‘Richard III’ opens with a soliloquy by Richard, introducing himself to the audience and revealing many things about his character. One thing we learn about him,him is his sarcastic humour when he is talking about the end of the war:, ‘Now is the winter of our discontent Made glorious by his son of York,’ which could be the ‘sun’ in the sky, or Kinthis shows his ability to think in puns because he could be referring to the ‘sun’ in the sky, or King Edward, ‘son’ of York.
He later says that, ‘iWhy, I in this weak piping time of peace,’ he has Have ‘nono delight to pass away the time,Unless to see my shadow in the sun. ‘ H ie uses this sarcasm to make a point that he actually detests peacetime because he cannot enjoy himself because of the burden of his deformity. This shows that he is honest and truthful to himself. He realizes that he is ‘not shaped for sportive tricks Nor made to court an amorous looking-glass,’ so acknowledging that he is not ‘normal’, and he thinks that women are never going to fall in love with a deformed man like himself. Although his deformity is a problem, this is the driving force behind his determination:
‘And therefore, since I cannot prove a lover To entertain these fair well-spoken days, I am determined to prove a villain. ‘ Richard is also a schemer. He has started rumours, ‘To set my brother Clarence and the King In deadly hate the one against the other. ‘ This shows that he is very determined and will go to any lengths to achieve what he wants. He is even prepared to kill his own family and friends. In this way, his determination may appeal to the audience. These points enable the audience to identify with Richard’s character and we are invited to collude with him and enter his mind.
He addresses the audience and confides in us so we feel that we are a part of his plots. In the opening speech, his plans are revealed to set his brother, Clarence, and the King ‘in deadly hate’. Then, at the end of the first act, Richard again confides in us and tells us of his plan to marry Anne, the wife of Prince Edward, whom he has just murdered. When Richard is crowned King, he makes many decisions to secure the future. He spreads a rumour that Anne, his wife, ‘is very sick and likely to die. ‘ He must therefore keep her confined, so it will not seem like a murder.
He plans to force Clarence’s daughter to marry, ‘a mean poor gentleman’ so that she will not have any high status or power. Clarence’s son is no threat to Richard, so there is no need for Richard to act against him. If Richard marries Edward IV’s daughter, Princess Elizabeth, then she will not marry Richmond which would pose a threat to his Kingdom. If she were to marry Richmond, the Houses would unite and bring peace. Richard’s last plan is to kill the two princes’, who are a threat to Richard becoming King.
Richard decides to act quickly and these plans are put into effect as soon as he is crowned king. He cannot afford to risk losing the crown. Richard is the most intelligent character in the play and there are many examples of his quick wit and clever responses. He has the ability to speak in puns, which is demonstrated when he talks to Clarence as he is being taken to the tower by a guard, ‘That you should be new christened in the Tower,’ which is ironic because water is used at christenings, and Clarence will soon be drowned in the Tower.
He also has an amazing ability to manipulate what other people say and to turn the argument against the opponent, which is shown when he has a conversation with Anne about the death of her husband, Prince Edward, and the other people he has murdered: Anne ‘He is in heaven, where thou shalt never come. Richard Let him thank me, that holp to send him thither, For he was fitter for that place on earth’ Richard makes it seem that he has done Prince Edward a favour by sending him to heaven. His sarcastic humour is also shown in ironic asides to the audience.
For example, when he is talking to the two Princes’, ‘So wise so young, they say, do never live long,’ where he is joking about the Princes’ soon to me murdered. Prince Edward then asks, ‘What say you, uncle? ‘ with which Richard replies ‘I say, without characters fame lives long. ‘ The humour arises out of the irony and it shows the Prince as foolish and nai?? ve. This is dramatic irony because the audience know of the planned murder whereas the characters on stage do not. This technique can endear Richard to the audience because it makes us feel a part of his thoughts and plans, so we are invited to join him.
For much of the time, Richard is acting a part. This is also dramatically ironic, because the audience recognises Richard’s hypocrisy, whereas not all the characters on stage do. To his brother, Clarence, for example, he plays the loving, caring brother who will protect and help him, which is shown when Richard is telling him how he will do everything to get him out of prison: ‘Meantime, this deep disgrace in brotherhood Touches me deeper than you can imagine. ‘ This shows he is saddened by what has happened to Clarence, but in fact it is because of Richard’s orders that Clarence is imprisoned.
Richard also acts the part of the innocent man, unable to hide his real nature: ‘Because I cannot flatter and look fair, Smile in men’s faces, smooth, deceive, and cog, Duck with French nods and apish courtesy, I must be held a rancorous enemy. ‘ This suggests his very honesty leads to others accusing him. He further describes himself as ‘a plain man’ whose ‘simple truth’ is ‘abused’ by others more subtle and dishonest than he is. Furthermore, he pretends to be a simple man, ‘too childish-foolish for this world,’ which portrays him as a man out of kilter with the plots of more sophisticated people.
Richard also acts towards Buckingham. This is demonstrated when Buckingham suggests his plans to separate the Woodvilles from Prince Edward: ‘My other self, my counsel’s consistory, My oracle, my prophet, my dear cousin, I, as a child, will go thy direction. Toward Ludlow then, for we’ll not stay behind. ‘ Richard seems to flatter Buckingham by saying they are utterly alike and that they think as one. Richard, Buckingham and Catesby have set up a plan to deceive the mayor and citizens into thinking Richard should be crowned king.