‘Dangerously alluring’, to what extent is this an accurate estimation of Richards Character?
Richard III. One of the most complex characters in Shakespeare’s various plays. Psychologically, he is an enigmatic individual, who possesses a number of contradictory characteristics, which qualify him as a fantastic villain. He is a man so determined to succeed, that he can almost be perceived as slightly insane. His three dimensional character means that there is a side of him that will appeal to the audience, and absorbs the viewer into his world of madness, irony, and mayhem. There is no other suitable way to characterise Richard, apart from ‘Dangerously alluring’, as I will prove in a psychosomatic analysis of Richard in the play ‘King Richard III’.
One of Richard’s most dangerously alluring characteristics is his manipulative speech. He is undoubtedly the most articulate character in the whole of the play, making him dangerous to encounter. He proves, throughout the play, that, with the aid of his ‘honey words’, he can free himself from any situations that may jeopardise, his plot and thus his path to the throne. One of the most improbable situations, which Richard’s verbal dexterity allows him to escape, is his confrontation with Anne (Act I Scene III), at the funeral of her late husband Edward Prince of Wales, who died at the hands of Richard following the Battle of Tewkesbury. Of course Anne feels pure hate towards Richard because of the pain he has inflicted upon her and her family. In the beginning of their encounter her revulsion towards Richard is evident in the tone of her speech;
‘Foul devil, for God’s sake hence, and trouble us not...’
It is quite clear that Anne holds, in her heart, a passionate hatred towards Richard, as he ruined her family. Other examples of her abhorrence of Richard are the names, to which she refers to him with,
‘...infection of a man’
‘...thou lump of foul deformity’
The latter insult is very wounding towards Richard as it refers to his deformity, i.e. his withered arm, which he is very aware of, he makes many comments throughout the play about it,
(Act I scene I) ‘Cheating of feature by dissembling Nature’
‘But I, that am not shaped for sporting tricks...’
‘...descant upon my own deformity.’
And thinks himself inferior because of it,
‘...since I cannot prove a lover...’
This reference to Richard’s deformity, by Anne reflects how angry she is. In some parts of the confrontation she even curses him,
‘Either heav’n with lightening strike the murderer dead...’
Previously, before Richard enter the scene she makes many hurtful curses upon Richard and his prospective wife,
‘If ever he have a child, abortive be it;’
‘May fright the hopeful mother at the view ...’
With hindsight it is clear to see how ironic these curses are because Anne ultimately becomes Richard’s wife. Yet how was Anne transformed from hatred, to an ounce of affection, after the crimes Richard has committed against her and her family? Simply, when she finally gives Richard an opportunity to speak, Anne is lured by his dexterity in the art of deceit. He skilfully turns the blame towards, as he claims it was her beauty which drove him towards such heinous crimes,
‘Your beauty was the cause of that effect...’
His disingenuous tactics prove advantageous as slowly but surely she calm, falling a prey to his deception. Allowing Richard time to speak is a fatal error as she lets her guard down and becomes susceptible to his lies.
At one point he gauges that he has turned her mind from hate to slight affection, and offers her his sword to kill him for his crimes, and to rid him of the pain he feels because of the great ‘affection’ he feels for Anne which is not mutual;
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‘Lo here I lend thee this sharp pointed sword
Which if thou please to hide in this true breast...’
His verbal skill is and obviously has been influential enough to turn Anne’s feelings, and he has picked a key moment to prove his love, as at any point before she perhaps would have gladly buried the sword in his chest. He picks the right moment where she has been stunned and confused by his actions, and the fact that he has offered his sword for Anne to kill him, confirms his ‘true’ feelings for her.
He even previously utters some very callous words about Anne and his feelings towards her,
ANNE; ‘Some dungeon’
RICHARD; ‘Your bed chamber’
The fact that Richard has the courage to utter such a tasteless comment speaks highly of his audacity and confidence, and shows that he gauges that he has the intelligence to remedy this whole situation, no matter how difficult the predicament he finds himself in is. His air of confidence is dangerously alluring because it shows him to be a very strong character, and some women find confidence an attractive quality. Richard III’s character explores the attraction of an anti hero, just as Heathcliff did in the novel Wuthering Heights.
In this scene of the play Richard uses his skill to win Anne over and accomplish another part of his plot to become King. Richards’ intelligence allows him to see that by marrying Anne he is safe-guarding his position on the throne as he will have an alliance with the House of York through his own blood and Lancaster through Anne’s. He shows how he can exploit Anne to make his path to being King even stronger. This scene is perhaps the best example of how dangerously alluring Richard is as when you contrast the beginning and the end of the scene it is clear to see what Richard has accomplished. With his verbal dexterity, he has dramatically changed the mood of the scene from pure contempt for Richard at the start,
‘...infection of a man’
Stichomythia features frequently in the first part of this scene reflection the hostile mood projected by Anne. She hurls abuse at him and he tries to answer it to his best ability to rid her of the contempt which she has formed to protect herself from the ever deceitful Richard.
Yet she will not stoop to his level and kill him,
‘...though I wish thy death I will not be thy executioner...’
This occurs after Richard tries to woo her,
‘...thy beauty, and made them blind with weeping’
as it is clear that if he had said this at the beginning of the scene, I am sure the response would have been slightly different.
The mood slowly changes to slight belief of what Richard is saying, after his convincing confessions of his ‘love’ towards Anne. She brings herself to confront Richard and ask if it is true,
‘I would I knew thy heart...’
She is still very conscious of the fact that Richard is a well known liar; he illuminates this reality in this scene when she discovers his slander when he accuses Edward of killing the two men, who are being buried,
RICHARD; ‘Nay he is dead and slain by Edward’s hand.’
ANNE; ‘In thy foul throat thy liest...’
However, after being lured by Richard’s lies, she no longer remains conscious of this fact, as she has been lured by his adroitness. If she was not under Richard’s ever present influence she would surely remember his first lie and remain dubious of anything else that he says, thus however id not the case, demonstrating how Richard is able to disguise his intentions behind a wall of flattery and sophistry
The language he uses can easily be linked to his character, as his language and temperament can both be describes as dynamic. Richard has a very active character, as shown throughout the play he is very lively and acts upon instinct. He uses the word ‘bustle’ frequently throughout the play,
‘And leave the world for me to bustle in...’
The words he uses portrays his character very well as he uses many words of action. His vigorous language is dangerously alluring because it shows his keen sense of leadership which can be a very alluring characteristic. This has been proven all the way through history. Take the example of Adolf Hitler. Hitler had amazing leadership skills because of his verbal dexterity. When he delivered speeches he commanded the attention of the whole room and enthralled his audience, playing the role of inspirational leader. This is true of Richard. Both he and Hitler share the same amazing determination. Richard shows this in his speech before the battle which provides the closing scene for the play. He uses vigorous words to arouse his army. Bustle, features twice in his oration,
‘Come, bustle, bustle!’
In the first sentence he sets the tone for the whole speech, the speech goes on to become dynamic and of many dimensions. It moulds Richard’s army’s mind to think of the enemy as,
‘...A sort of vagabonds, rascals, and runaways...’
It is full of hateful words to encourage the army to crush their enemy. His choice of words reflects his dynamic character. In contrast, Richmond, the opposing side in the war, makes a speech full of beauty, and religious references,
‘Yet remember this: God and our good cause, fight upon our side...’
Richmond concentrates on the positive purpose behind his invasion, and why his army will win. Richard is more negative and provides a speech full of hateful images, providing reasons as to why Richmond needs to be annihilated. Even though Richards’s speech is somewhat less honourable it is still rousing all the same. His dynamic language proves to be inspirational, as he creates a sense of fear in his soldiers. His dexterity can be almost hypnotic, as proven with one of his infamous victories, Anne.
Richard has a somewhat outrageous logic. I think that because of his lack of conscience he views things differently to everyone else. It would seem sick to most people that after killing her husband and father Richard even suggests becoming Anne’s husband, or even to show his face at the funeral yet Richard defies this all by doing all of the above. This makes him alluring to the audience as he is different to all of the other characters. He enjoys a challenge and relishes trying to conquer the seemingly impossible.
He explores his own wayward reasoning throughout the play. One of the key moments when he does this is when, in Act IV Scene IV Richard is trying to convince Elizabeth to let him have his daughters hand in marriage,
Eliz; Yet thou didst kill my children.
King Rich; But in your daughters womb I shall bury them...
This statement is absolutely sick minded and only Richard would have the audacity to say something like this. This makes him dangerously alluring as he is unique in this play. None of the rest of the cast would even think some of the things he has the bravery to say.
Richard is also appealing, because of one other key reason. He is an excellent actor. Throughout the play he transforms into many other intriguing personas, thus manipulating the other characters’ minds. The only people who see the true Richard are the audience who share a quite personal relationship with Richard, because of the numerous soliloquies, which are performed throughout the play. He acts suitably to one group of people, and then confides his true feelings and intentions, to the audience, making the audience feel hike his co conspirators.
One of the most obvious situations, in which he utilises his acting skills, is with Anne, when he plays the role of the doting lover. To Anne he appears truly sincere wooing her with his honey words;
‘Your beauty was the cause of that effect:
To undertake the death of all the world,
So as I might live one in your sweet bosom.’
Using his immense intelligence and dramatics Richard manages to remedy the situation to put Anne in blame for having a face that radiates such beauty. These strong and poetic words grasp Anne’s heart which as we can see is susceptible to Richard’s flattery. But when he resumes playing his real character in the soliloquy that follows this scene the audience see his true feelings and intentions, which he utilises the soliloquy’s to make known;
‘Was ever woman in this humour woo’d?
Was ever woman in this humour won?
I’ll have her, but I will not keep her long.’
Richard reflects back upon what he achieves and gloats about how much she hated him and how he has rescued the situation. Within this dialogue between Richard and Anne, it is also interesting to see that Anne thinks that she has control of the situation,
’Tis more than you deserve;
But since you teach me how to flatter you,
Image I have said farewell already...’
Richard is acting the role of the weak lover, yet in truth Richard, as ever, is the commander and shall soon, once he has ultimate control over Anne, i.e. her hand in marriage, make Anne aware of this.
This scene provides an incite into Richards sick humour which I think is another attribute of his real temperament. Richard offers to bury Anne’s deceased husband properly in the true style he deserves,
‘ Where after I solemly interr’d
At Chertsey Monastery this noble King,
And wet his grave with my repentant tears...
Grant me this boon’
Anne is drawn in by his words and truly believes that he wants to do the decent thing and bury his fatalities appropriately. Yet again when Anne leaves the scene the audience is privy to Richard’s true intentions when he commands his men to go back on his oath to Anne,
GENT; Towards Cherstsey
RICHARD; No to Whitefriars; there attend my coming.
This element of Richard’s character is dangerously alluring because, he can play a role to suit any situation, and act it well enough to be convincing. Thus he can use his aptitude to worm his way into the most hate filled of hearts, shown when he woos Anne.
Including the ‘doting lover’ Richard plays many other characters. Psychologically he could be described as schizophrenic; personally I would evaluate him as skilful. He has observed the best way to deal with certain characters, and manoeuvres himself to suit all situations. In this play he appears to be a loyal brother to Clarence whilst because of previous soliloquy’s the audience is aware of the irony in his speeches to his brother. In Scene 1 Act 1, before Clarnce enters, Richard performs a soliloquy, in which he reveals his plans for Clarence,
‘This day should Clarence be mew’d up...’
This reveals that Richard plans to have Clarence killed, before his brother enters Richard utters,
‘Dive thoughts, down to my soul: here Clarence comes...’
This shows the audience that he is not going to be his true self in the next scene as if his thoughts dive down to his soul then they will be too deep down to surface, yet Clarence is not aware of his brothers falsities, and yet again, because of his acting ability Clarence thinks that his brother loves him. Richard claims not to know the reason Clarence is in the tower
‘That you should be new-chisten’d in the Tower
But what’s the matter, Clarence may I know?’
But he himself reveals his part in Clarence’s imprisonment in the soliloquy previous to this scene,
‘About a prophecy, which says that ‘G’...?’
Clarence’s’ naivety is seen the most before his murder when he says in desperation,
‘And I will send you to my brother Gloucester
Who shall reward you better for my life ...’
And even after the murderers tell him that his brother hates him he is adamant that they are wrong.
This scene, when Clarence is trying to bargain with the murderers, shows how dangerous Richard’s intelligence is, as little does Clarence know, it is his brother that wants him killed. Richard has lured Clarence into a web of deceit in which Clarence has become susceptible to Richard’s lies showing how dangerously alluring Richard is in this play
Richard’s other personalities include, confident to the audience, in his soliloquies where he is his self. Lover to Anne,
‘Your beauty was the cause of that effect...’
Loving Uncle to the princes,
‘Where it seems best unto your royal self..’
Leader of his people, a devout pious man,
‘O do not swear , my lord Buckingham...’
and many, many more. This makes him alluring because his many sides make him an intriguing character as he his not two dimensional like the rest of the cast. His multiple personas make him dangerously alluring because it is difficult to say which of his personas his is utilising, and it would be difficult to believe him as it would be hard to tell whether what he is saying is an act.
For example when he is speaking with Clarence he seems genuinely concerned about his brother,
‘From whence this present day he is deliver’d?
We are not safe, Clarence, we are not safe!’
Perhaps without the aid of the soliloquies we would not know otherwise?.
To conclude, I personally think that the two words ‘Dangerously alluring’ do justice to Richard’s manipulative ways. Richard suffers from chronic ambitiousness, and as a result he does not have a conscience. Richard lures people into his web of deceit and quickly exterminates them if they do not fit the mould. He is a dangerous character as; I think he does not see people as human but as pawns to manipulate on the way to the throne. The factor that makes him most alluring is his multiple personalities which he explores throughout the play. His chameleonic ways are perilous because he can swap quickly for personality to personality making him interesting to the audience. This is not only perilous to the people around him, but also to himself as if he plays all of these characters he will soon lose himself in all of the pretence. By the end of the play he begins to deteriorate as personally I think that once he has achieved his main goal, he does not know what to do with himself, he quickly becomes paranoid and as a strong, dangerously alluring character, he collapses, and is no longer appealing to the audience. He become guilty, mistrustful, and vicious compared to his previous character which oozed charisma. No longer is he Richard, the anti hero with an alluring personality, but Richard III who no longer has control over a world which he once had wrapped around his little finger. Once upon a time Richard was dangerously alluring but towards the end he becomes dangerously aware.