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This excerpt is taken from the very first act of Shakespeare's play 'Richard III', and it exemplifies just how, throughout the play, Shakespeare portrays the king as a vile and despicable character.

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Introduction

"Cheated of feature by dissembling Nature, Deform'd, unfinish'd, sent before my time Into this breathing world, scarce half made up And that so lamely and unfashionable That dogs bark at me as I halt by them; Why, I, in this weak piping time of peace, Have no delight to pass away the time, Unless to spy my shadow in the sun And descant on mine own deformity: And therefore, since I cannot prove a lover, To entertain these fair well-spoken days, I am determin'd to prove a villain And hate the idle pleasures of these days." This excerpt is taken from the very first act of Shakespeare's play 'Richard III', and it exemplifies just how, throughout the play, Shakespeare portrays the king as a vile and despicable character. This image of Richard has captured the imaginations of many and there is no doubt that he had been vilified and castigated across numerous generations: condemned as the evil villain who contrived to have his brother drowned in a butt of wine and his nephews smothered in the Tower of London. However, is this impression of King Richard really valid? Can this picture, painted in words by a man who wrote them over one hundred years after Richard's death, be the definitive account of the person and character of this frequently reviled king? To answer these questions one must look beyond Shakespeare's brilliantly written prose and search for true examples of Richard's personality. The Quest to ruin Richard's Name Though Shakespeare created the most vibrant images in his telling of Richard's life, his play can still only be viewed as fictional. It must also be taken into account that, though Shakespeare's characterization of Richard, as one of the most brutal and malicious of English kings, endured well past his death, it is a fact that his work is merely a continuation of the propaganda begun by Henry Tudor and his most devoted supporters after their victory at the Battle of Bosworth. ...read more.

Middle

and to his nephew Edward V as well, by arresting the Woodville conspirators, who had brought Edward V up and who wanted to rule through him when he was crowned. However, this could also be viewed as Richard's attempt to get rid of any opposition to his ensuing actions. Nonetheless Richard didn't appear to want the throne, since he began preparations for Edward V's coronation immediately and it all seemed set to take place. That is, until Robert Stillington, who was Chancellor twice during Edward IV's reign, brought the news that Edward V could not legally be crowned since Edward IV had be betrothed to another woman at the time that he married Elizabeth Woodville. This meant that all of Edward IV's children by Elizabeth were illegitimate since medieval church law held a consummated betrothal to be as legally binding as marriage. Since illegitimate children could not inherit Edward V could not be crowned. Hence the Lords and Commons of Parliament asked Richard if he would accept kingship of England; he did and on July 6th 1483 was crowned king of England. Whether these events are entirely true or not is questionable since Richard could have invented the claim that Edward V and Richard of York were illegitimate himself. Investigations have shown that the claim could have been put together, though it would have required much skill, and that the story was plausible, though not proved. There do seem to be elements of truth in Richard's accusation that make it feasible. For example, Edward IV was known to be a womanizer; therefore it is entirely possible that he was betrothed to another woman before marrying Elizabeth Woodville. Also, the man purported to have delivered the news, Robert Stillington, was Chancellor to Edward IV twice. Edward must have trusted the man for him to have gained that position. Hence Stillington would not unduly lie about the sons of the man who he served willingly, and thus one cannot really suspect Richard of forcing or bribing Stillington to say that Edward V and Richard were illegitimate. ...read more.

Conclusion

Earl of Northumberland when he visited a village near Thirsk; they had not forgotten how the Earl had refused to go to Richard's aid at the battle that claimed his life. Not a Hunchback, he was just Human In the face of these facts it is impossible not to be able see that Richard III was no where near as evil or malicious as has been made out. Josephine Toy's detective Alan Grant looked at Richard's portrait and saw "someone used to great responsibility, and responsible in his authority. Someone too conscientious. A worrier, perhaps a perfectionist." Not all of us will be able to view Richard in this way, but it is clear that the image that we all have all come to recognize from Shakespeare is merely an image of propaganda and does not truthfully represent Richard in character or in physical appearance. Perhaps Richard III was not perfect, but he does not deserve to be reviled as much as he has been. Even someone who does believe in the truth of physiognomy cannot simply jump to the conclusion that Richard was a murdering villain. Indeed, if he had been given the chance, it is quite likely that Richard would have grown upon all his people, making an impact on them just as he did on the people of York having ruled them for twelve years prior to becoming sovereign. In particular I find it extremely unfair that Richard has suffered such libel whilst other monarchs, such as Henry IV, who snatched the throne from his uncle Richard II and then had him murdered, and Henry VIII, who executed not one, but two of his wives in plain evidence, have managed to escape the censure that has been awarded to Richard III. Therefore, before you bear judgment on Richard, just think about all the evidence that has been put forward here and you will quickly realize that perhaps Richard deserves a lot more appreciation than we have been willing to give him. ...read more.

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