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Richard III Complete WHITE.png

by William Shakespeare

Directed by Alex Pepperman

Summary of Richard III

Summary of Shakespeare's


Jealous and crippled, Richard of Gloucester wants to be King of England. To do so, he manipulates and deceives family and foe alike. After his brother King Edward IV dies, he murders everyone in line to the throne: his other brother George (Clarence), all of his nephews and all those who oppose him in becoming King Richard III.


In the end, Henry Tudor of Richmond raises an army, slays Richard in battle, and claims the throne as King Henry VII, uniting the warring branches of the Plantagenet family—York (the white rose) and Lancaster (the red rose)—and ending the legendary War of the Roses.


More detail: 2 minute read


Act I

Richard of Gloucester, the brother of King Edward IV, is determined to steal the crown of England for himself. His plot begins as he romantically pursues Lady Anne, whom he recently made a widow. He woos her as she accompanies the funeral procession of her father-in-law, King Henry VI (whom Richard also killed). Anne submits to Richard's advances and becomes Duchess of Gloucester. Richard engineers the imprisonment of his elder brother, Clarence (George), in the Tower of London, and has him murdered a short time later.

Act II

King Edward IV is ill, and Richard is appointed Lord Protector to govern in his place, aided by Lord Hastings and the Duke of Buckingham. Margaret, former queen of Henry VI; Queen Elizabeth, Edward's wife; and the widowed Duchess of York, Richard's mother; mourn their state. Margaret curses Richard and the kingdom.



To counter any claims to the crown, Richard confines his nephews, the young Prince of Wales and his brother, in the Tower of London.  Buckingham assists Richard's rise to power by helping persuade the Lord Mayor and the people of London to support their faction. When disease kills King Edward IV, Richard is proclaimed King Richard III.

Richard has Lord Hastings, the Lord Chamberlain, executed for attempting to thwart him. Richard also sends an assassin to smother the sleeping princes in the tower. Buckingham suspects Richard's role in the death of the young princes. Then when he is denied an earldom, Buckingham seeks to raise an army against Richard. Richard captures and executes him. Meanwhile, Richard wants Elizabeth of York, his brother Edward IV's young daughter, as a new wife to secure his position as King. He has his current wife, Lady Anne, murdered.


Act V

Henry Tudor, Earl of Richmond and heir to the Lancastrian claim to the throne, gathers an army in France to oppose Richard's tyrannical reign. Their armies meet at Bosworth in Leicestershire. The night before the battle, the ghosts of Richard's victims haunt and curse Richard, while appearing to Richmond and blessing him for the battle. Richmond kills Richard III on Bosworth Field and is proclaimed Henry VII of England. He plans to end the ‘Wars of the Roses' by marrying Elizabeth of York and becoming the link between the white rose of York to the red rose of Lancaster.

— Shakespeare Birthplace Trust with edits by Alex Pepperman

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Cast & Crew | Richard III | 2022
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