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Richard III summary at eNotes

Civil War...

For Shakespeare's audiences, as dastardly as Richard's crimes against individual victims are, his larger crime is that Richard of Gloucester's reign led to a resurgence of what they still feared worst a century later, civil war. Following the conflicts between the houses of Lancaster and York as dramatized by Shakespeare in the three parts of Henry VI, England could have been at peace: as his opening speech denotes, it is only because of Richard's villainy that civil war breaks out again. In Act II, scene iii, in which the common citizens discuss tide of events, the realize the danger associated with Richard of Gloucester, and that danger is a return to bloody, internecine strife that will reach down into the lives of the common man. On being branded a traitor by Richard and sentenced to death in Act III, scene iv. Hastings cries out, "Woe, woe for England, not a whit for me!" and prophesies that a "fearful time" lies ahead for "Miserable England."

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