Richard had to be killed. If he wasn’t dead he couldn’t truly hand over all his power. Like we discussed in class, this surrendering of power was not something that ever happened. The fact that there were two kings for a brief time is almost like having two Gods. This goes against one of the commandments. It is not for either of the men to decide who has the power as king. It is no one but Gods place to decide. Richard and Henry are terrible examples for the country and drastic action must take place. The satanic ritual that strips Richard is a foreshadowing of what his fate brings. He goes from being closest to God as king, to turning to darkness completely.
Earlier in the play we see Richard hesitant to give up the thrown. In 4.1.195 Richard goes through the motions of stripping himself of his kingdom. To strip himself of power, he goes through the ceremony of becoming king backwards. This is very satanic. These two kings are supposedly ordained by the Lord, yet they are involved in a very dark ceremony. They are going against God by taking it upon themselves to change power. The satanic ceremony assures us that what they are doing is very much man-made and not involved with any holy order. The ceremony is disrespectful and leads to fatality and darkness for Richard. It also puts Henrys faith to the test. As king, Henry has a very important decision to make. Life versus death.
Richard really struggles with the exchange of power. After his dark ritual he laments that he doesn’t know who he is. He has lost his title and he has lost God. In 4.1.257, Richard asks for a looking-glass, or a mirror. He wants to see his reflection and hopefully figure out who he is if he isn’t king. His ego is huge in this scene and he couldn’t be any farther from God. He doesn’t mention got at all between 4.1.265 and 4.1.290.
Richards’ true colors are reveled after he looses his title. Richard was able to hide behind his title of king and after he was stripped of his title we can see his true intentions. If Richard wasn’t killed in the end of the play then the darkness would have remained. Henry received the power from Richard and was able to make the decision to have him killed. Henry knew there couldn’t be two kings.
In the last scene of the play we see King Henry describing how he feels about his cousins death. We are never told if Henry definitely has Richard killed, but we do see the way Henry deals with it. He never lashes out at Exton he simply shows concern and dismisses him and his men. It is clear that Henry takes blame for the death, “To wash this blood off of my guilty hand” (5.6.50). Even if it wasn’t he who actually killed Richard he is still guilty. He wanted Richard dead to restore the order. The play gets very dark before this scene. Henry restores hope when he introduces God back in in 5.6.45-52. He speaks directly to God in the last lines of the play. Richard also speaks in verse which places more power behind his words and the message the audience receives.