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The main character of the play Richard III, Richard, is the major villain of the play. He is an evil and complicated character, although some would describe him as charismatic and very smart and others would even sympathize with him. Personally, I would describe him as insane because of his cruel and selfish nature. There are many things about Richard, like his personality and two-faced nature that make him a unique and interesting character to study.
Richard is the evil protagonist of the play, and has been referred to as a Machiavel, one who uses fraud, deceit and treachery to rise in the world, but eventually comes to a bad end. He is manipulative and politically brilliant, yet, he has been many times compared to the Devil in the play, because his character and actions resemble that of the Devil in many ways. Richard while is “the plain devil.” Richard is able to seduce the innocent, as the Devil. His mind is filled with sinful thoughts and many of his actions are evil in nature. We see this at the very beginning of the play, in a soliloquy, he relays to the audience his plans, “to set my brother Clarence and the king in deadly hate the one against the other.”
Richard has a relentless pursuit, he is so ambitious, and he will not stop at anything until what he wants is achieved. This can explain how he has been able to achieve so much and gain the position of King. He has a very powerful way with words that allow him to win people over; even those who know of his evil ways are seduced, such as Lady Anne. This can be seen in his conversation with her, “Vouchsafe to wear this ring. Look how my ring encompasseth thy finger. Even so thy breast encloseth my poor heart…Thou dost confirm his happiness forever.” These powerful words were able to seduce Anne, even though she is aware of the fact that he wickedly killed her husband and his father.
One of the other characteristics of Richard that explains his success in politics is his two-face nature. One of his faces is evil, the other is good, and Richard smartly keeps his evil side to himself. In soliloquies, he relays his devilish plans or “secret mischiefs.” “Clarence, who I indeed have cast in darkness, I do beweep to many simple gulls, Namely, to Derby, Hastings, Buckingham, And tell them ’tis queen and her allies That stir the king against the duke my brother.”
When he is faced by other characters in the play, Richard is almost completely different, and comes across as being innocent. Richard confirms this for us when he is alone, he will “seem a saint when most I play the devil.” This trait can be seen when he blames Edward for Clarence’s death even though it was him who laid the plots and framed Edward, “but he (poor man) by your first order died.” This allows him to remain guilt free and gain the trust and respect of others, and backstab them later on.
The audience of the play, Richard III is varied in their thoughts for Richard; Richards’s different actions can make the audience feel different ways about him. Naturally, because of his evil and devilish actions, he can make the audience dislike him. Because Richard is brilliant and has a powerful way with words and is able to achieve so much in the play, other members of the audience admire him, thinking he is smart and charismatic.
Lastly, Richard can leave other members of the audience sympathizing for him. Richard is able to do this because, in his soliloquies, he blames his profoundly evil character on the fact that he is hideous from his “own deformity” and “unloved.” This makes the audience feel that other members of the play are the real villains, and Richard is merely shattered and innocent. In conclusion, we can say that Richard is a sly and barbaric character, and I feel that his actions can not be excused by his hideous looks.