His twisted sense of humour is exemplified during his encounter with Anne, when he asks permission to name one place that he is fit to be, ‘Some dungeon. Your bedchamber. ‘ 11 When Richard meets Prince Edward after he had travelled from Ludlow, the conversation that followed between the two of them is riddled with menacing double meanings, with Richard even suggesting that the Princes may not have long to live, ‘I pray you, uncle, give me this dagger. My dagger, little cousin? With all my heart. ‘ 12
Another example of the way Richard manipulates situations around to his will is the way in which the arrival of Prince Edward is manipulated so that only a small escort of men accompany him. Richard’s right-hand man Buckingham actually accomplishes this, and this alerts Richard to Buckingham’s support, ‘Marry, my lord, lest by a multitude The new-healed wound of malice should break out’ 13 The intention, of course, was for a small escort of man to accompany him so that Richard may imprison them more quietly in the Tower of London and not arouse as much suspicion as if he tried to do the same thing with a large escort present.
The alliance between Richard and Buckingham could be considered a true one, but in knowledge of Richard’s character it could easily be suggested that Richard considered Buckingham merely a scapegoat should his plans fail. Richard can manipulate the truth, twist words and put words into people’s mouths, in order to create confusion, havoc and unrest. For example, he feels no shame or guilt in telling Buckingham to start a rumour concerning the Princes’ legitimacy, in an attempt to blacken their names and credibility, and therefore leave the path clear for himself to take the throne,
‘Go after, after, cousin Buckingham… Infer the bastardy of Edward’s children. ‘ 14 Many people lay between Richard and the throne, and the reader soon finds out that Richard considers the easiest way to the throne is to simply kill whoever stands in his way. We see many times how Richard can ruthlessly kill in cold blood, purely to further his own ambitions. For example, very early on in the play, the reader is immediately introduced to the murderous Richard when he orders the death of his own brother, Duke of Clarence.
Richard’s deceitful side also is shown to the reader here, as he lies to Derby, Hastings and Buckingham, telling them that it is in fact the Queen and the Woodvilles that are turning the King against Clarence, ‘I do beweep to many simple gulls, Namely to Derby, Hastings and Buckingham, That stir the King against the duke my brother’ 15 Richard, ruthless and efficient, even instructs the killers in this scene how to kill his own brother, for Richard believes Clarence may be able to persuade the murderers not to kill him, ‘…
Do not hear him plead, For Clarence is well spoken and perhaps May move your hearts to pity if you mark him. ‘ 16 Another example of Richard’s sheer murderous brutality is when he orders the death of the two young Princes. It is clear that Richard shows no remorse or fear for the deed that will be committed at his orders, ‘Shall I be plain? I wish the bastards dead, And I would have it suddenly performed. ‘ 17 It is during this same scene that Richard rejects Buckingham, deciding to not confide in him again. Terrified of Richard and knowing what he is capable of, Buckingham flees to Wales and to safety.
Richard uses his powers of persuasion against his enemies to try and bring them around to his way of thinking, and most of the time he is successful. However, towards the end of the play, we find that along with his diminishing power and army, his power to control people is also failing. In an attempt to persuade Queen Elizabeth to help him marry her daughter, it becomes particularly evident that Richard is losing his powers of persuasion, as Queen Elizabeth strongly challenges every argument Richard puts forward, ‘Say I will love her everlastingly.
But how long shall that title ever last? Sweetly in force until her fair life’s end. But how fairly shall her sweet life last? As long as heaven and nature lengthens it. As long as Richard and hell likes of it. ‘ 18 Shakespeare uses stichomythia during this scene, using rapidly alternating single lines to increase the excitement and speed of the encounter. Throughout the entire play the only character who could stand up to Richard and rebuke him was his own mother, even on one occasion leaving Richard speechless.
The beginning of Richard’s downfall is marked when his mother puts a curse on him, ‘Therefore take with thee my most grievous curse, Which in the day of battle tire thee more Than all the complete armour that thou wear’st. ‘ 19 Richard simply has no reply to this, which once more indicates his diminishing power and stature. It is as if Richard may finally be realising the true nature of himself and may actually be ashamed of the things he has done. This is verified to the reader a little before the final battle, where he dreams of all the ghosts of all of his victims.
The reader is aware it is a dream, and therefore they must realise that Richard may sub-consciously be feeling remorse and guilt for the treacherous deeds he has committed. It is evident that Richard is not the man he used to be from the way in which he requests wine before the battle, ‘… Give me a bowl of wine. I have not that alacrity of spirit Nor cheer of mind that I was wont to have. ‘ 20 This is strongly contrasted with the sharp, intelligent Richmond who speaks confidently and anticipates the battle ahead. Richard’s character changes yet again as he is forced to face up to his own evil, having awoken terrified from his dreams.
The Richard after he wakes from his dream is in sharp contrast with the Richard before he fell asleep; when he awakes he is anxious, terrified and almost schizophrenic as he jumps from thought to thought, word to word, addressing the reader directly, ‘What? Do I fear myself? Richard loves Richard, that is, I am I. Is there a murderer here? No. Yes, I am. Then fly. What, from myself? Great reason why: Lest I revenge. What, myself upon myself? ‘ 21 It is during this scene that Richard appears to the reader the most vulnerable and the most human, as he truly does accept the evil of his deeds and the terror he has inflicted.
It is as if the paranoia that has slowly been building inside Richard throughout his reign has finally been brought to a head and has made Richard spectacularly implode. Richard’s paranoia and fear of betrayal is exemplified earlier in the play, where he tests Hastings’ loyalty and eventually has him executed, solely for the belief that he was in some way protecting Jane Shore, Edward’s wife. During this scene he also accuses Hastings’ of protecting those who have committed witchcraft, blaming him for his deformities, ‘Look how I am bewitched. Behold, mine arm Is like a blasted sapling, withered up.
And this is Edward’s wife, that monstrous witch… That by their witchcraft thus have marked me. ‘ 22 Another example of Richard’s paranoia is when he accuses Stanley of disloyalty, but instead of putting him to death, Richard decides on a more creative punishment and takes Stanley’s son, George, hostage, ‘Go then, and muster men, but leave behind Your son George Stanley. Look your heart be firm, Or else his head’s assurance is but frail. ‘ 23 The character of Richmond is always in clear contrast with Richard, and this is exemplified by the speeches that they give to their respective armies before the battle.
Intended to rouse soldiers and assure them of the cause they are fighting for, Richmond’s speech is closely associated with his belief that God is on his side, and the frequent use of the word ‘blood’ in association with Richard shows the reader how worthy of the throne Richmond considers Richard to be. Richmond’s speech could not be more different from Richard’s, who, instead of promoting his own soldiers and reminding them of the divine right of kings, proceeds to mock and insult the opposing army, accusing them of being, ‘A sort of vagabonds, rascals and runaways, A scum of Bretons and base lackey peasants’ 24.
This type of behaviour from Richard is very characteristic of the way he is portrayed throughout the entire play. However, the way Richard is portrayed by Shakespeare Appendix 1 ‘King Richard III’, Cambridge University Press, 2001, Act 1 Scene 1, ll. 28 – 30 2 Ibid, Act 1 Scene 3, ll. 47 – 50 3 Ibid, Act 3 Scene 5, ll. 13 – 19 4 Ibid, Act 3 Scene 7, ll. 97 -98 5 Ibid, ll. 148 – 150 6 Ibid, Act 1 Scene 2, ll. 179 – 183 7 Ibid, ll. 207 – 209 8 Ibid, ll. 176-177 9 Ibid, ll. 231 – 232 10 Ibid, ll. 234 – 242 11 Ibid, ll. 114 – 115 12 Ibid, Act 3 Scene 1, ll. 111 – 112 13 Ibid, Act 2 Scene 2, ll.
125 – 126 14 Ibid, Act 3 Scene 3, ll.72 – 76 15 Ibid, Act 1 Scene 3, ll. 328 – 331 16 Ibid, ll. 347 – 349 17 Ibid, Act 4 Scene 2, ll. 19 – 20 18 Ibid, Act 4 Scene 4, ll. 353 – 358 19 Ibid, ll. 188 – 190 20 Ibid, Act 5 Scene 3, ll. 74 – 76 21 Ibid, ll. 185 – 189 22 Ibid, Act 3 Scene 4, ll. 67 – 69 23 Ibid, Act 4 Scene 4, ll. 501 – 503 24 Ibid, Act 5 Scene 3, ll. 318 – 319 25 Ibid, 26 Ibid, 27 Ibid, 28 Ibid, 29 Ibid, 30 Ibid.