So. A quick breakdown of the 25 scenes of the play, with particular focus on Buckingham’s through-line. OK?
Act One, scene one is The Monologue, Hastings and Clarence. The important thing here is that in the politics, the following people are mentioned along with their supposed factional differences: Clarence and Hastings, of course, the Queen, Rivers, Mrs. Shore and the King. And, I suppose, Warwick’s daughter, the Lady Anne. Nobody mentions Buckingham.
Act One, scene two is the Seduction. Nothing to do with Buckingham, at least in the short term.
Act One, scene three begins with the Queen and Rivers (and Grey, cut in our version) and continues with Buckingham coming in with Stanley. We immediately learn that Stanley’s wife is in the anti-Queen faction; Stanley manages to straddle the fence (as usual). Buckingham passes along the idea of reconciliation from the King, but is not at this point included in that. Richard comes in and starts fighting with the Queen, and then old, mad Queen Margaret comes in (although this part is given to the Duchess of York in our play). Margaret has a happy facility for getting different people to agree, that is, to agree on how much they hate her. Buckingham is finally singled out for address by this powerless outsider, but he dismisses her and is brushed aside. After the gang all go see the King, Richard includes Buckingham in his list of “simple gulls”
Act One, scene four is Clarence’s murder. The key here is that this is the first murder, possibly the first violence. This is where things begin to actually move. Buckingham is outside this and pretty clearly doesn’t know anything about it.
Act Two, scene one is Edward’s deathbed; Buckingham is there and makes it clear that foreshadowing is a legitimate literary technique. After the reconciliation, when Richard drops his bomb (the news of Clarence’s death, blamed on the Queen), Buckingham does not go with the King and the rest but waits with Richard and whoever is with him. He has the last line of the scene (“We wait upon your grace.”), which we are playing as a formal declaration of support to Richard. A private declaration, but clear.
Act Two, scene two is Richard’s mother, the Duchess of York, and her orphaned grandchildren (that is, Clarence’s children), and then Queen Elizabeth and then Rivers and Dorset (still on the fence) and then Buckingham comes in with Richard and that faction (Stanley and Hastings and Ratcliff). At the tail end of the scene Buckingham is seen in active political maneuvering for the first time, but still subtly, waiting until he is alone with Richard to speak openly.
Act Two, scene three is a group of Citizens discussing the political scene. We cut this. The only thing worth mentioning is that they mention only the young Prince and his uncles (Richard and Rivers, and the Queen’s other brothers); there is no mention of Buckingham at all, nor of Hastings or Stanley or Dorset or anybody else on any side.
Act Two, scene four is Queen Elizabeth and her younger boy and her mother-in-law getting the news that Rivers and Grey and Vaughn are prisoners, sent up by “the mighty dukes Gloucester and Buckingham”. Gloucester is Richard, by the way; most of the characters are referred to variously by their first name, their title lands, their family and their rank. Buckingham is never anybody but Buckingham, which is nice. But the key thing here is that Buckingham has by this time declared himself publicly, and is known to be on Richard’s side against the Queen and her family.
Act Three, scene one is the first time we see Buckingham and Richard working together. They have come to meet the Prince of Wales and divert him to the Tower; they make a show of convincing him that it is for his own protection. Then Buckingham has a political conversation with Catesby, of all people, as if Richard hadn’t been directing Catesby from the beginning. The notable thing there is that although Buckingham and Richard are publically allied, he spends a lot of effort on pretense: they are civil to the Young Prince, although he pretty obviously sees right through that (and also sees that he has little choice), and his instructions to Catesby are clumsily subtle, if that makes sense.
Act Three, scene two begins with a lot of Hastings and Stanley business, and ends with Buckingham coming in and having a brief and somewhat odd conversation with Hastings. Buckingham reveals to the audience that Hastings is for the chop in an aside that reads like a sort of Richard-knockoff. It’s Buckingham using the Richard technique, but badly, and to no great purpose. It’s also odd that Buckingham is here by himself, one of the few places he isn’t with Richard.
Act Three, scene three is the deaths of Rivers, Grey and Vaughn, and we have cut it. It’s a shame, really, but as we are making Rivers stand in for all three of them, it would make the scene awkward. This scene, by the way, has another reference to Buckingham in his absence, in a way that clearly ties the Richard and Buckingham together.
Act Three, scene four is the strawberries scene. There’s a bit at the start where Buckingham jests about not being as close to Richard as Hastings is. That’s contradicted immediately on Richard’s entrance, when it is clear that they are buddies, and in fact leave the room to speak privately. Interestingly, when they come back in and Richard accuses Hastings, Buckingham doesn’t speak at all.
Act Three, scene five is the scene of Hasting’s Head, where Buckingham and Richard pretend to have just barely fought off a murderous attack. It’s a hilarious scene, and the two of them seem to be almost equals. They alternate advice to each other, and play to each other’s lines. Fun to do.
Act Three, scene six is the Scrivener scene, and cut. I think I want to write about this scene later, but for now, there’s nothing Buckingham in it.
Act Three, scene seven is the photo-op, where Buckingham arranges to bring the Lord Mayor to disturb Richard at prayer, and then offer him the Crown, which he reluctantly accepts. It’s a lot of fun. At the beginning of it, Buckingham talks about his appearance before the electors, and how (a) Richard has no popular support at all, and (2) he is able, with the help of a claque, to provide a facade of popular support, enough to go on with. In all of this, Richard is listening to Buckingham—in the full text (not in our version) it is clear that Richard’s earlier advice was insufficient without Buckingham having thought to pay a claque. Then Buckingham gives Richard advice on handling the photo-op, which he meekly takes. We do not, alas, get a moment between them to private enjoy the success of their plan.
Act Four, scene one is the womenfolk learning (from Stanley) that Richard is going to be King. Nobody talks about Buckingham.
Act Four, scene two is the giving vein scene, just after the coronation. It begins with Richard drawing Buckingham aside for private consultation and ends with Buckingham kicked to the curb and fleeing for his life. A great, great scene. I don’t know if it can be a surprise to the audience, which has over the last half-hour or more been seeing Buckingham not only increasingly at the center of things, but tied very strongly with Richard as a character and his success. Now, gone.
Act Four, scene three is Richard and his goons. Buckingham is mentioned, but is not considered a threat.
Act Four, scene four is the wooing of Elizabeth, a long and lovely bit in the middle of a very long and rather muddled scene with a lot of mostly unconnected bits. One of the bits is the news that Buckingham’s army is scattered. The last bit is the news that Buckingham is now a prisoner.
Act Four, scene five is a short scene between Stanley and one of Richmond’s supporters;
Act Five, scene one is Buckingham’s death scene. Or at least, his just-before-being-taken-offstage-and-killed scene, depending on how bloodthirsty the director is feeling. We haven’t blocked it yet. It’s a nice bit, short enough not to slow down the action, in which Buckingham more or less goes over the story so far.
Act Five, scene two is Richmond and his buddies.
Act Five, scene three is a long and bizarre scene, containing in it a bunch of plot stuff and fight stuff, and the Ghost Scene, where Buckingham is the last ghost, in the chiefest place, but, you know, still dead. After the ghosts is Richard’s last great monologue (very different from the earlier ones) and then the battlefield speeches and the battle begins.
Act Five, scene four is a horse, a horse, my kingdom for a horse. Which is pretty much the whole scene.
Act Five, scene five is Richmond killing Richard, and getting the crown from Stanley, and the end of the play, hurray.
This is all somewhat misleading, as the division into scenes is not necessarily going to be visible to the audience. But still, I think it should give an idea of what I’m talking about with my character arc, and how it helps tell the Richard story.
Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,