The imagery used by Shakespeare in act I exaggerates Richard’s deformity as he is referred to as a “bottled spider” and a “bunch back toad” as well as a “diffus’d infection of a man” all of which are over exemplifying his hunch back and clubbed foot which, in real life were non existent as all he had was one shoulder higher than the other. The negative language used is a way of describing his immorality in a physical apparition. Richard uses the English language like a tool enabling him to sway and manipulate people to whatever means he wishes.
In conclusion, Richard is a very emotive character and by the end of act the audience may feel a number of emotions. Interest in Richard is undoubtably one as Richard opened up the play at the focal point explaining his deepest emotions and what he was going to do because of it capturing their interest straight away. Also throughout the first act, due to his cunning and deviousness, the audience’s interest is never lost. He fills his speeches with powerful images of war and peace and brings in to perspective the immensity of his actions via his boastfulness and pride. His “foul deformity” arouses interest, as there is not usually a main protagonist with such bitterness towards others because of it. His ambition to “prove a villain” is also very interesting as it is unusual. The subject of him feeling he has to prove something comes up in several if not all of the scenes in the first act. His willingly openness of his evil intentions is unexpected forcing the audience to stay and watch.
Admiration is ensued from his ability to fool and deceive people for his own selfish needs. His rich and vibrant speeches, his ability to think on his feet, his manipulation skills are all admirable qualities. He’s the sought of character the audience loves to hate. Although he tells the audience his intentions they are still kept guessing as the plot thickens as nothing he says or does can be relied upon until he is alone with the audience and he has no need for his pretensions or wiles. These qualities are opposed by his cruelness and his lack of loyalty to even his closest family. The deception and murder of his brother Clarence along with his devil like composure overrides any of the admiration the audience harboured. The mixed emotion that Richard invokes of admiration and revulsion does not affect the interest. If anything, it heightens it, as the audience are still undecided on how they feel on that part of Richard’s character.
The question of sympathy is hard to answer as the reason that he acts the way that he does is because he is an outcast from society through no fault of his own. However, that does not excuse his actions it only explains them. For that reason, a certain level of sympathy may be invoked but pity, which is a much more stronger emotion, would most probably not be felt by the audience as the actions countermand any deeper emotion so all that’s left is a shallow sense of compassion.
The overall impression of Richard is of a sad and bitter man, which originates from him having been ostracised from society, who is ruthless in achieving his aims. He has the admirable qualities of being able to read people’s characters, think quickly on his feet and pull the strings with hardly anyone realising. He is an interesting central character due to his cunning, deviousness, and wily nature. His ability to overcome hatred and vicious insults and come up victor is overwhelming although his lack of morals and determination to “prove a villain” makes him an excellent rogue. He is both the protagonist and antagonist. In summation, Richard provides an interesting character that summons up several emotions and provides an intriguing focal point for the play.