought, and on occasion refused to fight, for both sides, as he strove to ally himself with the winning factors at any point. He accordingly ended up with high office under King Edward IV, and then under Richard. His wife, Richmond's mother, was implicated in the revolt of Buckingham, but Stanley maintained his position by turning against her, receiving custody of her estates. However, it is clear that he knew of Richmond's invasion before it happened. As a result, Richard took George Stanley hostage. George, who was an adult, not the boy spoken of in the play, was captured while attempting to escape; he saved his life by incriminating his uncle, William Stanley. Thomas Stanley did indeed withhold his troops at Bosworth, as Shakespeare reports, and Richard did order George killed but was ignored. Stanley was amply rewarded with high offices under Henry VII. 

In some editions, Stanley is designated Derby, for Shakespeare used that title in introducing him in 1.3. However, he is Stanley in all dialogue thereafter. The use of the title in the play is an anachronism, for Stanley only received it after the accession of Henry VII.  Most editors have made the correction in the dialogue headings and stage directions.  


Sir Francis Lovell (1454-1487) is a supporter of Richard III Lovell is willing to undertake Richard's dirty work; he assists Ratcliffe in the execution of Hastings, bringing that lord's severed head to Richard in 3.5.  The historical Lovell was Richard's Lord Chamberlain. He escaped capture after the battle of Bosworth Field and died two years later, fighting in an uprising against Richmond, by then King Henry VII. He was a distant cousin of Sir Thomas Lovell, who appears in Henry VIII.


Sir Thomas Vaughan (d. 1483) is an ally of Queen Elizabeth. Vaughan appears only to be executed by Richard in 3.3. In going to his death, he speaks one line.  The historical Thomas Vaughan was a member of the official household of the Prince of Wales, son of Elizabeth and King Edward IV. The dying king had stipulated that Richard should rule for the boy when he inherited the crown, but Vaughan participated in an attempt to unseat Richard as Protector. He was executed as a result, although the play makes his condemnation seem arbitrary.


Sir Richard Ratcliffe (d. 1485) is a follower of Richard III. Ratcliffe is a minor underling, distinctive chiefly for his efficient executions of Rivers, Grey, abd Vaughan in 3.3 and Hastings in 3.4. The historical Radcliffe was a long-time and trusted adviser of Richard who had fought with him at Tewkesbury.  He died at the battle of Bosworth Field.


Sir William Catesby (d. 1485) is a follower of King Richard III.  Catesby is a useful underling who appears in many scenes, mostly as a messenger, and he lacks a distinct personality. The historical Catesby was a lawyer who served as estate manager for Lord Hastings. He was captured and executed after the battle of Bosworth Field.


Sir James Tyrell (c. 1450-1502) is an unscrupulous and ambitious nobleman who agrees to arrange the murder of the Prince of Wales and his brother the Duke of York. Richard III, directed to Tyrell by a Page, commissions the killings in 4.2. At the beginning of 4.3, Tyrell returns to report that the deed has been accomplished by his hired ruffians. 

The historical Tyrell was not the unknown minor aristocrat depicted by Shakespeare. He had served the Yorkist cause and been knighted at the battle of Tewkesbury, and, at the time the princes were imprisoned, he was Richard's Master of Horse. After the accession of Henry VII, Tyrell continued to hold military posts until he was executed, on unrelated charges, in 1502. He was reported to have admitted at that time to arranging the murders, and Shakespeare follows Thomas More’s account of his alleged confession. Modern scholars generally find the story unconvincing, however, and the mystery of the princes' disappearance (and probable death) remains unsolved.


Sir James Blunt (d. 1493) is a follower of Richmond. Richmond uses Blunt as a messenger before the battle of Bosworth Field. Blunt is the great grandson of Sir Walter Blunt, who appears in 1 Henry IV. He may have been selected for his tiny role, from all the possible officers in Richmond's army, as a gesture towards the Blunt family, who were Stratford landowners of Shakespeare's day, and were related to the playwright's friends in the Combe family.

HERBERT An officer under Richmond.  Herbert, whose father , William of Pembroke.

Brakenbury (Brackenbury), is  the commander of the Tower of London and thus the chief jailer of, first, Clarence and, later, the young Prince Edward and his brother, York.  Some editions of the play follow the first Quarto and assign Brakenbury the lines of the Keeper in 1.4.  The historical Brakenbury was a Constable of the Tower, but not at the time of Clarence's death. The inconsistency doubtless resulted from Shakespeare's marked compression of historical time in the early part of the play. Brakenbury was killed at the battle of Bosworth Field, as is reported in 5.5.14.

CHRISTOPHER Sir Christopher Urswick was a follower of Richmond.  Prior to his invasion, Sir Christopher makes contact worth Lord Thomas Stanley.  Richmond's stepfather. who confirms his intention to defect from Richard III.  The historical Urswick was a priest in the employ of Margaret Beaufort, Richmond's mother and Stanley's wife.
Priest A friend of Lord Hastings.  Hastings engages in small talk with the Priest in 3.2 demonstrating his naive lack of concern about the danger from Richard that he has been warned about.

One of two named gentlemen among the group accompanying Lady Anne and the corpse of Henry VI in 1.2


Berkeley is one of two named gentlemen among the group that accompanies Lady Anne and the corpse of Henry VI in 1.2.

Lord Mayor

Mayor of London is a subservient figure who is cowed by Richard III. The Mayor appears in several scenes in Act 3. He provides a cover of legality for Richard's actions, approving an execution and acclaiming Richard as king when he moves to seize the throne.


Sheriff is the officer who escorts the Duke of Buckingham to his execution in 5.1. In the Quarto editions, this part is assigned to Ratcliffe, apparently reflecting an economy measure in some early productions.


Elizabeth Woodville (Woodvile), Lady Grey (later Queen, 1437-1492) is an historical figure and character in 3 Henry VI and Richard III, the wife of King Edward IV. Her brother is Lord Rrivers in the same plays, and her father is Richard Woodville in 1 Henry VI. Known as Lady Grey until Act 4 of 3 Henry VI, Elizabeth becomes Queen when Edward marries her after she refuses to become his mistress. Edward was already promised to Lady Bona of France, so the marriage becomes a stimulus for warfare. Elizabeth is a pawn in the troubled politics of the time. However, she displays dignity in an awkward position, as in her speech at 4.1.66-73, and her instinct to protect her unborn child in 4.4 is also noteworthy. She quite properly distrusts the treacherous and violent noblemen of the disturbed nation, but she is powerless. 

In Richard III Elizabeth is cursed in 1.3 by the former Queen, Margaret, and sees her enemy's wishes come true as Edward dies and Richard murders her two sons by Edward. He also has her brother, Rivers, and a son, Grey, executed, while another son, Dorset, is forced into exile. However, Richard fails to exploit her family further. Elizabeth resists him in 4.4, when he attempts to win her approval of his plan to marry her daughter. She rejects his efforts to swear an oath, stifling him until he is reduced to wishing ill on himself, fatefully (4.4.397-409). Elizabeth suspends the conversation at 4.4.428-429, leaving the resolution of the matter in doubt. (Her daughter is betrothed by the victorious invader Richmond at the play's end.) 

Historically, Warwick's alienation from Edward was provoked by disagreements over policy and not simply by the King's marriage, as Shakespeare would have it, but among the minor causes was the behavior ,of the greedy Woodvilles. Elizabeth Woodville was the first commoner to become Queen of England, and her many male relatives exploited her new position by marrying the cream of eligible heiresses. However, Elizabeth attracted supporters when, after the death of King Edward, her son inherited the crown. Edward had appointed Richard the boy's Protector, with ruling power, before he died; Elizabeth's allies attempted to circumvent this arrangement with a coup. They were defeated by Richard, as in the play, though he treated Elizabeth herself with great generosity and provided her with a distinguished place at his court. Richard repeatedly denied rumors that he planned to marry Elizabeth's daughter. In fact, since he had in part based his claim to the throne on the charge that Edward himself was illegitimate, an attempt to marry his daughter would seem self-defeating. However, Shakespeare's sources reported the rumors, and the playwright expanded them into a powerful scene. Elizabeth herself had other plans; it appears that she secretly allied herself with Richmond (later King Henry VII) before his invasion, with the agreement that, should he succeed, he would marry the daughter, which he did. Elizabeth lived out her life as an honoured dowager at the court of her son-in-law.


Margaret of Anjou (1430-1482) is the French-born Queen, and later widow, of King Henry VI. Taken as a single role, running through four plays, Margaret is surely the greatest female part in Shakespeare. She develops from an ingenuous young woman thrust into prominence, through a career as a scheming plotter and a courageous and persistent military leader, to a final appearance as a raging, Furylike crier of curses against her triumphant enemies. 

In 1 Henry VI Margaret plays only a brief role as a French prisoner of war intended as a bride for King Henry by the devious Suffolk, who loves her himself. Her importance is chiefly to prepare the groundwork for the action of 2 Henry VI. She replaces Joan La Pucelle (Joan of Arc) as the symbolic Frenchwoman who plagues an England that is divided by the selfish ambitions of the aristocracy. Her appearance marks the completion of one disaster, the loss of France, and begins another, a civil war. 

In 2 Henry VI Margaret's flawed personality is demonstrated early on. She conspires with Suffolk to bring about the fall of Duke Humphrey of Gloucester because she resents Gloucester's influence over the King and her own resulting insignificance. She displays an evil temper when she abuses the Petitioners in 1.3; later in this scene she mocks her husband's piety. When Gloucester is forced by his wife's disgrace to leave his position as Lord Protector, Margaret exults, comparing Gloucester's relinquished scepter of office to an amputated limb (2.3.42). We are not surprised when this bloody-minded woman proposes killing her enemy to ensure against his possible return to power. When the King mourns Gloucester's subsequent murder, Margaret dares to complain that Henry is paying too little attention to her. Henry banishes Suffolk from England for his part in the crime, and, as the Queen and the Duke bid each other farewell, they reveal their passionate love. Shakespeare, aware as always of the complexities of human nature, offsets his portrait of this villainess by evoking a glimmer of sympathy for a woman losing her lover. 

In 3 Henry VI the Queen assumes a major role in the civil war, replacing the ineffectual King at the head of his armies. Her bold and cruel nature reveals itself most fully at the battle of Wakefield, when York has been captured. Margaret insists on postponing his death so that she may torment him with barbs and, most chillingly, with evidence of the murder of his child, Rutland. Before he dies, York rages at her, calling her a 'she-wolf of France' (1.4.111), an epithet that has been applied to her by writers ever since, and as a 'tiger's heart wrapp'd in a woman's hide' (1.4. 137), a line that was parodied in the earliest reference to Shakespeare that has survived. 

At the crucial battle Townton, Margaret is plainly the leader of the King's forces; in fact, she orders Henry to stay away from the fighting. Although the battle is lost and York's son Edward is enthroned in Henry's place, Margaret refuses to give up and she goes to France in search of military aid. When she is once again prepared to fight, she sends word to Edward, 'Tell him my mourning weeds are laid aside, / And I am ready to put armour on' (3.3.229-230). Despite her viciousness, this dauntless warrior does command some admiration. 

The subsequent battle of Tewkesbury results in Margaret's final defeat. Forced to witness the killing of her son, the Prince of Wales, Margaret is reduced to lamentations and curses ironically similar to those delivered by York just three acts earlier. Richard, later Richard III, wishes to kill Margaret, saying, 'Why should she live to fill the world with words?' (5.5.43). He aptly predicts her role in Richard III. 

Margaret's role in that work is limited to only two scenes, but it is a very powerful element of the play, for she represents Nemesis, the personification of retribution through fate, a theme that underlies the entire minor Tetraology, which Richard III closes. In 1.3 she heaps elaborate curses upon her victorious foes, reserving for Richard her choicest and subtlest imprecations, hoping that his punishment not come to pass until his 'sins be ripe' (1.3.219). In the formal and theatrical manner of a Greek Chorus, Margaret restates past grievances and suggests future developments. She departs with the prediction that her enemies will come to regard her as 'a prophetess' (1.3. 301). Before her return, in 4.4, many of her curses will have been substantially fulfilled through Richard's murderous malignity, and Richard's own downfall is in progress. Several of Richard's victims reflect on Margaret's curses as they go to their deaths, thereby making more evident her role as Nemesis. 

In 4.4 Margaret gloats over the misfortunes of Queen Elizabeth, and leaves for France, content that she has stayed in England long enough to witness the fall of those who brought about her decline. As she departs, the climax of the play is about to unfold, and she has fulfilled her function. As an almost supernatural embodiment of Vengeance, she has represented an amoral world that is now to be overcome by the Christian reconciliation of Richmond. 

Although Margaret of Anjou was a central figure in the Wars of the Roses, Shakespeare took considerable liberties with her story. He magnified the importance, and the evil, of a Queen who only naturally used her strengths to shore up the fortunes other incompetent husband. Her foreignness and her gender made her useful as a witchlike figure at the centre of the web of treachery and violence that characterize the plays of the minor tetralogy. 

For instance, Margaret's love affair with Suffolk, from its beginnings in 1 Henry VI, is entirely fictitious. In Part 2 Shakespeare ascribes to her an important role in English politics almost from the moment she sets foot in England in 1444. In fact, Margaret was a 14-year-old bride with no political experience, placed in an unfamiliar court and country, and she had little or no impact on English affairs for a decade. The fall of the Duchess of Gloucester, which she helps bring about in the play, occurred historically before her arrival. The Duke of Gloucester was probably not murdered, and Margaret had little to do with his political defeat in any case. In 1453 she attempted to assume the Regency of the realm during the period of her husband's insanity (ignored by Shakespeare). However, government by a Frenchwoman was unacceptable to the English aristocracy, and York was appointed Protector. His replacement by the Queen's protege, Somerset, eventually led to the opening of the wars, with the first battle of St. Albans. 

The Queen was not present at that conflict, as she is in Shakespeare, but in the period immediately following it, she became an important leader of Henry's forces. However, the central incidents in the playwright's version of Margaret's role as a leader are fictitious. The Queen was not present to seize control on the occasion of Henry's concessions to York, enacted in 1.1 of 3 Henry VI; nor was she a party to the killing of York, depicted with such extravagance in 1.4. Although she was indeed a force behind the later renewal of Lancastrian hopes, Warwick was far more important. She was in any case neither captured at Tewkesbury nor forced to witness her son's death; he was actually killed in the fighting, and she escaped to be captured a week later. She was imprisoned for several years and then ransomed by the King of France, to whose court she retired for the last six years of her life. 

In Richard III Margaret's mere presence constitutes a final distortion of history, for she first appears on an occasion that actually took place only after her death in France. Shakespeare ignored this reality in order to use once more, in a highly symbolic manner, the strong but malign character he had developed in the course of the Henry VI plays.


Duchess of York, Cicely Neville (1415-1495) is the mother of Richard III and his brothers, Edward IV and Clarence. The widow of Richard, Duke of York, a major figure in the Henry VI plays, she was also the mother of Rutland, who figures briefly in 3 Henry VI. The Duchess is a symbolic figure, whose role is to lament Richard's evil nature in a stylized manner reminiscent of a Greek Chorus. Shakespeare's sources hardly mention her; it is thought that the playwright was influenced by similar characters in the plays of Seneca. The historical Cicely Neville was a daughter of Ralph, Earl of Westmoreland, who appears in 1 and 2 Henry IV and Henry V.


Lady Anne (Anne Neville, 1456-1485) the wife of King Richard III. Courted by Richard—the murderer other late husband, the Prince of Wales, and his father, King Henry VI—Anne is half-hypnotized by his wordsand accepts a ring from him in 1.2. When she appears again, in 4.1, she is Richard's wife, and she is called to be crowned following his coup d'etat. She predicts that he will murder her, and the play implies that he does so. 

The historical Anne is alluded to, although in error, in 3.3.242 of 3 Henry VI, when the Duke of Warwick agrees that his eldest daughter shall marry the Prince. Actually, Anne was Warwick's younger daughter, and, although she and the Prince were betrothed, they apparently did not actually marry. In any caseshe married Richard in 1474. Historically, she did not attend the funeral of Henry VI, and her dialogue with Richard is entirely fictitious; Shakespeare invented it in order to create a scene that contrasts with Richard's later effort to negotiate a marriage with the daughter of Queen Elizabeth). Also, there has never been any evidence that Anne was murdered; she seems to have died a natural death.


Girl (Margaret Plantagenet, 1473-1541) is the daughter of Clarence). The Girl mourns her father's murder in 2.2 and is present but silent in 4.1. Richard is fearful that a husband of the Girl might claim the throne, her father having been the heir apparent. He remarks in 4.3.37 that he has therefore married her to a lowranking husband, who cannot claim the crown. Historically, this manoeuvre was performed by Richard's conqueror and successor, Henry VII, the Richmond of the play. At the age of 68, being the last surviving Plantagenet, Margaret was beheaded by a paranoid Henry VIII.


Ghosts are any of 11 minor but significant characters in Richard III, the ghosts are Richard’s victims who appear to the King and his enemy Richmond in 5.3, on the eve of the battle of Bosworth Field. The ghosts each deliver brief messages, insisting that Richard shall 'despair and die' and assuring Richmond of victory. The ghosts appear in the order in which they died: the ghosts of the Prince of Wales and his father, Henry VI, hark back to murders Richard committed in 3 Henry VI, the preceding play in Shakespeare's Tetralogy. Next appears the ghost of Richard's brother Clarence, followed by those of lords Rivers, Grey, and Vaughan. The ghost of Lord William Hastings comes forth next, succeeded by those of the two children Richard had ordered killed—another Prince of Wales and his brother York. Richard is then faced by the ghost of his wife Anne, only recently eliminated so that the King could make a politically convenient second marriage. The ghost of Richard's closest ally in his bloody rise to power, the Duke of Buckingham, executed only two scenes earlier, appears last. Shakespeare's source, the history by Edward Hall, mentions rumors that Richard had complained of nightmares before the battle, but the content of the dreams appears to be the playwright's invention.


Messenger are bearers of news. In 2.4 a Messenger brings word to Queen Elizabeth that her son and brother have been imprisoned, and in 3.2 a Messenger delivers to Hastings an account of an ominous dream from Stanley. In a highly dramatic use of messengers, Shakespeare brings four on stage successively in 4.4, within a few lines, to demonstrate Richard's lack of control as news floods in of rebellion against him. In 5.3 one last Messenger brings Richard word of Stanley's desertion at Bosworth Field.


Pursuivant Hastings is a petty official. In 3.2 Lord Hastings, converses briefly with his like-named acquaintance, conveying the information that his enemies, the allies of Queen Elizabeth, have been imprisoned. The Lord remarks that they had last met when he himself had been under arrest and in danger of execution; the audience is aware that, ironically, he is about to be imperiled again. This curious incident, although it depicts a historical event recorded in Shakespeare's sources, seems to have little point in the drama, unless it is intended to help to emphasize the intricate workings of fate, by virtue of the coincidences of names and circumstances. However, many editions of the play have followed the First Folio version in ignoring this character's name, referring to him only by his title, Pursuivant, which signifies a minor subordinate of a herald.

First Murderer

First Murderer is one of two hired assassins employed by Richard III to kill his brother the Duke of Clarence. The First Murderer coolly accepts his role as a killer, whereas the Second Murderer has an attack of conscience as they approach their victim in 1.4. Later in this scene, when Clarence pleads for mercy and the Second Murderer seems inclined to yield, the First stabs the Duke, carries him off stage, and drowns him in a large barrel of wine.

Second Murderer

Second Murderer is one of the two assassins hired by Richard III to kill his brother the Duke of Clarence. The Second Murderer has an attack of conscience as the two approach their victim in 1.4, but the First Murderer reminds him of the money they are to receive, and he recovers. Their short exchange provides the only real comic relief in the play. Later in this scene, in an entirely serious vein, the Second Murderer shows an inclination to grant Clarence the mercy he pleads for The First Murderer thereupon finishes off the duke, and the Second declares that he is too remorseful to accept payment and leaves the reward to his colleague.


The Scrivener is a clerk who learns of a crime committed by Richard HI. In 3.6 the Scrivener, whose job is to make formal written copies of documents, knows that a certain indictment he has copied is false. Supposedly the record of a proceeding justifying the hasty execution of Lord Hastings, it was actually written before Hastings had even been accused of any misdeed. The Scrivener realises that Richard has arranged for the death of an innocent man through legal means, and he grieves that the state of public affairs permits such a ploy to succeed.  This incident, like one in 2.3, serves to emphasize that corruption can never be secret. The common people become aware of such cynical machinations, and society comes closer to political chaos as its leaders seem increasingly untrustworthy. This pattern grows more evident as Richard's ambitions come to dominate public life.


Citizen are any of several minor characters in Richard III, common people of London who respond to the sinister affairs surrounding the crown. In 2.3, three Citizens discuss the death of King Edward IV and the ambitions of Richard HI in tones of anxious foreboding One of them summarizes their viewpoint: All may be well- but if God sort it so / 'Tis more than we deserve, or I expect' (2.3.36-37). In 3.7 a number of Citizens accompany8 the MAYOR (3) to witness Richard's charade of unwillingness to accept the crown, and their silence speaks volumes about the usurpers impropriety.


The Gentleman vainly attempts to prevent Richard III from interrupting the funeral procession of Henry VI early in 1.2, and then restarts the procession, at Richard's command, later in this scene. He speaks one line on each occasion. His first line is sometimes assigned to a Halberdier, for the abuse the character takes from Richard is thought inappropriate for a gentleman. Villainous though he is, it is supposed that Richard would observe the formal distinctions between aristocrats and commoners.


Ralph Shaa (or John) (d. 1484) is one of two clergymen who, disguised as Bishops, accompany Richard III as he receives the Mayor in 3.7. This imposture is intended to create an air of religiosity about the would-be usurper. Shaa and Friar Penker were summoned by Richard in 3.5. The historical Shaa, sometimes thought to have been named John, was a minor clergyman. He is known to have been a brother of the Mayor.


Page is an attendant to Richard in. In 4.2 Richard asks the Page to recommend an ambitious nobleman to do a desperate deed. The youth names James Tyrell, whom Richard commissions to murder his nephews.


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