What impressions of Richard’s character does the audience obtain in Act I of Richard III? Does he have any positive qualities to enable him to win our interest, admiration or sympathy?

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What impressions of Richard's character does the audience obtain in Act I of Richard III? Does he have any positive qualities to enable him to win our interest, admiration or sympathy?

There are many discrepancies between the real Richard III the play was based on ? and the fictitious character created by Shakespeare. These discrepancies were created for several reasons: His deformity was played up in order to invoke disgust and to portray his lack of morals and evil spirit in a physical form, also Shakespeare had to make Richard look bad to please the Queen Elizabeth I as she was from an opposing family to Richard's. Also the history sources, which Shakespeare relied on to provide a basis of a character, were doctored in order to make the present monarchy look good. Another, perhaps more prominent reason for the particular character traits Shakespeare took was that he wanted to create an interesting central character which would interest the audience into watching the whole of the play. His choice of characteristics for Richard would also invoke a certain level of sympathy from a modern day audience due to his involuntary exclusion from society which caused him to be angry and vengeful. In truth he was fair and incorruptible he increased the freedom of the common people. In contrast the play portrayed a ruthless, devious, merciless child-killer who was desperate for power, a typical Machiavellian character.

The opening soliloquy of Richard's put him and the audience closer together than any of the characters as they're the only people he takes his mask off for. This means they have a certain oneness with Richard during the play. Due to this closeness they are allowed to know vaguely what Richard will do but they don't know the intimate details or the how. He explains his deep feelings about his involuntary isolation. He feels hideously ugly and because of this no one will want to have sex or any type of relationship with him. In lines 1 - 13 he says how jealous of society and of the beautiful people he is by talking of how good is this "glorious summer" of peace is in a sarcastic manner. His sarcasm only comes across as the soliloquy progresses when he talks of his bitterness towards society without being tainted by cynicism or any other form of disdain. The soliloquy is a summation of Richard's feelings, which then accounts for his actions later on. Richard feels that the world, like him, is "scarce half made up". He resents the fact that he is not accepted. The negative words he uses to describe himself, "deformed, unfinish'd" "rudely stamp'd" says a lot about his estimation of himself. He is ashamed of his appearance and because he "cannot prove a lover" he is "determin'd to prove a villain." This is also highlights his inferiority complex as he feels he has to prove something to himself and the audience. In short he is saying: this is how I feel and this is what I am going to do about it.

Scene II highlights Richard's cunning, deviousness and his ability to read people's characters, and in doing so is able to predict how they'll react to any given circumstance. He continually plays on Anne's vanity to win her over by disarming her vicious insults like "foul devil," "dreadful minister of hell" and "villain" which insult his morals (or lack of them). As well as "diffus'd infection of a man," "lump of foul deformity," "hedgehog," "adders, spiders, toads, or any creeping venom thing that lives" which show her disgust of his physical appearance, with repetitions of beauty and other similar compliments towards her appearance i.e. "sweet saint" "more wonderful when angels are so angry," "divine perfection of a woman," "heavenly face" etc... He incites pity from Anne by saying that he would lead a pointless existence if he didn't share it with her and then asks her to kill him or to bid him kill himself. At the start of their confrontation Anne had already done this, "no excuse current but to hang thyself," but, like many of the things that she said, he ignored it for example: - at the start he ignores her comment towards him and carries on reinstating his order towards the halberdier. Also when she insults him he appears not to mind and just carries on complimenting her. Had he offered to give up his life for her at the start she would have carried it out without any qualms. However, due to Richard's ability to read peoples characters and manipulate them, he is able to turn Anne's seemingly deep seated hate into admiration, "with all my heart and much it joys me too, to see you become so pertinenent" as well as to consider Richard as a lover which is shown by the giving and the acceptance of the ring which is a token of Richards love. Even though she says, "to take is not to give", to take at all is a huge achievement for Richard and a massive concession on her part. This passage illustrates the shallow level of Anne's character, this "Diffus'd infection of a man" who killed her husband and father in-law quite easily wooed her with repetition of her beauty and Richard picks up on that fact at the end when he takes of his mask for the audience. The end soliloquy highlights Richards's boastfulness and he mocks Anne's susceptibility to be so easily won over. It also accentuates Richard's inferiority complex as he feels that he has to woo Anne in order to prove to himself that he, a physically ugly man could overcome her hate towards him and replace a physically perfect man whom he killed as well as his father. "Was ever woman in this humour woo'd? was ever woman in this humour won? I'll have her yet but I'll not keep her long." This shows how he views Anne, as a trophy, a mere object with limited use, "what I that did kill her husband and his father: to take her heart's extremist hate, with curses in her mouth and tears in her eyes, the bleeding witness of hatred by, having god, her conscience, and these bars against me -" he boasts of his latest conquest and what he had to defeat to get there including god and righteousness. It also emphasizes his ability to control and manipulate people to whatever means he wants. Like a puppet master pulling strings on puppets that think that they have full control over their actions.
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In scene III Richard enters the conversation very abrasively, seemingly knowledgeable of their backstabbing and gossiping. Straight away he puts himself forward as the injured party, which confuses them, as none of the gossipers know whom he's accusing. At the start of the scene the queen talks openly of her fears and her doubts of how Richard's devious ways will effect her and her family once her husband dies; "if he would die what would betide on me?" and "Ah, he is young and his minority is put under the trust of Richard of Gloucester, a man who ...

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