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Richard III

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Rachel Walsh

on 27 October 2012

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Transcript of Richard III

Richard III There are numerous historical inaccuracies with Shakespeare's presentation of the facts throughout the play.
False proclamations of murder: Henry IV; Edward, Prince of Wales; his brothers George, the Duke of Clarence and Edward IV; Lord Hastings and his nephews, Edward V of England and Richard of Shrewsbury, Duke of York.
Accusations of manipulation (including his treatment of his wife, Anne Neville, and his brother's widow, Elizabeth).
The presence of Queen Margret who died in 1582.
There are also issues taken with the description of Richard's appearance: Historically speaking...
Anne is initially reluctant to fall for Richard's charms but she is soon taken in by his dark and loving speeches, hoping them to be sincere ('I would I knew thy heart' [1.2.178]). She says that she fell captive to his "honey words" (4.1.75). Still, Richard seems to take great pleasure in reminding Anne of how repulsed by him she was initially.

Richard uses tricks and beautiful language in order to win Anne over. He calls himself her "poor, devoted servant" [1.2.210] even as she is violent in her descriptions of him.

He also plays upon her 'womanly nature'; he flatters her repeatedly, arguing that the crimes he committed were for love of her rather than any evil in his heart. He tells her that it was her beauty that did "haunt [him] in sleep" [1.2.577], and that it was her beauty that "provoked [him]... [her] heavenly fave that set [him] on" [1.2.185-7]

The seduction of Anne has been described as being "a farcical grotesque" (C.W.R.D., 'Richard III', 1989). Her speeches towards Richard are initially filled with deep demonic imagery, even as he spins loving words in order to try and claim her heart. In another show of contempt she does not use the polite "you" until the end of their scene together, instead using the informal "thou" and "thy" whilst Richard still makes use of "you". Ironically, she goes as far as to curse Richard's future wife - who is, of course, herself.

In comparison, Richard is as shameless in his flattery as Anne is in her hatred. He has a quick quip or reply to everything she says, and instils great important on the use of the word "love"; he even goes as far as to argue that he is fit for her bedchamber. He plays upon her flaws as a woman, claiming that she has invoked tears and then, finally, offers her a sword to kill him - this final show of "penance" is what seems to completely win Anne over. The Attraction of Richard - Anne Similar to Anne, Elizabeth is not ignorant of Richard's evil. She makes note of his 'interior hatred/which in [his] outward actions shows itself' (1.3.65-66). Richard constantly reminds her of his crimes, but she still appears to fall prey to his plan to marry her daughter.

The second wooing is far longer than the first; while this may show Richard struggling with power, it could also be because of Elizabeth's personality and nature in comparison with Anne.

He struggles to gain emotive control over the debate between them and Elizabeth seems to respond to everything he says with ease. She is quick, witty and sarcastic, even playing dumb at times in order to overcome Richard.

As the scene ends the audience is left unsure of Richard's success - while he believes that Elizabeth is a "shallow, changing woman" [4.4.436] it is completely unclear whether or not he has achieved his goal. It is only made clear in a turn of dramatic irony in a later scene where Elizabeth says she has promised her daughter to Richmond. The 'Attraction' - Elizabeth Richard the attractive anti-hero Laurence Olivier as 'Richard III' The Image & The Attraction Shakespeare portrays Richard as a disgusting hunchback, based on Thomas More's description of the king as being 'little of stature, ill fetured of limmes, croke backed, his left shoulder much higher than his right, hard favoured of visage... he came into the worlde with the feete forwarde ... and also not untothed.’
The Countess of Desmond, however, described him as ‘the handsomest man in the room except his brother Edward, and was very well made.’
Richard's portrait (above) is also a source of conspiracy. Richard & Deformity Richard describes himself in the opening scene of the play - if his physical appearance wasn't made obvious by the actor, his self damning egotism makes it clear.

He describes himself as being "deformed, unfinished, sent before [his] time" [1.1.20] and having a "dissembling nature" [12.19].

He states that his features leave him "unable to prove a lover", so, of course, he must "prove a villain" [1.1.28-30]

Richard's evil isn't hidden from the audience; it's almost shoved down their throats; they're encouraged to see the "megalomanic delights" of Richard's sadism. (Hugh Richmond, 1999). His appearance is constantly described as being loathsome and disgusting, especially by modern standards of beauty and handsomeness; Margaret describes him as being "the son of hell"; "elvish-marked, abortive rooting-hog" (1.3) Alongside this, Richard is referenced as being "hell's black intelligencer" (4.4.71) Physically, Shakespeare's intention was to portray Richard as a deeply horrific and disgusting creature - unlike his elder brother his winsome features are his mind which he then, in a reflection of his disgusting appearance, uses for evil instead of good.

Is it Richard's ugliness that made him evil, making him unable to enjoy the "sportive tricks" [1.1.13] that his brothers take part in or is Shakespeare suggesting that his inner evil is represented in his ugliness? Ian McKellen as 'Richard III' Although we know very well that Richard is a dark, evil character, there is something likeable about him that stems from his central feature in the play and the power of his language.

He is a showman - a trickster and a powerful actor. He appears to always be in charge, and manipulates everyone around him to his own bidding.

He is a Machiavel; lying to the populace and those around him to preserve himself and power, delighting in his own evil.

A vice - scornful of humanity, morally dubious and egotistic.

An anti-hero; he dominates the play and Shakespeare has to find a way to distance the audience from the character. His loss of control and madness is how he approaches this.
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