Act 2, scene 1
At the royal palace in London, King Edward, who is very sick, presides over a reconciliation between feuding factions. First, Hastings and Rivers, the Queen’s brother, are reconciled. The Queen, her son Dorset, and Buckingham join in the general reconciliation. Richard enters and pledges friendship to all in the room. But then the Queen mentions Clarence’s name, and Richard says Clarence is dead. This is news to everyone, and they are all shocked. The king says that the order to kill Clarence was revoked; Richard responds that the counter order came too late.
Lord Stanley, also known as the Earl of Derby,enters. He asks the King if the life of a servant of his might be spared, even though he killed a man. The King responds by musing on the life of Clarence, regretting his death. He recalls how Clarence, after he forsook Warwick’s cause, remained loyal to him. And yet, the King says, no one came to him to plead for Clarence’s life, and now even a servant has someone pleading for his. He grants the favor to Stanley.
The King and Queen and others exit, leaving Richard and Buckingham. Richard tries to blame the Queen’s family for Clarence’s death.
As the King’s death approaches, there is antagonism between the Queen’s family, the Woodvilles, and those who are more loyal to the King’s side of the family. Dorset and Rivers, for example, are Woodvilles, whereas Hastings and Buckingham are loyal to the king. Richard of course merely pretends to be part of the general reconciliation. Motivated only by personal ambition, he is against anyone who is likely to obstruct his path to power; it doesn’t matter which side of the family they are on.
Historically, the marriage of the widow Lady Grey, formerly Elizabeth Woodville, to Edward IV, by which she became Queen, allowed the Woodville family to gain a lot of power in the land. Some of the more established lords resented this, and regarded the Woodvilles as upstarts.