The question of Richard lll’s reputation is a puzzle as he was thought of in many alternative ways by the different characters or at contrasting times in the play. His reputation deteriorates towards the end of the play. His brothers Clarence (George) and Edward are fond of him and believe he is an honest, trustworthy man and this is why they do not realise his evil plan. This plan starts when the king has been given advice to imprison anyone close to him whose name begins with the letter “G”. As the king’s brother the duke of Clarence is named George he is sent to the tower. On the way he passes Richard and he assures Clarence he will get him out of the tower, that he shall deliver him and that his “imprisonment shall not be long”.
This is play on words and a form used numerously throughout the play, because Clarence is not in prison long, two murderers employed by Richard to deliver him to a better place. It is thought that if Clarence had lived longer and especially after the murderers had been in as there was a long scene in which one of the murderers backed out of murdering him and Richards’s name was undisclosed to Clarence. Anne who later becomes Richards begrudging wife refers to him as “foul devil” and “fouler toad”, not traditional words of endearment! Overall Richards reputation is not good and even his mother thinks ill of him.
Richard the third was a real king and he occupied the throne in the short reign of two years. This is why it is thought to be a real story as opposed to a folk myth. All of Shakespeare’s plays were based on real people or they were adapted from already written books. I think Richard lll is fairly accurate to his real reign and the means of getting to the throne. However, it may be a little biased in a way it only shows his brutality in getting to the throne and before that he was a loyal and loving brother.
It then leaves out the 2 years before his death when he was a fair and powerful leader. I also think Shakespeare has artistic licence in that he dramatised some of the events. A main event in the play is the princes in the tower, as this is the final step up to taking the throne. It has not yet been proved who was actually responsible for their murder although Richard is the main suspect, in writing this in his play Shakespeare has confirmed suspicions as he has put it in writing and anyone who reads it believes it was him.
In history Richard the third reigned from 1483-1485. He had two brothers, King Edward 4 and the duke of Clarence, George. He was also the uncle of his predecessor Edward 5. He was in the house of York and was the first duke of Gloucester, and then he became the lord protector for a short time before he himself seized the throne. He is accused of many murders but none have ever been proved. Although he was not graceful in getting to the throne, when he did he was a fair and just leader. King Richard the third was the last king to be killed in battle at Bosworth Field. He was then followed by henry 7. Richard became the last Plantagenet dynasty who had ruled England since 1154.
Richard is portrayed in the play as an evil and malignant man who is heartless in his fight for kingship. He is also, especially in the first scene, described as an unthinkably ugly man that people don’t want to look at and he can’t bear to look at in a mirror. It was thought that in history he had a slight hunchback and that one of his arms was withered but not as dramatically as it is stated in the play. It was thought that his outer appearance conveniently mirrored the darkness of his soul. In the very first scene we are introduced to Richard in a soliloquy. The first line, “Now is the winter of our discontent” shows his bitterness and self-consciousness he has about his appearance.
He uses winter as imagery for unhappy and lonely times. I think this may be an explanation for his actions in the rest of the play. The soliloquy carries on to show that he is jealous of his older brother the handsome king, he refers to his life as summer to show the comparison between the two. Richard says he is “cheated of feature by dissembling nature.” And that he is “deformed, unfinished, sent before my time”. I think this is the reason for wanting revenge on his brothers and for wanting to prove himself by getting to the throne by any means! Also in regards to his reputation it may be that he was already thought of badly because of his hunchback and so people assumed he was a bad person.
I think Richard does deserve his reputation because he was evil and malicious. He killed many people and he manipulated people into gaining what he wanted. Also he was ruthless in his fight for the crown and would even do wrong to his family. I think Richard chose the reputation he was given. He must have been very self-conscious about the way people look on him because of his deformities and he would have wanted people to look at him differently and with respect. He could not compete with his brothers as they were properly formed and the only way of gaining the respect he wants is to become King.
He says at the very start that, ” since I cannot prove a lover…I am determined to prove a villain” this shows that his evil plan has been thought of long before the play begins and it has been made fool proof. The first bit of the plan is in motion and the aim was ” to set my brother Clarence and the king in deadly hate the one against the other”. A man willing to cause a rift between brothers deserves everything he gets. Later on when Richard hears of the king’s illness he says privately, ” he cannot live, I hope; and must not die till George be pack’d with post-horse up to heaven.”