Shakespeare’s Richard III

Length: 5 Pages 1341 Words

Richard III is considered one of Shakespeare’s most evil characters, one endowed with sharp wit and lacking in morals, who governs through fear and force. Richard III deals extensively with the themes of political corruption and dissimulation. Richard's reign is portrayed as a period in which nothing is sacred; neither on a political or social level, nor on a personal one. Richard will stop at nothing, not even at betraying his friends and murdering his kin, in order to become king. Although his traits of character are clearly illustrated through his deeds and words, Shakespeare provides the reader with an important contrast to the character of the king, namely the women of the play. These women are: the Duchess of York, Richard's mother; Anne who later becomes Richard's wife; Queen Margaret who was the former queen and Richard's arch enemy, and Queen Elizabeth, the current queen. Also, Queen Elizabeth’s daughter, Elizabeth, is present in the plot but the reader is never introduced to her. Richard appears one-dimensionally evil, a flat character, the embodiment of evil and moral decay. His evil ambitions are expressed at the outset of the play; his purpose is to deepen the chaos in the kingdom and ultimately become king. He Continue...


Even if he had not murdered her, she would have committed suicide as she was aware of her end approaching, as she confesses to Elizabeth: "Besides he hates me (...), and will no doubt shortly be rid of me (IV, i, 86) Lady Anne's role in the characterization of Richard is very important because her fate illustrates that love and violence are related in Richard's character. She is the wife of the dead King Henry VI and represents the status of women in the patriarchal power structure of Renaissance England. (I, ii, 151-152) Her words might suggest her feeling tend to be predominantly of hate, but the moment when she fails to execute him when she has the chance is proof that she actually has feelings for Richard: "Arise dissembler, though I wish thy death I will not be thy executioner. Nevertheless, Shakespeare does not suggest that there are entirely innocent in this game; on the contrary, he implies that they are involved in the struggle between the two houses, be it passively such as Anne's acceptance of Richard's proposal, or Margaret's active implication as a soldier in the battlefield; regardless of their degree of implication, these women are not strangers to the blood of the battlefield. The world of Richard III is a man's world in which women grieve, complain, or bury the dead. She asks for revenge and curses everyone who contributed to her personal losses: Clarence, Richard, Hastings, King Edward, and Dorcet and invokes justice. (I, ii, 232-234) Although she becomes aware of the empty promises and falls prey to violence and abuse from Richard, Anne is powerless and fearful of a public scandal or revenge. (IV, i, 52-55) The character of Margaret is perhaps one of the most memorable even though her role in the plot is minor. Richard's relationship with Anne is a mixture of love and hatred. Anne, Elizabeth, the Duchess of York and Margaret are voices of protest and morality who condemn the actions of the king, and are able to see through his intrigues, and at times, even to foresee the consequences of his acts. These women illustrate how moral destruction is generated by the violation of social order, and how it generates further destruction resulting in the devastation of individual, the family, the nation, all leading to profound suffering. For her, Richard is the counterpart of her first husband whom she refers to as "angel-husband (IV, i, 68). Poor key-cold figure of a holy king! Pale ashes of the house of Lancaster! Thou bloodless remnant of that royal blood! (1, ii). Anne is truly destroyed by Richard because she loses everything.