How does our opinion of Richard change throughout Act 1 of Richard III? Throughout Act 1, Shakespeare presents Richard in many different lights, using both Richard’s perspective and the perspective of other characters within the play. The first encounter with Richard is the opening monologue of the play. This monologue uses many different techniques to play with the emotions of any audience. For example, the impression I got of Richard, when first reading the play was that he was of high birth; because, due to the time period in which the play is set, anyone with education was well off, so without even knowing the role of Richard within the royal family, you would be able to tell this. I can draw this conclusion from Richard’s clever use of words such as ‘this sun of York,’ which is an intelligent pun, as Richard is a son of York, and his play on words makes it seem as if he is incredibly important. This idea also gives an outlook on Richard’s view of himself.
A huge proportion of the first monologue draws in the negative features of Richard’s life. This creates a huge amount of empathy towards him, making it seem as if he is the hard done by member of the family. Phrases such as, ‘Deformed, unfinished, sent before my time,’ describing his premature birth and deformity because of it; ‘I am curtailed of this fair proportion,’ which depicts his lack of affection from the fairer sex, despite the happy, peaceful times they are supposed to be living in.
Furthermore, this creation of sympathy continues when Richard tells of his preference to warfare than peace, because of his deformities and the opinion people hold of him because of it; ‘Why, I in this weak-piping time of peace Have no delight to pass away the time,’ However, despite the compassion that generates from this verse, it is clear that Shakespeare wishes to evoke mixed feelings from an audience towards Richard. Obviously, at the time when the play had just been written and performed, Queen Elizabeth I was on the throne. As a descendent from the Lancastrian line, the portrayal of the Yorkists becomes almost derogatory because it would portray the Queen’s family in a positive light.
Despite this, and in order to create more suspense within the play, Shakespeare builds on the audiences emotions to create empathy towards Richard, and then pulls them back to a mixture of feelings towards him, as his treachery is outline later in the monologue. ‘And therefore, since I cannot prove a lover To entertain these fair well-spoken days, I am determined to prove a villain,’ This is the first sign of Richard’s changing personality, leaving a subtle taste of what he may really be like, and causing an audience or reader to begin questioning where his vices may lie. Continuing after this change, we clearly see how deep Richard’s lust for power goes.
‘To set my brother Clarence ad the King In deadly hate the one against the other;’ This tells us exactly what Richard’s main aim is, to create such a rift between his two brothers that they wipe each other out in some way or another and leave the path to the throne all the more clearer for him. Following this part of his monologue, his brother, Clarence, enters. This scene demonstrates that Richard has already set his plan into motion, as Clarence is being taken to the tower on the orders of their other brother, the King. I felt that this almost cheated your trust in Richard,; due to the fact that Richard has openly expressed his motives and intentions, to suddenly find that he has already set this plan into motion without informing the reader, almost shakes you, and makes you realise that he can’t be trusted.
The dialogue continues to describe the reason he has been sent to the tower, and then it is made clear how fake Richard is: ‘I will deliver you or lie for you;’ This quote is a clear example of Richard’s clever wordplay, saying he will deliver his brother…the question that remains is whether he will deliver him from punishment or deliver him to heaven; but also demonstrates how appallingly cruel he can be to people, especially members of his own family.
Scene 2 of Act 1 bring in Lady Anne, later to become Richard’s wife, who mourns the loss of her betrothed and her future father in law, both Lancastrians. Her anguish is clearly expressed in a short monologue, and then entrance of Richard is seen as an insult because he was the person who murdered the two men. Again, I felt torn at this point in the Act. It would be terribly disrespectful for someone who deliberately murdered a King, to arrive at his procession to their burial and continue to harass the mourning daughter-in-law in the process. Lady Anne makes this side of the argument a fore front issue in her rebuttal to Richard’s words, and implies his guilt to their murders.