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The Genre of Richard III is a History play and a Tragedy. Richard III is the last play of four that Shakespeare wrote about English history. However it is seen also a Tragedy as It is ‘A story of exceptional calamity leading to the death of a man of high estate’ (Quote A C Bradley.) Richard III is about a deformed central character (Richard) who is 3rd in line to the throne and who, due to rejection by woman has turned into a villain. He plans to kill the king and his brother in order to become king hoping that a rise in status will make him more attractive to women and feed Richard’s desire for power.
The main character Richard is very dramatic and uses very emotive language. ‘Now is the winter of our discontent, made glorious summer.’ Shakespeare uses a large number of rhetorical devices to portray Richard. He is very ironic and often speaks using a lot of dramatic irony ‘Alack my lord the fault is none of yours’ Here Shakespeare uses dramatic irony as the audience know the fault is Richard’s but Clarence doesn’t.
Richard is also seen as the Anti-hero as in a normal play the hero is the saviour, the man the woman fall for. However in Richard III the character of the hero is reversed, ‘Since I cannot prove a lover, I shall prove a villain’ Here Richard is the opposite of what a hero should be. Richard is also Machiavellian character, A Machiavel is “one who views politics as amoral and that by any means, however unscrupulous, can justifiably be used to achieve power” we can see Richard fits this definition as in order to achieve his goals he must use cunning (deceive his peers) manipulation (manipulate people like Clarence to prevent suspicion of him.) He also represents The Vice as he is deceitful (toward Clarence.)
In Shakespeare’s time there wasn’t a wide variety of make up or any special effects. Instead of effect and lavish sets Shakespeare used words to portray emotions and feelings. Shakespearian make up couldn’t portray Richard’s physicality the way he wanted therefore the words had to show this perfectly. Richard hates his own form. Shakespeare uses a tri-colon as a device to emphasize Richard’s deformities: ‘Deformed, Unfinished, sent before my time,’ these three strong descriptions of his appearance show the audience that he is disgusting and vile in his appearance. Shakespeare shows the audience Richard is unattractive and that his deformities handicap him ‘I that am not shaped for sportive tricks … I that am rudely stamped.’ The audience feels sorry for Richard but also feel disgusted by his description.
We learn most about Richard in his opening soliloquy. We learn that Richard is resentful and bitter: ‘Cheated of feature by dissembling nature.’ He is bitter at the world as he is deformed and unattractive. We learn he has very low opinions of women ‘to strut before a wanton ambling nymph’ referring to women degradingly as nymphs shows he is sexist. He also has a very angry and unhappy character; he is depressed with his life: ‘Hate the idle pleasures of these days.’ This shows his anger that he has worked so hard to fight these wars and now he is useless and has nothing to do but remain at home, he feels like he has no purpose.
We also learn that Richard is cunning and devious: ‘to set my brother Clarence and the king in deadly hate one against the other.’ The opening soliloquy also emphasizes Richard as an anti-hero. ‘And if King Edward be as true and just as I am subtle, false and treacherous.’ Here the combination of the dramatic tri-colon and the comparison of the righteous and the evil shows the audience Richard is truly evil. This is how Shakespeare reveals Richard to be both repulsive and impressive. This is shown as he has a horrible deformed figure, yet he plans to kill the two men in line to the throne. This disgusts and impresses the audience at the same time.
In the rest of Act 1 Scene 1 more of Richard’s characteristics are revealed to the audience. His ability to be manipulative is shown in this scene as he has successfully made Clarence think that the reason he’s being sent to the tower is the fault of the queen: ‘I think there is no man secure. But the queen’s kindred’ His ability to duplicitous is shown as he comforts Clarence and get him to go to the tower without any fuss: ‘I will deliver you or else lie for you’ Richard is being duplicitous as he does not care for Clarence in fact he wants him killed but he is false and makes Clarence feel secure. Richard says very ironic things in Act 1 to Clarence.
As he knows the answers to all the questions he asks: ‘Upon what cause?…Because my name is George’ Richard knows why Clarence is being sent to the tower as it was Richard who arranged for it to happen. Therefore asking the question ‘why’ is very ironic. In Act 1 Scene 1 Richard is shown as impressive and repulsive as he has sent his brother who loves him dearly to the tower. Therefore he is repulsive, however he has managed to arrange it and then stand before Clarence and openly lie to him without causing suspicion therefore he is impressive.
In Act 1 scene 2 Shakespeare reveals to us Richard’s ability to manipulate people, his ability to persuade. This scene is the scene in which Shakespeare shows Richard to be both repulsive and impressive. He is very manipulative and persuasive in this scene as he convinces Anne to marry him even though she has suspicions that he killed her husband: ‘(Anne spits at Richard) Never came poison from so sweet a place,’ he is manipulating and persuading Anne by complementing her which makes her negative feeling for Richard lessen. We see in this scene Richard’s ability to persuade again, as he manages to make Anne his fiance: ‘Look how my ring encompasseth thy finger.
Even so thy breast encloseth my poor heart.’ He tells Anne that the ring he has for her is perfect, it encircles her finger perfectly. This is an example of Richard’s ability to persuade and manipulate. This is why in Act 1 scene 2 Richard is seen as both repulsive and impressive. He is impressive as he has persuaded Anne to marry him after killing her husband and being able to ask her and persuade her whilst standing within 5 meters of her husband’s body. He is seen as repulsive as he is asking Anne to marry him right in front of her husband’s corpse and within days after killing her husband.
Overall during scenes 1 and 2 of Act 1 Shakespeare has shown Richard to be repulsive and somewhat impressive in many ways. Richard is seen as impressive for his ability to manipulate and convince people. He has a very well tuned ability to persuade people. We also see him to be impressive as he can talk calmly to people when he knows crucial things they don’t for example he speaks to Clarence yet knows all he questions he asks. However Richard is seen as repulsive as he is trying to kill his own two brothers which is a terrible thing to do. He also asks Anne to marry him after he has killed her husband and is standing mere feet away from his corpse. Overall Shakespeare succeeds in making Richard seem repulsive and somewhat impressive.