Man slouches in throne on stage

Richard III

William Shakespeare

Richard III completes the cycle of plays covering the Wars of the Roses. It’s the story of Richard, Duke of Gloucester’s villainous plan to take the throne.


A story of jealousy, manipulation and deceit based on Sir Thomas More's unfinished – and largely untrue  History of King Richard III


At the end of the bloody Wars of the Roses between the rival Houses of Lancaster and York, the victorious Yorkists look forward to a period of peace under the newly-crowned Edward IV.

But Edward's younger brother, Richard, Duke of Gloucester, has other ideas, wanting the throne for himself. To further his plans, he manipulates the noblewoman Lady Anne Neville to marry him, even though she knows that he murdered her first husband.


As Edward IV’s health fails, his queen, Elizabeth, and Richard argue. Henry VI’s widow, Queen Margaret, curses them all for their disloyalty to her dead husband and warns the Duke of Buckingham not to trust Richard.

Having had his brother George, Duke of Clarence, imprisoned in the Tower, Richard arranges his murder. Edward blames himself for the death and dies shortly after.


Edward leaves behind him two young sons, not old enough to rule. Richard is appointed Lord Protector of England, putting him in charge until the boys grow up. He orders the execution of powerful noblemen to protect his power, including Queen Elizabeth's two brothers.

Richard tells the young princes that they should stay in the Tower of London until his coronation. Buckingham spreads rumours that the princes are not true heirs because they are illegitimate, and Tyrel is sent by Richard to murder them in the Tower.


As the people of England become increasingly fearful of Richard, Buckingham too turns against him, and is executed.

Meanwhile, the Lancastrian Earl of Richmond is raising forces in France to challenge Richard.

To strengthen his claim to the throne, Richard arranges to have his wife Anne murdered so he can marry King Edward’s daughter, Elizabeth.

Spoiler alert! Stop here if you don't want to know how it ends

Richard's plans begin to unravel. Queen Elizabeth secretly agrees to marry her daughter to Richmond, who arrives in England to challenge Richard on Bosworth Field.

The night before the battle, the ghosts of the people Richard has had murdered appear to him in a dream, cursing him and praying for Richmond's success.

After fighting bravely, Richard is killed in battle by Richmond, who becomes King Henry VII. His marriage to Elizabeth promises a new era of peace for England, uniting the Houses of York and Lancaster.