In Richard’s opening soliloquy the reader or audience member finds the true nature of this man: he is presented from the start as a scheming, diabolical, and egotistical man as is seen with his action in convincing Edward to send his own brother Clarence to jail. Part of this reasoning could be jealousy of his own deformed body.
King Richard is a gruesome man, with deformities, and a wicked personality. He describes his traits as “rudely stamp’d” and “deformed, unfinish’d”, who cannot “strut before a wanton ambling nymph.”
I that am curtail’d of this fair proportion, /Cheated of feature by dissembling nature, /Deform’d, unfinish’d, sent before my time /Into this breathing world, scarce half made up, /And that so lamely and unfashionable /That dogs bark at me, as I halt by them;/Why, I, in this weak piping time of peace, /gave no delight to pass away the time, /Unless to see my shadow in the sun And descant on mine own deformity:/And therefore, since I cannot prove a lover, /To entertain these fair well-spoken days, /I am determined to prove a villain” (Shakespeare Act One Scene One lines 18-30).
Although he sees himself as this type of man, he presents himself to different members of his family in a far different fashion. He convinces everyone around him that their original, and true, impression of him is false (as he does with Clarence, as well as Lady Anne). He convinces them to take pity on him.
King Richard uses a ploy when he convinces Anne Neville to marry him even after he kills her father and her husband. In this character then the capacity to hoodwink the general populace is exorbitant. However, Richard in turn must pay the price of his actions. George’s baldness, and his admitted deformities suffer the same capacity in King Richard’s character. Both men see their ugliness as a crutch, as away to get people to feel sorry for them and thus gain power; in George’s case this is done overtly, in King Richard’s case it is done covertly. Richard has to disguise his true intentions leastwise he will be beheaded for treason. Richard does charade with Anne when he tells her he had her husband killed because he (Richard) loved her,
No! why? When he, that is my husband now /Came to me, as I followed Henry’s corse;/When scarce the blood was well wash’d from his hands,/Which issu’d from my other angel husband,
/And that dead saint which then I weeping follow’d;/O! when I say, I look’d on Richard’s face, /This was my wish, ‘Be thou,’ quoth I, ‘accurs’d, /For making me so young, so old a widow! /And, when thou wedd’st, let sorrow haunt thy bed;/And be thy wife—if any be so mad— /More miserable by the life of thee /Than thou hast made me by my dear lord’s death!’ /Lo! ere I can repeat this curse again, Within so small a time, my woman’s heart /Grossly grew captive to his honey words, /And prov’d the subject of mine own soul’s curse:/Which hitherto hath held mine eyes from rest;/For never yet one hour in his bed /Did I enjoy the golden dew of sleep, /But with his timorous dreams was still awak’d. /Besides, he hates me for my father Warwick, /And will, no doubt, shortly be rid of me.” (Shakespeare Act 4 Scene 1 lines 71-92)
Richard plots to have Clarence killed by his own brother by making Edward believe that George of Clarence is trying to kill. This is accomplished by Edward having a pretense of someone killing him whose name begins with the letter G (George in this case). Richard succeeds in this plot and is named King. However, Richard’s nephews are still in the Tower of London and could be successors to the throne once they come of age. King Richard has Buckingham murder the nephews. Not only does Richard succeed in his murdering campaign but he also beguiles the kingdom to believe he is a just king, as least for awhile.
King Richard is abandoned on the battlefield by Lord Stanley: King Richard loses his horse and is murdered in a type of justice centered boar hunt. This is Shakespeare idea of restorative justice, in which the man who spewed such ugly and false sentiments should die in such a grotesque, brutish, and animalist manner.
Shakespeare, W. (2005). King Richard III. W.W. Norton & Company.