In Shakespeare’s plays, some characters are portrayed differently from their historical figures. Shakespeare does this to thrill and entertain the audience to provide a good show. He uses language and shapes facts to influence the audience’s perceptions of characters in his plays. In Richard III Shakespeare has used a mix of techniques and devices through language to portray a fictitious figure of King Richard III. He modifies history, time, and facts to create a fantastic, intriguing story for a play. Shakespeare makes Richard come across as a manipulator and villain in a thrilling situation.
Act One scene one opens with a long soliloquy by Richard, son of York. Through his speech, Shakespeare sets the scene to the audience. During a soliloquy Richard speaks openly to the audience about emotions thoughts and opinions and is only heard by the audience, with no other characters on stage. Richard opens with the two lines: ‘Now is the winter of our discontent Made glorious summer by this son of York’ He is making a pun, suggesting that as well as the weather and season image, he is referring to his brother King Edward IV son of York. It is an example of one of Shakespeare’s play on words, and is also a metaphor.
We, as the audience, receive details during Richard’s soliloquy including that of “the war” having ended, and it is the Yorks that have won. In lines five and six, Richard says: ‘Now our brows bound with victorious wreaths; Our bruised arms hung up for monuments;’ (line 5 – 6) Line six is also another example of one of Shakespeare’s metaphors. Richard is effectively saying that the weapons are now battered and rusty like bruised arms. Shakespeare also uses the devise of metaphor to shape the audience’s perception of the play in other ways. Later in the scene, for example, Hastings enters the stage.
He has recently been released from the Tower for unknown reasons and starts with a metaphor: ‘More pity that the eagles should be mewed Whiles kites and buzzards prey at liberty. ‘ (line 132 + 133) This is a very famous line from the play. The mewed (or caged, imprisoned) eagles are Clarence and Hastings; the kites and buzzards (which are inferior birds) who are free to hunt and roam are the Queen’s followers. The irony is that the eagles should be the King of the Skies, but the kites and buzzards have somehow swapped places with the eagles. But it is suggesting that the eagles are caged and for some reason unnaturally punished.
Shakespeare has been extremely clever with word play and created a fantastic metaphor. Although this metaphor has a different affect on the audience because the irony of the play on words, gives them the impression that Hastings has similar feelings towards the Queen. From Richard’s opening soliloquy we also know that he is unhappy that war is over, as he feels unable to participate in celebrations concerning victory because of his deformities: ‘I that am curtailed to this fair proportion’ (line 18) and: ‘Deformed, Unfinished, sent before my time’ (line 20)
These lines indicate that Richard was in fact a premature birth and thus physically affected. In the play, it is thought he was born with a hunchback, and possibly a withered arm, and so because of his deformities, Richard is determined to behave wickedly as a sort of revenge towards fate. Later in the soliloquy Richard talks of his plans. He has plotted for his brother to be arrested so that he is not suspected of future mischievousness. According to his soliloquy Richard paid drunkards to go around blurting out rumours of a man who shall murder King Edward’s sons, a man with power whose name begins with a ‘G’.
(although the audience later find out that this refers to Richard of Gloucester). Richard effectively wants his brother out of the way. Richard has formed a spiteful nature, and appears to wish he was still at war; he is a fighter, and wants nothing to do with the celebrations, but to be back with a sword in his hand. He is jealous of other men, and their lives which they have to return to from war. They are handsome, and attractive to women, but he is an ugly foul looking thing.
‘He capers nimbly in a lady’s chamber, To the lascivious pleasing of a lute’, But I – that am not shaped for sportive tricks’ (line 12 – 14 inclusive) During his soliloquy, Richard appears as a spiteful and villainous figure. He cannot fit in, and so wallows in evil thoughts. Shakespeare has created an unwanted and solitary image of Richard to us. Richard is incapable of moving ‘nimbly’, because of his deformity and so his jealousy prevails. Shakespeare’s portrayal of Richard and his reign of terror is very unflattering. We also see his thoughts get out of hand later on in 1:i. His second soliloquy starts with: ‘He cannot live, I hope – and I must not die, Till George be packed with posthorse up to heaven. ‘ (first line 145 + 146) Richard is hoping that the King will not die until after Clarence has been killed.
Despite the fact that he is the one who slayed her husband and father, Richard claims to marry the girl, is to become her father and her husband, and make amends: ‘For then I’ll marry Warwick’s youngest daughter. What though I killed her husband and her father? The readiest way to make the wench amends Is to become her husband and her father’ (line153 – 155 inclusive) Shakespeare presents Richard as getting carried away, in his wicked thoughts.
Shakespeare has now got the audience thinking all sorts of things because Richard has come across as not only a manipulator, but a villainous evil piece of work. We start to see how far he will go to get power. Back to 1:i’s opening soliloquy and Richard’s brother, “George, Duke of Clarence” enters, escorted guards, and the keeper of the tower, Brakenbury. Clarence has been arrested. But when they arrive Richard’s attitude has changed, and he appears to be oblivious as to why Clarence has been arrested, much like Clarence himself. ‘Brother, good day. What means this armed guard That waits upon your Grace?
‘ (line 42 – 43) This word play is known as dramatic irony; the audience are aware of something, but characters on stage are not. Shakespeare creates an interesting mood for the audience because of the sense of secrecy, and the obliviousness of other characters on stage. This creates an element of suspense. Richard knows too well why Clarence has been arrested but acts as if he is unaware. Richard plays along with him and acts concerned towards his brother, but also jokes – he is secretly enjoying himself. He is appearing as a classic villain, he hides his thoughts and emotions to fool victims.