Richard III, Act I, Scene I
(Middleham Castle. RICHARD is discovered sitting on a throne, biting the heads off a basket of kittens as he comes up with his latest wicked scheme.)
LOVEL. My lord, terrible news. A letter has come from Lord Hastings in London. Your royal brother, King Edward IV, is dead.
RICHARD (fisting the air.) Cool! The time has come to put Acton Plan 5 into action! Lovel, summon my men!
LOVEL. All of them, my lord? The whole North?
RICHARD. No, fool! Who do you think I am – Bolingbroke? Just 300 from my household are all I need to usurp the throne.
LOVEL. But Hastings says in his letter that Rivers is to bring 2000 men from Ludlow alone, as escort for the Prince.
RICHARD (sighing patiently.) Francis, you do not know Anthony as I do. He is a man of peace, who wears a hair shirt under his clothes. Those pathetic 2000 will have been chosen from the Ludlow Male Flower Arrangers Guild, noted for their inability to fight. You know what peaceful folk those Marchers are; whereas my men are rock. Now first we go to York, to gather all the local gentry to swear an oath of allegiance to my nephew; an oath I shall take myself.
LOVEL. My lord, I have to say that does not sound like a cunning plan.
RICHARD. Exactly! Nothing like a good oath to lull people into a sense of false security. After all, being not at all religious, I don’t think anything of oaths, even public ones in York Minster. Now, Francis, run along to the Collators’ Office. I’ve decided my nephews are illegitimate, so I want a complete list of noblewomen, under 30 in 1461, available for marriage and who never married again. Preferably with living relatives I can intimidate. It’s more fun that way. I need to pretend that my brother was married to someone before the Woodville woman.
LOVEL. Yes, my lord. I’m sure that information can be assembled in no time.
RICHARD. Good. And while you’re at it, I’ll just go and feed Anne her daily dose of arsenic. I need to kill her slowly and then marry Elizabeth of York. It makes such obvious sense to marry my illegitimate niece. Think how strong my claim will be!