You break not sanctuary in seizing him. The benefit thereof is always granted To those whose dealings have deserved the place And those who have the wit to claim the place. This prince hath neither claimed it nor deserved it And therefore, in mine opinion, cannot have it. (Act 3, Scene 1, lines 47–52)
Richard and Buckingham learn that Queen Elizabeth has taken sanctuary with her youngest son. The pair’s flight threatens to foil Richard’s plans, and Buckingham presents an argument to the cardinal designed to deliver the boy to them. Like Richard, here Buckingham proves himself skilled at manipulating language to achieve his specific goal, however reprehensible. Buckingham’s logic may make sense to the cardinal, but Buckingham himself knows the true cause of his argument.
Tut, I can counterfeit the deep tragedian, Speak, and look back, and pry on every side, Tremble and start at wagging of a straw, Intending deep suspicion. Ghastly looks Are at my service, like enforcèd smiles. (Act 3, Scene 5, lines 5–9)
Buckingham, who acts in the role of Richard’s sidekick, appears to be equally comfortable deceiving others. Buckingham’s skills seem necessary because he must help Richard convince the mayor of London that Richard was just in killing Hastings, who they claim operated as a traitor. What Buckingham fails to realize, however, is that as the king of deceit, Richard could turn against him at any time, which he eventually does.
And is it thus? Repays he my deep service With such deep contempt? Made I him king for this? O, let me think on Hastings and be gone To Brecknock, while my fearful head is on! (Act 4, Scene 2, lines 122–125)
After refusing to support the murder of the princes, Buckingham quickly loses Richard’s support and friendship. Two realizations occur simultaneously to Buckingham: First, he will never get his earldom, and more importantly, he is no longer safe anywhere near Richard. As Richard’s longest-serving right-hand man, Buckingham knows better than anyone the price he will pay for not giving Richard his complete fealty.
Will not King Richard let me speak with him? (Act 5, Scene 1, line 1)
Here, Buckingham, about to be taken to his execution, wonders if he can speak with Richard, perhaps in an attempt to change his mind. Upon learning he cannot, Buckingham immediately understands he has no hope for reprieve. Richard betrays everyone close to him, and now he has finally turned on Buckingham. Buckingham acknowledges that he deserves his fate because he has committed brutal acts in service to a man as evil as Richard.
The last was I that helped thee to the crown; The last was I that felt thy tyranny. O, in the battle think on Buckingham, And die in terror of thy guiltiness. Dream on, dream on, of bloody deeds and death. Fainting, despair; despairing, yield thy breath. (Act 5, Scene 3, lines 179–188)
Buckingham’s ghost appears to Richard on the night before the battle with Richmond’s forces. In life, Buckingham accepted his death as just reward for his terrible actions, but in death, Buckingham wants vengeance. Not only does he want Richard to feel fear when the ghosts of his victims haunt him, he also wants Richard to die at Richmond’s hands.