Richard the third is one of the most provocative examples of the literary text I have ever been privileged to discover. It explores many sociological aspects of Shakespeare’s time and can be even used as a tool to explore our modern society. This can be done as it delves into aspects of human character which are the very fabric of humanity as we know it. It does this predominantly through Richard who’s absolute domination of the text is unparalleled out of my relatively short list of literary encounters. In every scene within the play, whether Richard is actually present or not he is the dominant figure. If he is present he dominants the scene with his witty and ascendant mannerisms and should he happen to be exempt from a scene which is a rarity in itself, he is usually connected in some way and is constantly on the mind of the viewer. I think Richard, Duke of Gloucester is one of the most determined literary figures I have ever come across. I feel success is dependent upon a number of factors. I feel the most important of these is for one to be determined and for their characteristics to reciprocate their goals. In the play Richard, the third Richard was determined to become the King of England but also, more importantly, to prove a villain. Although on the surface one might say Richards determination lay in him wanting to become King, I feel he only used to apparent want to be crowned as a medium to exhibit his true determination; to prove a villain.
In the first scene of the play, Richard announced in a narration, his plan to become king. Richard plainly stated that he was “Deformed, Unfinished, and sent before his time” and “since he cannot prove to be a lover; he is determined to prove a villain. A true villain must be highly intelligent as Richard undoubtedly was. Richard proved this quality in a number of ways; he was highly manipulative and persuasive and was constantly manipulating situations so it fitted in with his overall evil puzzle. Richard devised a brutal stratagem to ascend to the English throne. Brilliantly, he executed his plan. Heartlessly, he executed family, friends, and subjects. Richard did indeed display these characteristics and therefore fulfilled his goal to ascend the throne and also, more importantly, to prove a villain. Richard was a phenomenally evil character. His determination was formed, apparently out of his hatred of an unforgiving world, as he says in his opening soliloquy. Although some would argue his motives were formed elsewhere.
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With his elder brother, King Edward IV, dying, Richard believed himself to be the most qualified to rule. He set his plan to ascend to the throne into action. The first step was to lock up the rightful heir, his other brother George, Duke of Clarence, in the tower. He demonstrated his manipulation skills and plants the seeds of distrust in his brother Clarence’s head. He tells Clarence that it is not the king that is locking him up in the tower, “‘Tis the lady Grey his wife that tempers him to that extremity” he says. He then puts on a show; sobbing to Clarence in front of Brakenbury, telling Clarence ” I will deliver you, or else lie for you.” A statement that turned out to be false. Instead of trying to deliver Clarence from the tower Richard hires two murderers to kill Clarence, this plan was executed perfectly. I feel these abhorrent actions of Richard were some of the most powerful English literature has ever produced. In deceiving his brother to the point of death Richard proved he was well on the way to proving himself a villain.
When King Edward dies, Richard, Duke of Gloucester decided that he needed a scapegoat, so that if he should fail to execute the next steps in his plan, he will have someone to break his fall. He employed the Duke of Buckingham, a powerful political ally. The next step in Richard’s plan was to eliminate the family of the late king’s wife, Queen Elizabeth, who naturally would prefer to see her sons, Prince Edward and Richard Duke of York, to ascend the throne. To discredit the two little princes, Richard circulated rumours that the sons of Queen Elizabeth were bastards therefore they cannot claim the throne.
Richard III decided that the only way to make sure that the little princes cannot claim the throne is to eliminate them permanently. Richard decided that the most secure way to kill the princes is to become their most trusted friend. Richard, therefore, became “Lord Protector” of the little princes. Anxious to “protect” his own interests, Richard imprisoned them in the tower. Richard again showed his true level of evilness. He took advantage of two defenceless children but although he showed how low his character as he also showed his determination in that he disregarded any moral fibre in his body to obtain his ultimate goal.
The next step in his brilliant scheme was to increase public support for his own claim to the crown. Richard, aided by Buckingham, enacted shows of devotion, kindness, religiousness and other virtues, which recommended him to the citizenry and especially to the Lord Mayor and aldermen of London. This is done he finally won the mayor and the alderman over and received the offer to “the supreme seat, the throne majestical, the sceptred office of his ancestors themselves, the lineal glory of his royal house”.
After some false persuasion by the Duke of Buckingham, Richard finally accepted the “golden yoke of sovereignty.” To secure his position further, he hired James Tyrell to “terminate” the two princes in the tower. His wife Anne died so he then arranged to marry Princess Elizabeth, daughter of the former king, Edward IV. Richard had no more need for Buckingham since the crown is secured. So he, therefore “terminated” Buckingham as well. By this stage, Richard had undoubtedly proved his villainy and showed that his personality was riddled with characteristics to obtain his villainous goals.
As a villain Richard did succeed, he was heartless, intelligent, organized, manipulative and persuasive. He also had the perfect scapegoat; the Duke of Buckingham who was hardworking, honest and loyal to the end. Richard did indeed display the properties of a perfect villain and therefore fulfilled his goal to ascend the throne. He showed many times how baneful and corrupt he was however without these resources Richard would not have a chance at the throne. But as a King Richard did succeed, he became overconfident and sloppy. Richard thought that he did not need to protect himself from enemies since they were all dead. He did not know that Stanley whom he did trust was defecting to Richmond. He became overconfident when the war came upon him and in the end, he failed. Richard was an excellent villain but a terrible king. I found analysing Richard to be a thoroughly enjoyable experience and he gave me some level of insight into how a truly evil mind operates. Although Shakespeare may have been influenced by the then monarch Elizabeth and her family this did not detract from the quality of the text and I feel Richard III is viewed in the highest light in upper literary circles.
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