Examine The Character Of Richard The Third As Shakespeare Presents Him To Us, And The Ways In Which The Play May Reflect A Distinctively Tudor View Of History. In Shakespeare’s King Richard III we are presented with the controversial character of Richard. The audience bears witness to the behaviour and techniques he uses in order to reach and eventually seize the throne. A variety of contrasting characteristics make up Richards character. He is frequently portrayed as a manipulator.
This distinguishing feature of Richards becomes apparent from the beginning of the play, as early as in Act 1 Scene 1, as Richard manipulates his brother Clarence in order to cause conflict with the Woodville’s. ‘Tis not the king that sends you to the tower. My lady Grey, his wife, Clarence, ’tis she that tempts him to this harsh extremity’ We see from this that Richard is shifting any blame on to those who he dislikes, in this case, the Woodville’s, regardless of whether they are to blame or not.
All the while he plays the loving brother type to Clarence ‘Well, your imprisonment shall not be long. I will deliver you or else lie for you. Meantime, have patience.’ However these loyal, loving words from brother to brother simply mask Richards’s attempt to divert any future blame away from himself, as his intentions are for Clarence to remain imprisoned and eventually have him murdered.
Furthermore, Richard utilizes his skills of manipulation when arranging Clarence’s murder in Act 1 Scene 4, feeding compliments to the murderers to ensure they execute his plans appropriately ‘Your eyes drop millstones when fools’ eyes fall tears. I like you, lads.’ He makes them feel worthy and important, although in his mind they will become worthless to him after their job is carried out. Richards’s manipulative skills are at their finest and most valuable during the wooing of Anne. He is bold, daring and extremely inappropriate by approaching Anne at her husbands’ funeral. However this is typical of Richards’s character, selecting the most inappropriate time in order to catch Anne off guard, perhaps even intriguing her.
He starts simply by complimenting her ‘Sweet saint, for charity, be not so curst’ attracting her attention early, despite her obvious signs of loathing ‘And thou unfit for any place but hell.’ Despite her malice this scorn only serves to encourage, as Richard proves extremely persistent. Perhaps she cannot understand why, which is what draws her to him. Arguably his most inappropriate comment to Anne occurs when she questions whether ‘Some Dungeon’ is the only place he is suited for, to which he simply responds ‘Your bedchamber’. She once again disregards him but he continues, even suggesting that he was involved in the killing of her husband out of love for her ‘Your beauty was the cause of that effect’. You would imagine that Richards endeavour has failed when Anne spits at him.
But it is at this point we are made aware that Richard is a gambler, playing with remarkably high stakes. His life. He suggests that if her detest of him is that strong then he would let her take his life ‘I lay it naked to the deadly stroke and humbly beg the death upon my knee.’ Although Richard may not be certain if his gamble will pay off, he approaches it with extreme confidence and even when Anne lays down the sword, he bids her take it up again, or even make him kill himself, however Richard has succeeded, Anne has refused to take his life, thus leaving her guard down, Richard sees his opportunity as she appears at her most vulnerable and gives her a ring, symbolising their new found unity, his tremendous acting and manipulative skills have given Richard the rewards from his high stake gamble.
We see a very similar tactic with a very different outcome in Act 4 Scene 4 when Richard attempts to persuade Queen Elizabeth to help him to marry her daughter. The audience again see the skill in Richards’ techniques of persuasion and how intelligent he is with his words. Shakespeare has presented us with a character that knows exactly how to play to people. He is bold, displays his obvious confidence and higher power and uses flattery to charm whoever he is talking to ‘I mean that with my soul I love they daughter and do intend to make her Queen of England’.
Though with Elizabeth this is not the case, she outwits and upstages him by lulling him into thinking he has succeeded, as soon as she is free, she arranges for her daughter to marry Richmond, Richards enemy and the future king of England Henry VII. Perhaps this is due to Richard becoming less self-assured and more paranoid as the play goes on, his once flawless ability to manipulate has withered.
Shakespeare has portrayed Richard as an actor in many ways. The audience sees him take on a number of roles throughout the play, in order to cheat and lie his way to the throne. The first time Richard is shown to the audience he is playing a role, the first half of his opening monologue is in the style of a congratulatory speech of glorious victory, playing to the crowd and stamping himself as a patriotic member of the house of York.
Only do we see the real, bitter and personal side of Richard when he cannot be heard, he is obsessive over his deformities ‘But I that am not shaped for sportive tricks’ and ‘I that am rudely stamped’ however he is obviously aware of them and the burden they bring, he is aware that he is not attractive and uses this to justify his future actions ‘since I cannot prove a lover to entertain these fair well-spoken days, I am determined to prove a villain’.