In Richard III, Shakespeare invites us on moral holiday. The early part of
the play draws its readers to identify with Richard and thereby to participate in a
fantasy of total control of self and domination of others. We begin to be pulled
into the fantasy in the play’s opening speech, where Richard presents himself as
an enterprising, self made villain and offers an elaborate justification for this self
In the first scene of the play, Richard announces in a narration, his plan to
become king. Richard is truly a Machiavel. A Machiavel is “one who views
politics as amoral and that any means, however unscrupulous, can justifiably be
used to achieve power”. Richard plainly states that he is “Deformed, Unfinished,
and sent before his time” and “since he cannot prove to be a lover; he is
determined to prove a villain”. As a villain Richard must be heartless; he cannot
let his emotions interfere with his actions. He must also be intelligent and
organized; a villain must know exactly what he has to do, when he has to do it
and how he is going to do it. “A villain must also be manipulative and persuasive
so that if he is accused of a crime, or if he finds himself between a rock and a
hard place, he is able to talk his way out or convince people that he did not
commit the crimes in question. A villain must also have scapegoats to use if he
is discovered or if he is in a dangerous situation”. Richard devised a brutal
stratagem to ascend the English throne.
Brilliantly, he executed his plan. Heartlessly, he executed family, friends,
and subjects. Richard did indeed display these characteristics and, therefore,
fulfilled his goal to ascend the throne.
One of many Richard’s brilliant schemes was to increase public support
for his own claim to the crown. Richard, aided by Buckingham, enacts shows of
devotion, kindness, religiousness and other virtues, which recommend him to the
citizenry and especially to the Lord Mayor and aldermen of London. This done,
he finally wins the mayor and the alderman over and receives the offer to “the
supreme seat, the throne majestically, the scepter office of his ancestors
themselves, the lineal glory of his royal house” . After some false persuasion by
the Duke of Buckingham, Richard finally accepts the “golden yoke of
sovereignty.” Some Critics feel that not all of Richard’s victims were innocent,
they were hypocritical and were trying to use Richard, but that is another topic.
Richard is, simply, too clever to be outwitted. As a king, Richard did not
succeed. He became overconfident, and sloppy. Richard thought that he did not
need to protect himself from enemies since they were all dead. Unaware, that
Stanley, whom he did trust, was defecting to Richmond, his bitter enemy. He
became overconfident when the war came upon him and, in the end, he failed.
As a villain Richard did succeed, he was heartless, intelligent, organized,
manipulative and persuasive. Richard did indeed display the properties of a
perfect villain and therefore fulfilled his goal to ascend the throne. Without these
resources Richard would not have a chance at the throne.
“Richard III paper “. Planet Paper. Jun. 2001.
Boyce, Charles : “Shakespeare A to Z” The essential reference to
his plays, his poems, his life, and times, and more. December