Act Five: The Dog (or Hog) is Dead, Henry is the Fifteenth-Century Rickey Henderson, and Margie Bats .916

In Act Five, Scene One of Richard the Third, we see Buckingham, the former advisor and counsel for Richard, led to his execution.  He asks if Richard will “let (him) speak with (Richard)” (V.i.1), but the answer is negative.  Richard doesn’t appear in this short scene which ends with Buckingham’s realization:

Now Margaret's curse is fallen upon my neck.
'When he,' quoth she, 'shall split thy heart with sorrow,
Remember Margaret was a prophetess.'

— V.i.25-27

that was #12 (the last) of Margaret’s Dozen

In Act Five, Scene Two, we finally get to meet Henry, Earl of Richmond (that is, if you don’t count little Henry Tudor’s non-speaking cameo in The Third Part of Henry the Sixth [Act Four, Scene Seven]).  He speaks with gratitude of the support he’s been granted, bemoans the “tyranny… (of) the wretched, bloody and usurping boar” (V.ii.2, 7), and takes on this conquest “In God’s name” (V.ii.14).  All perfectly heroic, all perfect for the next King of England.

but I can’t help to get just the slightest self-aggrandizing vibe from his final line; when speaking of hope, he says, “Kings it makes gods; and meaner creatures kings” (V.ii.24)… he may be the “meaner creature” now, but he’s doing all this to become a king… won’t then hope make him a “god”?  just can’t trust messianic leaders… they give me the willies

Then we get to the centerpiece of the fifth and final act, Scene Three.  At 352 lines, it is the longest third scene in any fifth act in the Canon.  We see Richard make camp and have his tent pitched, then the same with Richmond.  We hear each of them give night-before speeches to his nobles.  They both sleep (more on that in a second), they both wake.  They both give orations to their troops before the battle.  All on the same stage, in parallel.  It’s been a while since I’ve seen it staged (over 15 years), so I can’t quite remember how it was done in those productions… I only look at the scene now and think, “My God, what a freaking nightmare to stage.”

we may need to spend a day’s blog entry on this… yeah, we just might have to…

What we hear in Richard’s lines, however, is just as interesting as the dilemma of how to stage the scene.  Gone are the long, flourishing speeches.  Now we get mostly short, choppy sentences.  Lines that can’t be stretched to full pentameter.  And worst of all, decay in thought.  We now have a man uncertain and seemingly resigned to his fate: “Here will I lie tonight. // But where tomorrow? Well, all’s one for that” (V.iii.7-8).  He’s not the same man as the wickedly charming rogue in Act One.

When Richmond arrives, his lines are not full of uncertainty, but of directorial leadership (“I’ll draw the form and model of out battle” [V.iii.24]), and before they sleep, it is Richmond, NOT Richard, who gets the soliloquy, which takes the form of a devout prayer.  And then he sleeps.

As each sleeps, they are visited by the ghosts of the dead:

  • Prince Edward, son of Henry the Sixth
  • Henry the Sixth
  • George Duke of Clarence
  • Rivers, Grey, and Vaughan
  • Lord Hastings
  • the two young Princes
  • Lady Anne
  • Buckingham

Needless to say, each curses Richard in the coming day’s battle, and each praises and encourages Richmond.

again, what a nightmare — no pun intended — to stage

Richard wakes “out of a dream” (V.iii.177 stage direction):

Give me another horse: bind up my wounds.
Have mercy, Jesu!--Soft! I did but dream.

— V.iii.178-179

He has dreamt of the upcoming battle.  He dreams of losing his horse.  He dreams of being wounded.  He dreams, even, of begging for mercy.  This is a “tormenting dream” (I.iii.226).

and that, my friends, would be #10 on your Margaret’s Dozen scorecard…

And this spurs Richard’s final soliloquy (one that we’ll talk about in greater length later in the month, but…), one filled uncertainty and discussions of guilt.

hmmmm, guilt…. right, I think you can now check off #8 on your Margaret’s Dozen scorecard…

Richard is a man more than a little unsettled… so much so that when Ratcliffe comes to wake him, Richard exclaims, “Zounds, who is there?” (V.iii.209), and later admits “O Ratcliffe, I fear, I fear!”  (V.iii.215). Does this make Ratcliffe Buckingham’s replacement as confidante?

Richmond is in no such unsettled state: his was a night filled with “the sweetest sleep and fairest-boding dreams” (V.iii.228).  Yes, the night (and one supposes, life) is good for Richmond, and he is ready immediately to “give direction” (V.iii.237) to his troops in an oration that is short on Richard and long on God.

On the other hand, Richard is worried more about (God’s possible influence on) earthly matters… weather: “The sun will not be seen today; // The sky doth frown and lower upon our army” (V.iii.283-284).  Compare THAT to the opening image of the play… winter turned to summer by the sun, and clouds are buried.  Regardless, we see Richard take charge of his army, outlining how he will use his troops in battle.

When Richard gives his oration to his troops, the contrast between his and Richmond’s speeches is stark.    While Richmond was long on God, God makes no appearance in Richard’s speech (even “Saint George” is an afterthought [V.iii.350]).  Instead, Richard focuses on disparaging Henry (“a milksop” [V.iii.326]) and his men (“scum of… bastard Bretons” [V.iii.318, 334]), and raising fear that if the invaders win, they will “lie with our wives… // Ravish our daughters” (V.iii.337-338).

When word arrives that Stanley has denied Richard’s request to bring his powers to the field, Richard calls for Stanley’s son’s George’s beheading… but, because the battle is beginning, time is short and the execution is put off until the end of the battle, which begins immediately.

Act Five, Scene Four is on the battlefield where Catesby calls to the Duke of Norfolk for the king’s “rescue” (V.iv.1), despite that, in the battle, “The king enacts more wonders than a man” (V.iv.2).  No matter how brutally Shakespeare assassinates Richard’s character, he cannot take away Richard’s military prowess.  Though Richard’s “horse is slain” (V.iv.4), fulfilling his dream of the night before, he has been killing Richmond’s men (and those disguised as decoys) throughout the battle.  Richard then enters with one of the most famous lines in all of Shakespeare (if not literature and popular culture): “A horse, a horse!  My kingdom for a horse!” (V.iv.8). While Catesby insinuates that Richard can escape if he will allow Richard to let him help the king to a horse; Richard disdains this view.  He doesn’t want the horse to escape, he wants it to have greater advantage in the battle:  “Slave, I have set my life upon a cast, // And I will stand the hazard of the die” (V.iv.9-10).  He’s rolled the dice, and he’s going to see this through… he just wants the horse so he can kill more “Richmond”s.

In the stage direction that opens the fifth and final scene of Act Five, “Enter Richard and Richmond; they fight.  Richard is slain” (V.v opening s.d.).  Richmond cries aloud to his troops and supporters:  “God and your arms be praised, victorious friends! // The day is ours; the bloody dog is dead” (V.v.1-2).

funny, it was those exact words Margaret wanted to hear before she died… hmmm, another prophecy?

Derby (Lord Stanley) finds the crown and puts it on Richmond’s head.  We learn that George Stanley has survived the battle.  And Richmond, er, Henry VII, gets his last speech, in which he declares an end of the civil wars, “unit(ing) the White Rose and the Red” (V.v.19), bemoans the loss of life (even referencing [V.v.25-26] the father who killed his son and the son who killed his father in The Third Part of Henry the Sixth), and announcing his marriage to Elizabeth:

O, now, let Richmond and Elizabeth,
The true succeeders of each royal house,
By God's fair ordinance conjoin together!
And let their heirs--God, if thy will be so--
Enrich the time to come with smooth-faced peace,
With smiling plenty and fair prosperous days!

— V.v.29-34

Ah, yes, those heirs… those would include Elizabeth I, the reigning Queen of England for William Shakespeare.

nice spin, William… though I’m still troubled by the arrogant vibe I get from Henry… do we really need this guy referring to himself in the third person?  great, England’s King as a twentieth-century professional athlete

And thus, Richard the Third comes to an end…

[oh, yeah… for those checking their Margaret’s Dozen scorecards at home, there seems to be two curses unaccounted for… let’s take them in reverse order:

  • #9: Richard’s “friends (he will) suspect for traitors while thou liv’st, // And take deep traitors for (his) dearest friends” (I.iii.232-233) … well, that happened… it was just kinda difficult to make note of it while it was happening.  Richard took Buckingham for a traitor when he wasn’t one (he was just a little uncomfortable with the whole killing-the-princes thing… and he might have even gotten over his discomfort (but we’ll never know as Richard never let him finish his discussion); Richard also kept Stanley and Ely around when they turned on him brutally (Stanley in the final battle at Bosworth Field, and Ely in a different way… which we’ll discuss in a few days [ooooh, suspense!])
  • #6: Dorset “may (NOT) live to his natural age, // But by some unlooked for accident cut off” (I.iii.213-214) … Dorset survived Margaret’s curse… he lived to the ripe old (for the times) age of 50, and died in 1501 (sixteen years after the death of Richard III)

So Marge didn’t go 12 for 12… but, you gotta admit: 11 out of 12 ain’t bad]

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