How does our opinion of Richard alter throughout the first 3 scenes of Shakespeares

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How does our opinion of Richard change throughout Act 1 of Richard III?

Throughout Act 1, Shakespeare presents Richard in many different lights, using both Richard’s perspective and the perspective of other characters within the play.

The first encounter with Richard is the opening monologue of the play. This monologue uses many different techniques to play with the emotions of any audience. For example, the impression I got of Richard, when first reading the play was that he was of high birth; because, due to the time period in which the play is set, anyone with education was well off, so without even knowing the role of Richard within the royal family, you would be able to tell this. I can draw this conclusion from Richard’s clever use of words such as ‘this sun of York,’ which is an intelligent pun, as Richard is a son of York, and his play on words makes it seem as if he is incredibly important. This idea also gives an outlook on Richard’s view of himself.

A huge proportion of the first monologue draws in the negative features of Richard’s life. This creates a huge amount of empathy towards him, making it seem as if he is the hard done by member of the family. Phrases such as, ‘Deformed, unfinished, sent before my time,’ describing his premature birth and deformity because of it; ‘I am curtailed of this fair proportion,’ which depicts his lack of affection from the fairer sex, despite the happy, peaceful times they are supposed to be living in. Furthermore, this creation of sympathy continues when Richard tells of his preference to warfare than peace, because of his deformities and the opinion people hold of him because of it;

‘Why, I in this weak-piping time of peace

Have no delight to pass away the time,’

However, despite the compassion that generates from this verse, it is clear that Shakespeare wishes to evoke mixed feelings from an audience towards Richard. Obviously, at the time when the play had just been written and performed, Queen Elizabeth I was on the throne. As a descendent from the Lancastrian line, the portrayal of the Yorkists becomes almost derogatory because it would portray the Queen’s family in a positive light.

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 Despite this, and in order to create more suspense within the play, Shakespeare builds on the audiences emotions to create empathy towards Richard, and then pulls them back to a mixture of feelings towards him, as his treachery is outline later in the monologue.

‘And therefore, since I cannot prove a lover

To entertain these fair well-spoken days,

I am determined to prove a villain,’

This is the first sign of Richard’s changing personality, leaving a subtle taste of what he may really be like, and causing an audience or reader to begin questioning where his vices may lie. ...

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