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Richard III opens with a soliloquy by Richard. Richard begins this with ‘Now is the winter of our discontent’, starting the speech with ‘Now’ gives it a sudden immediacy and makes the audience connect with Richard. Also its suggests that something has happened previously to this time which we know to be the murder of Henry VI by Richard. Richard says ‘winter of our discontent’; we know that discontent is a longing for a situation better than the present. Also by saying ‘winter’, he is suggesting that his discontentment is at its worst point. This shows that throughout the play he will be striving to obtain a goal. It also shows us a glimpse of his personality which he shows as being impatient and dissatisfied with the world at present.
In this soliloquy Richard outlines his horrific plan to gain right to the throne. Shakespeare uses very powerful imagery to explain Richard’s plot in a very emotive and connective way. He uses lots of poetic and dramatic devices to put emphasis on certain sections of the plot. He uses repetition of the keywords and phrases within the soliloquy to stress emphasis on particular words; an example of this is ‘our’ which Shakespeare uses a lot. This word is repeated so that the audiences feel continuously involved with Richard, this makes them feel obliged to like him because he is sharing his inner most secrets with them.
Shakespeare also uses exaggeration to convince the audience to befriend Richard, he makes Richard insult him. When he does this he greatly over-exaggerates to show that he is not affected by harsh insults. He says that ‘that dogs bark at me as I halt by them’, this is hyperbolic because the dogs would not actually bark at him, however Shakespeare added this in so that the audience could look up to Richard because they would see him as a strong figure now that they know he can ignore verbal assaults.
Richard describes his plan in great detail and is extremely casual about murder, this will strike the audience as somewhat sickening due to the exact detail that he provides and also that he seems to be slightly enjoying talking about the sickening actions, however the audience will also be intrigued by this; they will feel obliged to like him as he is such a powerful character, because he can talk about these things as if they were a normality, this astounds the audience because this will be a new encounter and this would portray Richard as a brave character for being able to say these things. Shakespeare also manages to hook the audience in by making Richard have such an unachievable plot that they are compelled to continue to follow the plan to see if his aim is actually obtainable. This further establishes a relationship between Richard and the audience because they are amazed that he has such self confidence to set such high aims.
Richard’s character is an evil dictator that will stop at no lengths to achieve his goal; we see the start of this within his soliloquy where he states that he will murder the two young princes. This is the point at which we would expect the audience start to build a level of fury upon Richard because he is willing to go to such extremes to achieve his goal; however this makes the audience admire him further because they see that he is so determined. Richard is the villain of the play, a villain is described as the person who opposes the hero. In Richard III there is not a defined hero until the latter parts of the play.
This means that in the play Richard has to play the anti-hero which means he will have the same characteristics of a textbook hero, like determination and courage, but have opposing aims. Richard can be compared to most modern day villains for example Richard and the modern portrayal of the mafia can be associated together. This is because both have an infamous legend of carelessness and punishment for those who betray them. Also both Richard and the mafia are displayed wearing impeccable clothing to show that they differ from the norm and they consider themselves to be of a higher importance compared to others.
Richard shows his charming side when he seduces Ann and convinces her to marry him. This is considered as such an achievement because as he enters the stage lady Anne and the coffin bearers enter as well. Richard opens the scene by commanding the bearers to lower the coffin. Anne then convicts him off being in league with the devil because when he is near Edward’s body the wounds seep blood again. Although Anne insults Richard at this point calling him a ‘lump of foul deformity’ this has a dimmed effect upon the audience because Richard has already mentioned these insults and accepted them.
How Richard is able to persuade Anne amazes the audience because the are astounded that he ‘raised the bar’ for himself by admitting to killing her husband and by mentioning all the horrific things Richard is planning to do. The things that amazes the audience is that he still manages to overcome this. It is almost like he is showing off for the audience. This causes the audience to see a slight overpowering quality within Richard and is further convinced to wish to be associated with him because of the power they believe he has.
Shakespeare wrote this play during the reign of Elizabeth as the queen of England, Elizabeth was the granddaughter of Richmond who fought against Richard III and was hero in the end of the play. Shakespeare’s play could have been biased towards Richmond in making Richard more deformed than he was in real life. Richard as the protagonist would have been made more deformed to suggest a connection between the devil and himself. This connection would be forged because in Elizabethan time’s association with the devil was shown through deformity which was considered as a punishment by god. Richmond would have been displayed as a greater person than he actually was to please the monarchy
In describing Richard Shakespeare tends to alike him to an animal, this suggest that he is very savage, this is describing his actions as inhuman and can only be related to the way an animal behaves. Anne says that Richard is a hedgehog in the Elizabethan era this was considered as an insult. Richard can be closely compared to some of the modern tyrannical leaders. Saddam Hussein is much similar to Richard in that they both will do whatever it takes to reach their final aim. Neither have much regard for others lives because they will both kill without thought nor did they both think they were above the law in their eras.