CLARENCE. I know it pleaseth neither of us well.
RICHARD. Well, your imprisonment shall not be long.
I will deliver you or else lie for you.
Meantime, have patience.
CLARENCE. I must perforce. Farewell.
RICHARD. Go, tread the path that thou shalt ne’er return.
Simple, plain Clarence, I do love thee so
That I will shortly send thy soul to heaven. . . (I. i.113-120)
Even though Richard III is recognizable and plausible, as the events in the play progress, he encounters conflicts that result in the changes to his character. He panics and loses confidence in his scheme. Characters like him are craved by readers because of their interesting and multi-faceted personalities and actions.
When trying to evoke a certain response from the reader, Shakespeare develops pathos while using imagery and sentence structure to express his point of view that engages the reader into the play. The language of the play is expressive with wordplay and creates the rhythm of iambic pentameter, making one feel connected with the literature. Imagery is the use of emotional words which conjure up vivid scenes, intensifying the play. Richard III is rich in imagery, using metaphors, “The royal tree hath left us royal fruit” (III. vii.166) and similes, “like the formal Vice, Iniquity” (III. iii.82). The words, images, and moods indicate the further events of the story. Shakespeare uses tactful words through Lady Margaret to curse Richard III, which are fulfilled later on in the play. Prophecies made about Richmond were woven into the play, adding complications to the plot, and foreshadowing Richard’s future, “I do remember me, Henry the Sixth/ Did prophesy that Richmond should be king . . . / Because a bard of Ireland told me once / I should not live long after I saw Richmond” (IV. ii. 96-97,107-108).
The added complications in the plot can change a character’s feelings and thoughts, creating a different atmosphere and theme in the play.
In Richard III, one of the main themes is the presence of conscience. It gives the characters in the play a sense of what is right and wrong from their actions and motives. When people acknowledge the play, they feel that the characters are dealing with their conscience. For example, the murderers killed Clarence and felt pangs of conscience, “Faith, some certain dregs of conscience are yet within me / ... Zounds, 'tis even now at my elbow, persuading me not to kill the duke” (I. iv.115, 135). The murderers feel guilty about killing Clarence but the allure of the reward from Richard III quickly silences their conscience. Another theme is romance. Richard III’s delightful wordplay woos Lady Anne after he killed her father and husband, “Your beauty was the cause of that effect— / Your beauty, that did haunt me in my sleep / To undertake the death of all the world, / So I might live one hour in your sweet bosom” (I. ii.126-129). She melts into his deceiving words and agrees to marry him. Also, the power of language plays into how tactful Richard is. He then persuades the mayor with his wordplay to believe that Hastings was a traitor, “So smooth he daubed his vice with show of virtue / That, his apparent open guilt omitted— / I mean his conversation with Shore's wife— / He lived from all attainder of suspects” (III. iv.29-32). Shakespeare affects the power of language by showing persuasion, which evokes feelings from characters and readers, resulting in the effect of the power of language.
Language is ultimately very powerful. It is used every day; from reading, to speaking, to writing. Shakespeare’s writing skilfully presents the use of the power of language, specifically in Richard III. His creation of round-characters and the structure of his message engage and influence the audience emotionally, and intellectually. A strong influence can make one understand and agree, which may lead to a response or action. Action, which is also important, is the implication of the use of language. Therefore, action and language are often responsive to one another and both the key to communication.
Shakespeare, William. King Richard III. Ed. Pat Balwin and Tom Balwin, Cambridge,
UK: Cambridge UP, 2007.