Act 4, scene 4
In front of the palace, Queen Margaret, Henry VI’s widow enters. She is about to depart for France but hides when she hears the Duchess of York and the Queen approaching. They are both mourning their losses. Margaret then comes forward and tells them to listen to the story of her own misfortunes, which have been many. She wants revenge on Richard and prays to God that he may die.
After Margaret exits, Richard enters. He is at the head of an army. The two women (his mother and his former sister-in-law) accuse and curse him. His mother tells him that he “camest on earth to make the earth my hell.” She curses him again and says she is praying that his enemies will be victorious. He will meet a bloody end, she says.
After the Duchess exits, Richard tells the Queen that he must talk to her about her daughter, Elizabeth. The Queen immediately thinks that the girl’s life must be in danger. She resolves to say anything to save her, including the claim that she is not really Edward’s daughter. She denounces Richard, while he insists that his intentions are not at all what she thinks. He says he will bring good to the Queen and to her daughter. Eventually he gets round to saying that he loves Elizabeth and wants to marry her. The Queen is incredulous and mocks him, but Richard tries to answer all her objections. He says he will forgive Dorset (her son) and the other rebels and give them all high office. Then he asks the Queen to go to her daughter and explain Richard’s intentions. The Queen asks him more questions to test his sincerity. She is skeptical and hostile to him but finally agrees to go to her daughter and get her to listen to his proposal. After the Queen exits, Richard makes a contemptuous remark about her.
Ratcliffe and Catesby enter. Ratcliffe says that Richmond’s powerfularmy is sailing for England, hoping when they land to connect with Buckingham’s forces.
Richard tells Ratcliffe and Catesby to round up support from the Duke of Norfolk and the Duke of Salisbury.
Stanley enters and confirms the news about Richmond, who is coming to England to claim the crown. Richard speaks harshly to him, doubting his loyalty, but Stanley says he will round up his forces and meet up with Richard wherever the king wants. Richard still does not trust him. He insists that Stanley leave his son behind. If Stanley should prove unfaithful to Richard’s cause, his son will be executed. Stanley exits.
Messengers enter with the news that the rebel forces are getting stronger as more men of substance in different parts of England join their cause. Buckingham’s army has been dispersed but no one knows where Buckingham himself is. There is a rumor that Richmond’s fleet has been destroyed by a storm and he is on his way back to Brittany. But this is soon discounted by another messenger who brings the news that Richmond has landed at Milford (this is Milford Haven in Wales) with a large army. The messenger also says that Buckingham has been captured. Richard resolves to march to Salisbury, and order that Buckingham be brought there.
Richard here offers something of a reprise of the scene in Act 1, when he succeeded in wooing Lady Anne, despite the fact that he killed her husband. In this scene Richard is in an immeasurably more powerful position and his unfortunate former sister-in-law, Elizabeth, is in the end left with little choice but to go along with the wishes of the man who has just killed her two sons. Richard of course makes promises about pardoning the rebels that he has no intention of keeping. Not constrained by any integrity, Richard says in any situation the words he considers most likely to advance his ambition and lust for power.