How does Richard change over the course of the play Richard III?
As soon as the play begins, Richard begins his role as an actor, a fully evil actor who though his mastery of the stage has come to appreciate his own skill. Richard has a strenuous need to perform, and desperately wants to play a role. Therefore I don’t think we really see the ‘real’ Richard very often.
“ As I cannot prove myself as a lover… I am determined to prove a villain”
This shows how Richard is shunned by love and friendship; he is seen as an outsider and wants to become an important figure. In the opening soliloquy, Richard talks of his physical deformity, which may have been nothing, more than a creation of Shakespeare to further the point of Richards disharmony from nature, making the deformity seem an outward sign of his wickedness. It soon shows that Richard uses his deformity as an excuse for is actions and as a tool to win other peoples sympathy.
Richard is appealing because he is such an expert in changing his personality towards different people and being a manipulator.
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During his rise to power in acts I – III he is always in charge of himself and very aware of how to play each scene to his advantage, he informs the audience of what he intends to do then does it. Throughout the play Richard is seen as an outsider and apart from social figures. He is clearly a murderer and a villain yet he is such a charismatic and fascinating figure that, for much of the play, we are likely to sympathize with him, or at least to be impressed with him. In this way, our relationship with Richard mimics the other characters’ relationships with him, conveying a powerful sense of the force of his personality. We, the audience, are watching an actor playing a man who is self confessedly an actor, creating an illusion similar to the illusion we are watching.
Richard plays the role of the loving brother and concerned family man, when Clarence is seen being taken to the tower by order of the King. Richard promises to help his brother, yet he has been plotting against him from the start. He tells his brother to be patient and not to worry. When Clarence is taken away, it is then Richard shows his real character.
“ Go tread the path that thou shalt never return!”
Later on in the play Edwards children are equally as trusting towards Richard, who are convinced he is their “good uncle Glouster”.
Richard wants to establish himself as a peace loving virtuous man, but that is not how he really is it is just an act..
Richard catches other characters throughout the play off balance, as he changes so quickly and always knows what to say or do to manipulate the other person. This is how he manipulated Hastings in Act III scene 4, beginning the seen in a jovial friendly way then suddenly changing roles at the right moment destroying Hastings. Scornful of women Richard is still a successful wooer. So convincingly he woo’s the love of Anne, a woman made a widow by Richard. Anne knows how evil and murderous Richard is yet he puts on an innocent face and claims he did not cause the death of her husband and father in law, shifting power, praise and blame onto Anne. “Your beauty was the cause of that effect”. Richard then falls to his knees in remorse and hands Anne his sword begging her to impale her. With Anne refusing, Richard knows he has won, and places a ring on her finger. This is a sign of commitment and Anne then leaves. Richard then faces the audience and reveals his true self with yet another soliloquy, drawing us in once again and reminding us of his plans.” Will not keep her long” The audience doesn’t sympathise with Anne as she was wooed so quickly by Richard and with false words.
Throughout the play Richard is one moment is repentant for murder and the next he is proud he has manipulated Anne so easily.
Throughout, Richard shows no remorse for his actions, until act V scene “have mercy Jesu!” and “coward conscience, how dost thou afflict me!”
Richard is acting all of the time for his love of acting; he plays so many roles I don’t think he knows himself who he really is. “is there a murderer here? No. Yes, I am!” This part of the play shows Glousters conflicting views of himself. He realise that no one loves him, not even himself. This is the closest I think we get to see Richards ‘real’ side.
Shakespeare endows Richard with many Machiavellian traits, being a deliberate deceiver, manipulative liar and dissembler, who chose to live outside the accepted morals of society. In Elizabethan times the Machiavel was a villainous stock character on drama, named after the writer Niccoli Machiavelli, at this period in time Machiavel was almost synonymous with the devil in English Drama and therefore Shakespeare’s audience would have expected Richard to act like this.
Richard is also seen as The Vice, a popular character during the 15th and 16th centuries, were seen as medieval devils. The vice would also draw in his audience by addressing them directly, and have speeches full of oaths and proverbs.
By the end of the play, Shakespeare shows of Richard’s diminishment in his powers, Richard has become less controlling and is having to react to events instead of being able to control the situation. Richard starts to doubt himself .