Well, Richard III sure ended on a wild note. I expected everyone to die in the end, but perhaps that kind of ending doesn’t show up until later in Bill’s career. That’s not to say there wasn’t a lot happening in Act V, however. There was fighting, cowardice, treason, and ghosts! All packed into a relatively short act.
Richmond and Richard go to the field of battle and on the eve of their final confrontation, we see the differences between these two men. Richard is over-confident because he has the superior numbers and thus makes no battle plan. He decides to drink some wine and go to bed. Richmond, on the other hand, stays up late to put together a battle plan since he is worried that he will not have the advantage tomorrow. He goes to bed concerned.
In the night, the ghosts of everyone Richard has murdered (there are a lot) visit the two men, cursing Richard and encouraging Richmond. The next morning, Richard awakes in despair. He realizes he is on the wrong side of history here and it’s too late to do anything but go forward. Richmond feels a renewed strength of purpose and charges out on the field and gives an impassioned speech to his men while Richard eavesdrops on his captains to see if they will betray him. Again, we see the stark contrast between the two men here. When Richard finally does address his troops, he insults them and tries to shake off his misgivings by saying, “conscience is but a word that cowards use”. Sure, Richard.
The two sides meet in battle and Richard finds himself beset on all sides and needing rescue. His horse has been killed and he is stuck. He yells out, “a horse! A horse! My kingdom for a horse!”. A great line that I knew was Shakespeare, but I didn’t realize was from this play. Richmond and Richard fight one-on-one and, of course, Richmond wins, killing the king. Richmond is crowned king, orders the dead on both sides buried with full honors and pardons any deserters. He proclaims the War of the Roses over and the play ends rather abruptly.
This was some good stuff. I particularly enjoyed the scene when we went back and forth between Richard and Richmond in their respective camps, seeing how they each prepared for battle. The ghosts were pretty cool, too. They were kind of like the furies from Greek tragedies, visiting curses upon Richard’s head. He was not a good guy and I suppose he deserved what he got. However, I also feel a little pang of sorrow for the guy. How tragic.