Study Guide

Richard III Quotes

  • War

    Now is the winter of our discontent
    Made glorious summer by this son of York; (1.1.1)

    This is one of the most famous openings in all of Western drama. Richard uses the winter and summer seasons as a metaphor to suggest that King Edward IV's reign has turned everyone's winter-like sadness into a time of "glorious," summer-like celebration.  What's everyone been so bummed about?  The Wars of the Roses, a series of nasty civil wars that had the Lancasters and the Yorks (two branches of the Royal House of Plantagenet) vying for the English crown

    And all the clouds that lour'd upon our house
    In the deep bosom of the ocean buried.
    Now are our brows bound with victorious wreaths;
    Our bruised arms hung up for monuments;
    Our stern alarums changed to merry meetings,
    Our dreadful marches to delightful measures.
    Grim-visaged war hath smooth'd his wrinkled front;
    And now, instead of mounting barded steeds
    To fright the souls of fearful adversaries,
    He capers nimbly in a lady's chamber
    To the lascivious pleasing of a lute. (1.1.1)

    This passage from Richard's opening speech is full of vivid imagery to describe England's transition from a war-torn country into a nation celebrating its newfound peace.  Richard speaks as though "war" is a person whose once "grim-visage" has been transformed into a smiling face because he's been spending all his time "caper[ing]" around in a "lady's" bedroom instead of duking it out on the battlefield.  Interestingly enough, Shakespeare will return to this same imagery at the very end of the play.  (See 5.8.3 below.)   

    We also want to point out that, by his own admission, Richard has no good reason to steal his brother's throne, since England seems to be prospering under Edward's rule. 

    But I, that am not shaped for sportive tricks,
    Nor made to court an amorous looking-glass;
    I, that am rudely stamp'd, and want love's majesty
    To strut before a wanton ambling nymph;
    I, that am curtail'd of this fair proportion,
    Cheated of feature by dissembling nature,
    Deformed, 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,
    Have no delight to pass away the time,
    Unless to spy my shadow in the sun
    And descant on mine own deformity (1.1.1)

    Richard says here that he's just not cut out for peacetime because he's not good-looking enough to be a seductive ladies' man.  He reasons that because he was born "deformed, unfinished," and premature, he's better suited to times of war and conflict.

    And therefore, since I cannot prove a lover,
    To entertain these fair well-spoken days,
    I am determined to prove a villain
    And hate the idle pleasures of these days.
    Plots have I laid, inductions dangerous,
    By drunken prophecies, libels and dreams,
    To set my brother Clarence and the king
    In deadly hate the one against the other:
    And if King Edward be as true and just
    As I am subtle, false and treacherous,
    This day should Clarence closely be mew'd up,
    About a prophecy, which says that 'G'
    Of Edward's heirs the murderer shall be.
    Dive, thoughts, down to my soul: here
    Clarence comes. (1.1.1)

    Once again, Richard insists that since he's not a "lover," he's committed to reigniting the civil war that's torn his family apart.  FYI – Shakespeare frequently associates wartime with a lack of sexual activity.  For example, in <em>Henry IV Part 1</em> Hotspur insists that women (and sex) will only interfere with his duty as a soldier, so he tries to remain celibate before and during battle.

    A horse! A horse! My kingdom for a horse! (5.7.1)

    When Richard's horse is killed during the Battle of Bosworth Field, he continues to fight on foot and cries out in frustration.  There are a couple ways you could read this famous line. Richard could be saying, "Rats!  My horse is dead and I'd give anything (even my kingdom) for another one!" Or he could mean, "Dang! I'm about to lose my entire kingdom all because of a dead horse!"  Either way, Richard has lost all composure at this point and knows it's just a matter of time before he's taken down. 

    I think there be six Richmonds in the field;
    Five have I slain to-day instead of him. (5.7.2)

    Richmond has five guys dressed up like him in order to throw off the enemy during the battle. The trick works because Richard hasn't had any luck finding the real Richmond and has been killing Richmond lookalikes in a frenzy.

    By the way, this was a pretty common military tactic. We see it in at least one other Shakespeare play: during the Battle at Shrewsbury in Henry IV Part 1, Sir Walter Blunt dresses like the king to help protect his monarch and gets stabbed in the guts for his trouble (5.3).

    <em>Alarum. Enter [KING] RICHARD [at one door] and
    [HENRY EARL OF] RICHMOND [at another].  They fight.
    RICHARD is slain. [Exit RICHMOND.]  Retreat and flourish.</em> (Stage Direction, Act 5, Scene 8). 

    Is it just us, or does the moment of Richard's defeat on the battlefield seem kind of anti-climactic? 

    Brain Snack: King Henry VII (a.k.a. "Richmond") is the last English monarch to have won his crown during battle, which means Richard III is the last king in English history to <em>lose</em> his crown during battle. 

    KING HENRY VII
    What men of name are slain on either side?
    DERBY
    John Duke of Norfolk, Walter Lord Ferrers,
    Sir Robert Brakenbury, and Sir William Brandon.
    KING HENRY VII
    Inter their bodies as becomes their births:
    Proclaim a pardon to the soldiers fled
    That in submission will return to us (5.8.2)

    After Richmond kills Richard on the battlefield and becomes King Henry VII, he again shows us what a good guy he is by promising to pardon the enemy soldiers who are willing to submit.  This seems like a pretty good sign for England, don't you think?  Henry is genuinely interested in restoring peace to the kingdom. 

    England hath long been mad, and scarr'd herself;
    The brother blindly shed the brother's blood,
    The father rashly slaughter'd his own son,
    The son, compell'd, been butcher to the sire:
    All this divided York and Lancaster,
    Divided in their dire division, (5.8.3)

    Gee, when Henry VII puts it that way, we're reminded that the Wars of the Roses have been a <em>family</em> tragedy more than anything else.

    O, now, let Richmond and Elizabeth,
    The true succeeders of each royal house,
    By God's fair ordinance conjoin together!
    And let their heirs – God, if thy will be so –
    Enrich the time to come with smooth-faced peace,
    With smiling plenty and fair prosperous days! (5.8.3)

    By defeating Richard and marrying Young Elizabeth (a Yorkist), Henry VII (a Lancastrian) has put an end to 14 years of civil war. Hooray!

    P.S. Did you notice how Henry uses the phrase "smooth-faced peace" to describe England's tranquility?  Remember how Richard used the same imagery in his opening speech back at 1.1.1.  Why do you think Shakespeare circles back to this idea?  

  • Fate and Free Will

     "I am determined to prove a villain"(1.1.1). 

    In this line from the play's opening speech, Richard reveals to us his plans to take the crown by force.  There are a couple different ways to interpret this line, depending on how we define the word "determined." 

    If we take "determined" to mean "resolved," then Richard is implying that he's made a personal decision to be a villain and is willing to do whatever it takes to get the crown.  This is typical Richard, always going out of his way to tell us how smooth he is and that he's the one who makes everything happen.  (This works in favor of the "free will" argument.)  But, read a different way, the word "determined" can also mean "pre-determined" or "fated," which suggests that Richard is not acting of his own free will, but rather God's.  

    If heaven have any grievous plague in store
    Exceeding those that I can wish upon thee,
    O, let them keep it till thy sins be ripe, (1.3.11)

    Margaret is always cursing Richard and calling on divine justice to punish crimes he committed in the past.  In this way, Margaret suggests that history is shaped by providential design.

    I do the wrong, and first begin to brawl.
    The secret mischiefs that I set abroach
    I lay unto the grievous charge of others.
    Clarence, whom I, indeed, have laid in darkness,
    I do beweep to many simple gulls
    Namely, to Hastings, Derby, Buckingham;
    And say it is the queen and her allies
    That stir the king against the duke my brother.
    Now, they believe it; and withal whet me
    To be revenged on Rivers, Vaughan, Grey:
    But then I sigh; and, with a piece of scripture,
    Tell them that God bids us do good for evil:
    And thus I clothe my naked villany
    With old odd ends stolen out of holy writ;
    And seem a saint, when most I play the devil. (1.3.28)

    Richard is always bragging about how he's so crafty and smooth when he lies, cheats, and murders his way to the crown.  Here he gloats about committing terrible crimes while blaming them on others.  He's also fond of quoting passages from the Bible in order to hide his "naked villainy" from everyone.  In other words, Richard behaves like a saint to disguise his bad behavior. 

    According to literary critic Stephen Greenblatt, this is classic "Machiavellian" behavior.  Niccolò Machiavelli's <em>The Prince</em> (1532), was a "how-to" guide for rulers about holding on to power.  Machiavelli argued that being a successful leader had nothing to do with being a nice person or doing the right thing. Instead, it's about being inventive, manipulative, charismatic, crafty, and willful. 

    Why does this matter?  Well, when Shakespeare portrays Richard as a "machiavel," he's suggesting that Richard behaves according to his own <em>free will</em>. 

    But then I sigh; and, with a piece of scripture,
    Tell them that God bids us do good for evil:
    And thus I clothe my naked villany
    With old odd ends stolen out of holy writ;
    And seem a saint, when most I play the devil. (1.3.28)

    Richard has this whole Machiavellian leader thing down.  He basically role-plays his way to the crown, pretending to be godly and moral even though he's acting like a "devil."  Richard takes pride in his skills as a master manipulator, suggesting that he's acting according to his own free will.

    So, now prosperity begins to mellow
    And drop into the rotten mouth of death.
    Here in these confines slyly have I lurk'd,
    To watch the waning of mine adversaries. (4.4.1)

    Here Margaret foresees Richard's destruction of the House of York.  This is not news to the audience, which has the advantage of historical hindsight and knows exactly where the play is headed.  Still, this passage is interesting for a couple of reasons.  First, the play's (and Margaret's) foreknowledge suggests that events are unfolding according to providential design.  It's also interesting (and gross) that Margaret uses a fruit metaphor to suggest that Richard's prosperity has gone from being "ripe" to "rotten."  Translation:  Things are going downhill fast for Richard and the House of York. 

    O upright, just, and true-disposing God,
    How do I thank thee, that this carnal cur
    Preys on the issue of his mother's body,
    And makes her pew-fellow with others' moan! (4.4.6)

    Queen Margaret believes God is using Richard to punish the Yorks for doing terrible things to the Lancasters.  But Margaret never acknowledges the fact that she and the rest of her family have done some pretty awful things themselves.  Check out the next passage (1.3.15) below.

    GLOUCESTER
    The curse my noble father laid on thee,
    When thou didst crown his warlike brows with paper
    And with thy scorns drew'st rivers from his eyes,
    And then, to dry them, gavest the duke a clout
    Steep'd in the faultless blood of pretty Rutland –
    His curses, then from bitterness of soul
    Denounced against thee, are all fall'n upon thee;
    And God, not we, hath plagued thy bloody deed.
    QUEEN ELIZABETH
    So just is God, to right the innocent. (1.3.15)

    In the previous passage we saw that Margaret views Richard as an instrument of divine justice. She thinks God is using Richard to punish the Yorks for their crimes against the Lancasters.  Here, however, Richard argues that God is punishing the Lancasters for the crimes they have committed against his family. (In Shakespeare's <em>Henry VI, Part 3,</em> Richard's dad cursed Margaret for her involvement in his son Rutland's murder.  Margaret had taunted Richard's dad by putting a paper crown on his head and waving a bloody handkerchief ("clout") in his face.  The handkerchief was dipped in his son Rutland's blood.)

    In other words, the Lancasters and the Yorks have been going at it for a very long time, and if it's true that God is using Richard's reign as a form of punishment, then <em>everybody</em> is getting what they deserve. 

    Thy Edward he is dead, that stabb'd my Edward:
    Thy other Edward dead, to quit my Edward;
    Young York he is but boot, because both they
    Match not the high perfection of my loss:
    Thy Clarence he is dead that kill'd my Edward;
    And the beholders of this tragic play,
    The adulterate Hastings, Rivers, Vaughan, Grey,
    Untimely smother'd in their dusky graves.

    Margaret is telling the Duchess of York how everyone has been punished for their past crimes. She suggests that when people get murdered in the play, it's because they were basically asking for it.  

    Richard yet lives, hell's black intelligencer,
    Only reserved their factor, to buy souls
    And send them thither (4.4.7)

    Margaret refers to Richard as hell's black intelligencer, suggesting that his tyranny is God's way of punishing the Lancasters and Yorks for their past sins. 

    Cancel his bond of life, dear God, I plead,
    That I may live to say, 'The dog is dead' (4.4.7)

    There's plenty of evidence to suggest that everything that happens in the play is fated.  More specifically, the play suggests that events unfold according to divine providence.  When Queen Margaret calls on God's divine justice to punish Richard for all of his terrible deeds, the play suggests that Richard's grab for the throne and his fall from power have been predetermined by God.

    O now let Richmond and Elizabeth,
    The true succeeders of each royal house,
    By God's fair ordinance conjoin together
    And then, as we have ta'en the sacrament,
    We will unite the white rose and the red:
    Smile heaven upon this fair conjunction,
    That long have frown'd upon their enmity!
    What traitor hears me, and says not amen?
    England hath long been mad, and scarr'd herself;
    The brother blindly shed the brother's blood,
    The father rashly slaughter'd his own son,
    The son, compell'd, been butcher to the sire:
    All this divided York and Lancaster (5.8.3) 

    According to the newly crowned King Henry VII, his ascension to the throne is all part of a God's plan.  (Lots of English kings went around saying they were divinely appointed to the throne.)  So does that mean that Richard's rise and fall were also part of God's master plan?  If so, does this excuse his behavior?

  • Time

    Now is the winter of our discontent
    Made glorious summer by this sun of York;
    And all the clouds that lour'd upon our house
    In the deep bosom of the ocean buried.
    Now are our brows bound with victorious wreaths;
    Our bruised arms hung up for monuments;
    Our stern alarums changed to merry meetings,
    Our dreadful marches to delightful measures.
    Grim-visaged war hath smooth'd his wrinkled front;
    And now, instead of mounting barded steeds
    To fright the souls of fearful adversaries,
    He capers nimbly in a lady's chamber
    To the lascivious pleasing of a lute.
    Deformed, 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,
    Have no delight to pass away the time (1.1.1)

    Starting with the play's opening lines, there's an emphasis on time and timing.  Here Richard repeats the word "now" three times, drawing our attention to the present moment.  He also tells us that he doesn't quite fit in during this time of peace, because he was born prematurely or "sent before his time." 

    KING EDWARD IV
    Is Clarence dead? The order was reversed.
    GLOUCESTER
    But he, poor soul, by your first order died,
    And that a winged Mercury did bear:
    Some tardy cripple bore the countermand,
    That came too lag to see him buried.
    God grant that some, less noble and less loyal,
    Nearer in bloody thoughts, but not in blood,
    Deserve not worse than wretched Clarence did,
    And yet go current from suspicion! (2.1.7)

    This passage is significant because it shows us how Richard is a master of speeding up time and accelerating events in the play.  Edward is shocked to learn that Clarence was executed even after he ordered that the original decision be reversed.  The audience knows that Richard hastened the original order for Clarence's execution and slowed down delivery of the order for reversal.  But here, Richard blames some "tardy cripple" for delivering the reversal message too slowly. 

    KING RICHARD III
    Tut, tut, thou art all ice, thy kindness freezeth:
    Say, have I thy consent that they shall die?
    BUCKINGHAM
    Give me some breath, some little pause, my lord
    Before I positively herein:
    I will resolve your grace immediately. (4.2.7)

    Here's another example of Richard trying to speed up events.  In this scene he has asked Buckingham to murder the young princes, but Buckingham hesitates and tries to stall.  That doesn't slow down Richard, though; he immediately hires a hit man to do the job.

    KING RICHARD III
    Ay, what's o'clock?
    BUCKINGHAM
    I am thus bold to put your grace in mind
    Of what you promised me.
    KING RICHARD III
    Well, but what's o'clock?
    BUCKINGHAM
    Upon the stroke of ten.
    KING RICHARD III
    Well, let it strike.
    BUCKINGHAM
    Why let it strike?
    KING RICHARD III
    Because that, like a Jack, thou keep'st the stroke
    Betwixt thy begging and my meditation.
    I am not in the giving vein to-day.
    BUCKINGHAM
    Why, then resolve me whether you will or no.
    KING RICHARD III
    Tut, tut,
    Thou troublest me; am not in the vein. (4.2.24)

    After Buckingham asks Richard when he's going to give him the earldom of Hereford, Richard twice asks Buckingham what time it is ("what's o'clock?").  What's that all about?  Well, as we've seen, Richard is obsessed with the passage of time.  He's also trying to stall by postponing the moment when he has to make good on his promise to award Buckingham the Earldom.  (He never does, by the way.)  In the lines that follow, Richard also suggests that Buckingham begs him for the earldom "like clockwork."  Translation:  Richard is calling Buckingham a nag. 

    KING RICHARD III
    What is't o'clock?
    CATESBY
    It's supper-time, my lord;
    It's nine o'clock.
    KING RICHARD III
    I will not sup to-night.
    Give me some ink and paper. (5.5.1)

    Once again, Richard is asking for the time.  Before it seemed like Richard was racing through the play, trying to get his hands on the crown.  Now, on the eve of the battle, he seems to be <em>running out of time</em>, as he can't even take a dinner break.

    RICHMOND
    I'll strive, with troubled thoughts, to take a nap,
    Lest leaden slumber peise me down to-morrow,
    When I should mount with wings of victory:
    Once more, good night, kind lords and gentlemen. (5.5.2)

    The night before heading into battle, Richmond decides to take a nap, because he's got a big day ahead of him.  (Pretty sensible, don't you think?)  Richard, on the other hand, tries to stay up all night plotting so he can get the drop on Richmond.  This is a big mistake – Richard's hurry up and grab the crown strategy seems to finally be catching up to him.  The human body needs sleep so it can rest and repair itself, but Richard tries to circumvent this natural cycle. 

    Ghost of Prince Edward
    [To KING RICHARD III]
    Let me sit heavy on thy soul to-morrow!
    Think, how thou stab'dst me in my prime of youth
    At Tewksbury: despair, therefore, and die! (5.5.1)

    When a parade of ghosts visits Richard on the eve of his death and reminds him of his crimes, Shakespeare lets us know that Richard's past has literally come back to haunt him. 

    Methought the souls of all that I had murder'd
    To-morrow's vengeance on the head of Richard. (5.5.5)

    Just in case we didn't get it the first time, Shakespeare beats us over the head with the idea that Richard's past has caught up with him.

    <em>Clock striketh</em> (Stage Direction, Act 5, Scene 6)

    Seriously, Shakespeare – we get it!  Richard's time on earth is coming to an end.

    Why, then 'tis time to arm and give direction. (5.5.5)

    While Richard is quickly approaching death, Richmond is just getting started.  Here he prepares to deliver a speech to his troops on the eve of the Battle of Bosworth Field.  As we know, Richmond will defeat Richard and usher in a time of peace and prosperity (5.8).

  • Art and Culture

    I am determined to prove a villain (1.1.1)

    In his dramatic opening speech, Richard declares that he's hell-bent on being bad.  It almost sounds like he knows he's playing the part of a "villain" on stage, don't you think? 

    Plots have I laid, inductions dangerous,
    [...] I am subtle, false and treacherous (1.1.1)

    Here Richard continues to use the language of the theater to describe his elaborate scheme to become king. He'll play the "villain" by devising "plots" and dangerous "inductions."  As you know, a "plot" is a scheme or plan – or the storyline of a play. An "induction" is an initial move or strategy and is also another word for a play's prologue. Basically, Richard is alerting us to the fact that he's going to behave like a stage-director as he lies, manipulates, and murders his way to the throne.

    Was ever woman in this humour woo'd?
    Was ever woman in this humour won? (1.2.60)

    When Richard puts the moves on Lady Anne, we can't help but be impressed by his stunning performance.  After all, it takes serious chops to win the heart of a woman whose husband and father-in-law you've just murdered.  Here Richard turns to the audience and confesses that even he can hardly believe what he's just accomplished.  Richard can be charismatic, charming, and super convincing when he wants to – just like a skilled actor. 

    They do me wrong, and I will not endure it:
    Who are they that complain unto the king,
    That I, forsooth, am stern, and love them not?
    By holy Paul, they love his grace but lightly
    That fill his ears with such dissentious rumours.
    Because I cannot flatter and speak fair,
    Smile in men's faces, smooth, deceive and cog,
    Duck with French nods and apish courtesy,
    I must be held a rancorous enemy.
    Cannot a plain man live and think no harm,
    But thus his simple truth must be abused
    By silken, sly, insinuating Jacks? (1.3.1)

    Here Richard declares how unfair it is that he hasn't been blessed with the ability to act, "flatter and speak fair, / Smile on men's faces."  The audience knows that he's full of it, of course – Richard is the ultimate political actor.

    But then I sigh; and, with a piece of scripture,
    Tell them that God bids us do good for evil:
    And thus I clothe my naked villany
    With old odd ends stolen out of holy writ;
    And seem a saint, when most I play the devil. (1.3.28)

    Once again Richard tells us he's pretending to be something he's not by acting the part of a godly man.  Interestingly, he describes himself as a Machiavellian figure. Shakespeare was interested in the writings of the Italian philosopher and poet Niccolò Machiavelli, whose book <em>The Prince</em> (1532) was a "how-to" guide for rulers about holding on to power.  Machiavelli argued that being a successful leader has nothing to do with being a nice person or doing the right thing. Instead, it's about being inventive, manipulative, charismatic, crafty, and willful. As a "machiavel," Richard basically role plays his way to the crown.

    Thus, like the formal Vice, Iniquity,
    I moralize two meanings in one word. (3.1.6)

    Here Richard aligns himself with "Vice," a stock character from morality plays, which were big in England at the time.  Typically, the Vice character is an agent of the devil and tries to corrupt mankind. 

    Tut, I can counterfeit the deep tragedian;
    Speak and look back, and pry on every side,
    Tremble and start at wagging of a straw,
    Intending deep suspicion: ghastly looks
    Are at my service, like enforced smiles;
    And both are ready in their offices,
    At any time, to grace my stratagems. (3.5.1)

    Here Buckingham brags that he can be just as good an actor as his pal Richard (he can "counterfeit the deep tragedian").  Basically, Buckingham is letting everyone know that politics involves a lot of acting.  Keep reading...

    Alas, why would you heap these cares on me?
    I am unfit for state and majesty;
    I do beseech you, take it not amiss;
    I cannot nor I will not yield to you. (3.7.11)

    Wow, Buckingham and Richard really are great actors.  Here they stage a little scene to make it look like the "saintly" Richard doesn't actually want to be crowned king.  (The even use the Bible as a prop to make it look like Richard is more interested in religion than kingship.)  More than anything, the passage suggests that the game of politics is inherently theatrical.  This is a theme Shakespeare revisits time and time again, most notably in <em>Henry IV Part 1.</em>

    Thy Clarence he is dead that kill'd my Edward;
    And the beholders of this tragic play,
    The adulterate Hastings, Rivers, Vaughan, Grey,
    Untimely smother'd in their dusky graves.
    Richard yet lives, hell's black intelligencer (4.4.7)

    Richard's not the only one who seems to be aware that he's an actor in a play.  Here Margaret suggests that all of Richard's victims are "beholders of this tragic play."  What's eerie about this is that everyone who knows what Richard is up to is powerless to do anything about it. 

    Here in these confines slyly have I lurk'd,
    To watch the waning of mine adversaries.
    A dire induction am I witness to (4.4.1)

    Once again, a character uses the language of the theater to describe the unfolding events.  Here Margaret says she's been lurking around the castle spying on her enemies, as if they're actors in a play and she's been watching the "induction" (prologue).  In many ways, Margaret is like a member of an audience in a theater.  By sneaking around out of sight and commenting on the play's action, she seems to be both inside and outside the action of the play. 

  • Manipulation

    GLOUCESTER.
    Even so; an't please your worship, Brackenbury,
    You may partake of any thing we say:
    We speak no treason, man; we say the king
    Is wise and virtuous, and his noble queen
    Well struck in years, fair, and not jealous;
    We say that Shore's wife hath a pretty foot,
    A cherry lip, a bonny eye, a passing pleasing tongue;
    And that the queen's kindred are made gentlefolks.
    How say you, sir? Can you deny all this? (1.1.6)

    Richard knows exactly what to say to manipulate his listeners. Brackenbury has walked in on Richard treasonously maligning the queen (and, implicitly, the king). Here Richard covers his tracks. His honeyed words about the queen are a bit over the top – and almost the exact opposite of what he's just said to Clarence. His final question to Brackenbury throws the ball back in his court. For Brackenbury the question is no longer whether Richard is defaming the queen. Instead, he's been distracted into answering whether he agrees with Richard's glowing assessment. By using language and deception, Richard has shifted Brackenbury from being the suspicious interrogator to the suspiciously interrogated. This tactic of flipping the accusation back on the accuser is one Richard will use often, and to good effect.

    GLOUCESTER
    Well, your imprisonment shall not be long;
    I will deliver or else lie for you. (1.1.10)

    Richard is tricky as he manipulates Clarence and the language here. It's true that Clarence's imprisonment won't be long – either because he'll be freed or because he'll be killed. Superficially, Richard promises to deliver Clarence from jail, or else "lie" on the chopping block in his place. But in fact Richard means he will deliver Clarence to his maker, and lie (as in deceive) in order to do so. Richard is the master of the double meaning, which is not so difficult when you're surrounded by people who don't question the precision of your language.

    GLOUCESTER
    Is not the causer of the timeless deaths
    Of these Plantagenets, Henry and Edward,
    As blameful as the executioner?
    ANNE
    Thou wast the cause and most accurs'd effect.
    GLOUCESTER
    Your beauty was the cause of that effect
    Your beauty that did haunt me in my sleep
    To undertake the death of all the world
    So I might live one hour in your sweet bosom. (1.2.36)

    Richard is trying to manipulate Anne by selling her <em>the</em> cheesiest (and perhaps the most inappropriate) line ever. At first it seems like Anne sees right through him and might therefore be able to withstand the pressure of manipulation.

    GLOUCESTER
    If thy revengeful heart cannot forgive,
    Lo here I lend thee this sharp-pointed sword;
    Which if thou please to hide in this true breast
    And let the soul forth that adoreth thee,
    I lay it naked to the deadly stroke,
    And humbly beg the death upon my knee.
    [He lays his breast open; she offers at it with his sword] (1.2.48)

    Richard masterfully manipulates Anne here. Up to this point, she's been entirely impervious to his words. Here he changes his tactic, inviting her to make good on her words. Still, we know there's no way he would allow Anne to stab him if he thought she would really do it.  Again, he's finding her weakness and playing on it, all while seeming like he's repentant and a good guy.

    GLOUCESTER
    I do the wrong, and first begin to brawl.
    The secret mischiefs that I set abroach
    I lay unto the grievous charge of others.
    Clarence, who I indeed have cast in darkness,
    I do beweep to many simple gulls;
    Namely, to Derby, Hastings, Buckingham;
    And tell them 'tis the queen and her allies
    That stir the king against the Duke my brother.
    Now they believe it, and withal whet me
    To be reveng'd on Rivers, Dorset, Gray;
    But then I sigh and, with a piece of Scripture,
    Tell them that God bids us do good for evil.
    And thus I clothe my naked villainy
    With odd old ends stol'n forth of holy writ,
    And seem a saint when most I play the devil. (1.3.28)

    Richard hits on an important aspect of manipulation here. People have to <em>want</em> to believe him, or have some reason to set aside their skepticism. In this case, Richard will set everyone against each other by playing on preexisting tensions. Also, Richard says he's doing everything under the cloak of the Scripture, and people hardly want to disbelieve a holy man. (Think of when he will later surround himself with priests.) Richard is taking advantage of people by making a phony appeal to God.

    GLOUCESTER
    But he, poor man, by your first order died,
    And that a winged Mercury did bear;
    Some tardy cripple bare the countermand
    That came too lag to see him buried.
    God grant that some, less noble and less loyal,
    Nearer in bloody thoughts, an not in blood,
    Deserve not worse than wretched Clarence did,
    And yet go current from suspicion! (2.1.4)

    Richard essentially points out that Edward's condemnation of Clarence, and his tardiness in issuing a pardon, are responsible for Clarence's death. Richard voices hope that others who deserved much worse than Clarence don't run free while the innocent Clarence was so wrongfully killed. Basically, Richard is needling Edward by implying that the blame for Clarence's death is his.

    GLOUCESTER. This is the fruits of rashness. Mark'd you not
    How that the guilty kindred of the queen
    Look'd pale when they did hear of Clarence' death?
    O, they did urge it still unto the king!
    God will revenge it. Come, lords, will you go
    To comfort Edward with our company? (2.1.5)

    It has literally only been minutes since the dying King Edward IV was able to seal up all the familial rifts with what will be his dying breaths. As soon as the news of Clarence's death comes out, Richard is able to undo all of Edward's good by casting aspersions on the queen's kin, suggesting that they were at the root of Edward's death. The irony is that the queen was the one who suggested that King Edward forgive Clarence. She wouldn't have done that if she'd been behind his death...though that's the kind of thing Richard might do.

    BUCKINGHAM
    You are too senseless-obstinate, my lord,
    Too ceremonious and traditional.
    Weigh it but with the grossness of this age,
    You break not sanctuary in seizing him.
    The benefit thereof is always granted
    To those whose dealings have deserv'd the place
    And those who have the wit to claim the place.
    This Prince hath neither claim'd it nor deserv'd it,
    And therefore, in mine opinion, cannot have it.
    Then, taking him from thence that is not there,
    You break no privilege nor charter there.
    Oft have I heard of sanctuary men;
    But sanctuary children never till now. (3.1.4)

    Like Richard, Buckingham is a master of manipulation. Here he argues about breaking the sanctity of sanctuary in a church. He even sounds pretty earnest about it, which makes you wonder to what extent Buckingham is aware of Richard's evil. By the logic he uses here, it seems Buckingham has learned how to justify anything. Also, the fact that Buckingham takes the time to rationalize and justify things makes him different from Richard, who never needs an excuse to do the unthinkable.

    GLOUCESTER
    I say, without characters, fame lives long.
    [Aside]  Thus, like the formal vice, Iniquity,
    I moralize two meanings in one word. (3.1.6)

    Richard compares himself to the theatrical device "Iniquity," which was a stock character in 16th century morality plays to encompass all of the vices. This is an explicit hint that Richard views himself as a talented actor who can play many roles. He approaches his life as a play, and he is both actor and narrator. Perhaps this is why he doesn't anticipate his miserable end.

    HASTINGS
    O momentary grace of mortal men,
    Which we more hunt for than the grace of God!
    Who builds his hope in air of your good looks
    Lives like a drunken sailor on a mast,
    Ready with every nod to tumble down
    Into the fatal bowels of the deep. (3.4.96)

    Hastings realizes that he has been used by Richard, and he has no one to blame but himself. He curried favor with men rather than embracing the graciousness demanded of a Christian. (Think of how he delighted in the deaths of his enemies at Pomfret.) Here Hastings realizes that he was walking a fatal line with Richard, and he's just stumbled to his death.

    BUCKINGHAM
    We live to tell it-that the subtle traitor
    This day had plotted, in the council-house,
    To murder me and my good Lord of Gloucester.
    MAYOR
    Had he done so?
    GLOUCESTER
    What! think you we are Turks or Infidels?
    Or that we would, against the form of law,
    Proceed thus rashly in the villain's death
    But that the extreme peril of the case,
    The peace of England and our persons' safety,
    Enforc'd us to this execution?
    MAYOR
    Now, fair befall you! He deserv'd his death;
    And your good Graces both have well proceeded
    To warn false traitors from the like attempts.
    I never look'd for better at his hands
    After he once fell in with Mistress Shore. (3.5.6)

    The mayor of London is all that stands in the way of the common people coming to realize that Richard is tyrannically killing people. So the mayor's sanction on Richard and Buckingham's hasty execution of Hastings is important. Buckingham outright lies to the mayor, and the mayor is somewhat skeptical.

    What changes the mayor's tune is Richard's manipulation. Here Richard doesn't insist that Buckingham is right and bolster their story. Instead, he asks in feigned outrage whether the mayor is calling him a liar, suggesting that the mayor's skepticism is preposterous. Again, it's that tactic of asserting one's power over the situation and making the accuser answer for himself, thereby deflecting the question from the punk who's actually guilty.

    The mayor quickly corrects his position, insists that he never trusted Hastings once the guy took up with a hooker, and seems satisfied to fall into Richard's manipulation. It's almost like Richard is the leader of a club (called the royalty) and if you want to stay cool, you better believe what he says, no matter how ridiculous it seems.

    BUCKINGHAM
    Yet know, whe'er you accept our suit or no,
    Your brother's son shall never reign our king;
    But we will plant some other in the throne
    To the disgrace and downfall of your house;
    And in this resolution here we leave you.
    Come, citizens. Zounds, I'll entreat no more.
    GLOUCESTER. O, do not swear, my lord of Buckingham.
    Exeunt BUCKINGHAM, MAYOR, and citizens
    CATESBY. Call him again, sweet Prince, accept their suit.
    If you deny them, all the land will rue it.
    GLOUCESTER. Will you enforce me to a world of cares?
    Call them again. I am not made of stones,
    But penetrable to your kind entreaties,
    Albeit against my conscience and my soul. (3.7.12)

    Buckingham manipulates the people by making it seem like he has to twist Richard's arm to take the crown. Richard can't seem too eager, or the people will suspect him of ambition. So he has Buckingham put on a really big show, and the people are made to feel like Richard's done them a favor by usurping the throne. (On the other hand, Richard may be less powerful than he thinks, as this little scheme is pretty transparent – to us, at least.)

    QUEEN ELIZABETH
    Shall I go win my daughter to thy will?
    KING RICHARD
    And be a happy mother by the deed.
    QUEEN ELIZABETH
    I go. Write to me very shortly,
    And you shall understand from me her mind.
    KING RICHARD
    Bear her my true love's kiss; and so, farewell.
    <em>[He kisses her.]</em> and so, farewell.
    <em>Exit Elizabeth</em>
    Relenting fool, and shallow, changing woman! (4.4.50)

    Here Richard is so sure of his magic with words that he doesn't for a moment suspect he might be the one being manipulated. Queen Elizabeth has really stuck it to him – she's left him feeling terribly smug, not realizing that the marriage she's about to make (not with Richard, after all) will lead to his downfall.

  • Justice

    GLOUCESTER
    Alack, my lord, that fault is none of yours (1.1.3)

    Richard pretends to comfort his brother George of Clarence, who's been imprisoned because of the "G" prophecy. This gives us an insight into Richard's notions of justice. Richard suggests that one should not be held responsible or punished for circumstances beyond one's control. In this particular situation, Richard is correct that Clarence's name is just a coincidence; a trick of fate. Moreover, we can read this line from Richard as kind of an absolution for himself: if Richard believes it's unjust for a person to be punished for circumstances beyond his or her control, and he believes his own evil to be a predetermined and natural part of himself, then it makes sense that he would excuse himself, or not dwell on the moral consequences of his actions. If he's fated to be evil, then he doesn't deserve punishment for it.

    GLOUCESTER
    How hath your lordship brook'd imprisonment?
    HASTINGS
    With patience, noble lord, as prisoners must;
    But I shall live, my lord, to give them thanks
    That were the cause of my imprisonment. (1.1.12)

    Hastings' notion of justice is predicated upon revenge – the "thanks" he'll give his jailers is a threat to return the favor to them.

    GLOUCESTER
    But yet I run before my horse to market. (1.1.16)

    Here Richard is saying that he shouldn't get ahead of himself, or put the cart before the horse. But this line is ironic when you consider that Richard will later die in battle because he can't find a horse. The whole play could be seen as him "getting ahead of himself," with his lack of planning catching up with him in the end. He's literally and figuratively without a horse.

    KING EDWARD
    The proudest of you all
    Have been beholding to him in his life;
    Yet none of you would once beg for his life.
    O God, I fear thy justice will take hold
    On me, and you, and mine, and yours, for this!
    Come, Hastings, help me to my closet. Ah, poor Clarence! (2.1.10)

    It's fairly poignant that, in the midst of all this self-interest and treachery, the final thing that breaks Edward's heart is his understanding of his complicity in his brother's death. He fears God's wrath, but he also seems truly hurt and disappointed in himself about what he's done to upset the Christian notion of justice.

    GRAY
    Now Margaret's curse is fall'n upon our heads,
    When she exclaim'd on Hastings, you, and I,
    For standing by when Richard stabb'd her son. (3.3.2)

    Gray understands that Margaret's curse was not just the random anger of an old lady – she expects vengeance against these men because they stood by while her son was murdered. It seems Gray accepts the justice of his plight.

    HASTINGS
    O bloody Richard! Miserable England!
    I prophesy the fearfull'st time to thee
    That ever wretched age hath look'd upon.
    Come, lead me to the block; bear him my head.
    They smile at me who shortly shall be dead. (3.4.9)

    Justice is served as Hastings gets a taste of his own medicine. He came out of prison seeking revenge against his accusers and then gloated over their deaths, only to discover while they were being killed that he was being condemned. Hastings's dying thoughts are vengeful. He condemns Richard, and rather than lamenting Richard's evil or being sorry for his own gloating over the murders at Pomfret, Hastings takes some comfort in knowing that after his murder more murders will follow. This contrasts with Buckingham's penitent approach, though of course Buckingham had many worse crimes to account for than Hastings, and it seems like Hastings's murder is generally a more senseless one.

    KING RICHARD
    Look what is done cannot be now amended.
    Men shall deal unadvisedly sometimes,
    Which after-hours gives leisure to repent.
    If I did take the kingdom from your sons,
    To make amends I'll give it to your daughter.
    If I have kill'd the issue of your womb,
    To quicken your increase I will beget
    Mine issue of your blood upon your daughter. (4.4.30)

    First of all, this is gross. Vile Richard is offering to impregnate a young lady to make up for murdering her brothers – and he's talking about it to her <em>mom</em>. (Sorry, we just had to get that out of the way.) Anyway, Richard again seems to view justice as eye-for-an-eye.  He figures he can make up for everything he's done by giving what he considers "equal payback." He took the kingdom from Elizabeth's sons, so he'll give it back to Elizabeth's daughter. He took Elizabeth's sons from her, but he'll have children with her daughter to keep the bloodline going. Because he lacks real moral faculties, Richard sees things as fairly tit-for-tat. He has an aberrant sense of justice.

    QUEEN MARGARET
    Bear with me; I am hungry for revenge,
    And now I cloy me with beholding it.
    Thy Edward he is dead, that kill'd my Edward;
    The other Edward dead, to quit my Edward;
    Young York he is but boot, because both they
    Match'd not the high perfection of my loss.
    Thy Clarence he is dead that stabb'd my Edward;
    And the beholders of this frantic play,
    Th' adulterate Hastings, Rivers, Vaughan, Gray,
    Untimely smother'd in their dusky graves.
    Richard yet lives, hell's black intelligencer;
    Only reserv'd their factor to buy souls
    And send them thither. But at hand, at hand,
    Ensues his piteous and unpitied end.
    Earth gapes, hell burns, fiends roar, saints pray,
    To have him suddenly convey'd from hence.
    Cancel his bond of life, dear God, I pray,
    That I may live and say 'The dog is dead.' (4.4.7)

    Margaret also has a tit-for-tat sense of justice. Maybe she's already lamented her losses enough, because it seems like all she lives for is revenge. She matches up the dead on either side like they're chess pieces instead of treating them like children and men. What irritates her the most, though, is that all the deaths aren't avenged fully until Richard is dead. Only once pretty much all the children of the women in the room are dead does Margaret think everyone will be even. (More important, Margaret's cool cruelty here gives us a look at a kind of villainy that's different from the passionate villainy we've seen in Richard.)

    KING RICHARD
    Stanley, what news with you?
    STANLEY
    None good, my liege, to please you with
    the hearing;
    Nor none so bad but well may be reported.
    KING RICHARD
    Hoyday, a riddle! neither good nor bad! (4.4.60)

    This has the seed of the important line from Shakespeare's <em>Hamlet</em>, "For there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so" (<em>Hamlet</em> 2.2). This might be totally inadvertent, but it seems the entire ethos of <em>Richard III</em> is summed up here: moral relativism is at the heart of the play. Choosing moral stances depends on one's perspective, and having been led along by Richard as our protagonist, we can hardly tell the good from the bad anymore. This is why we can feel almost delighted with Richard, and why it's hard to relate to his victims (at least in the beginning). This moral relativism will plague Hamlet in that later, more refined play, but to Richard, the idea of moral relativism is a mere riddle to be puzzled out, not a paralyzing metaphysical quandary.

    BUCKINGHAM
    This, this All-Souls' day to my fearful soul
    Is the determin'd respite of my wrongs;
    That high All-Seer which I dallied with
    Hath turn'd my feigned prayer on my head
    And given in earnest what I begg'd in jest.
    Thus doth He force the swords of wicked men
    To turn their own points in their masters' bosoms.
    Thus Margaret's curse falls heavy on my neck.
    'When he' quoth she 'shall split thy heart with sorrow,
    Remember Margaret was a prophetess.'
    Come lead me, officers, to the block of shame;
    Wrong hath but wrong, and blame the due of blame. (5.1.3)

    Buckingham is distinct from many of the others who have met their fate at Richard's desertion. Rather than curse Richard at his death, Buckingham owns up to the fact that he's been an awful guy, and that actually he pretty much deserves this fate. Buckingham sees that justice has been served, and while he's still angry at Richard, he accepts his own complicity in his fate.

    RICHMOND
    O Thou, whose captain I account myself,
    Look on my forces with a gracious eye;
    Put in their hands Thy bruising irons of wrath,
    That they may crush down with a heavy fall
    The usurping helmets of our adversaries!
    Make us Thy ministers of chastisement,
    That we may praise Thee in the victory!
    To Thee I do commend my watchful soul
    Ere I let fall the windows of mine eyes.
    Sleeping and waking, O, defend me still!  (5.5.2)

    Richmond sees himself and his men as agents of God's justice, almost like God's army. He's careful to keep saying that the praise for any victory will belong to God, but there's something paradoxical in the anointing of oneself as God's messenger. Two things on this: it fits the paradigm of Richard in contrast to Richmond; if Richard is clearly an agent of the devil, then Richmond should be an agent of God. The second is the historical context of the play – in Shakespeare's time, God was seen as conferring legitimacy on royalty (though the Divine Right of Kings had yet to be codified). Since Shakespeare's patron, Elizabeth I, was a direct descendant of Richmond, it might be important for him to portray her line as rightfully carrying out God's work.

    RICHMOND
    A base foul stone, made precious by the foil
    Of England's chair, where he is falsely set;
    One that hath ever been God's enemy.
    Then if you fight against God's enemy,
    God will in justice ward you as his soldiers;
    If you do sweat to put a tyrant down,
    You sleep in peace, the tyrant being slain;
    If you do fight against your country's foes,
    Your country's foes shall pay your pains the hire;
    If you do fight in safeguard of your wives,
    Your wives shall welcome home the conquerors;
    If you do free your children from the sword,
    Your children's children quits it in your age.
    Then, in the name of God and all these rights,
    Advance your standards, draw your willing swords. (5.5.5)

    This is more than an absolutely beautiful and rousing speech from Richmond – it speaks to justice as something greater than an abstract concept. If Richmond's side should prevail, it's not just the royal line and God's will that will be honored. The men here are fighting for personal justice too – for their wives and children and their own honor as citizens. It kind of puts in perspective the fact that the men aren't just pawns of royal relations that have nothing to do with them – they're intimately invested in the outcome of putting down this tyrant.

    GHOST OF BUCKINGHAM.  [To RICHARD]
    The first was I that help'd
    thee to the crown;
    The last was I that felt thy tyranny.
    O, in the battle think on Buckingham,
    And die in terror of thy guiltiness!
    Dream on, dream on of bloody deeds and death;
    Fainting, despair; despairing, yield thy breath!
    [To RICHMOND]  I died for hope ere I could lend thee aid;
    But cheer thy heart and be thou not dismay'd:
    God and good angels fight on Richmond's side;
    And Richard falls in height of all his pride. (5.5.1)

    Buckingham's speech echoes the speech of the other ghosts, condemning Richard and cheering on Richmond. Buckingham admits his own complicity in all of the crimes, even when he's dead – just as he owned up to all of his evils before death. Buckingham hopes for Richard to not just despair and die, but that he will face and know the consequences of his guiltiness. We might think this kind of curse would have no impact on Richard, who seems to think nothing of consequences. But it's the last speech Richard hears before he awakens and gives the only speech in the play that indicates his self-doubt. Potent stuff from the dead Buckingham.

  • Power

    GLOUCESTER
    Why, this it is when men are rul'd by women (1.1.4)

    Richard is speaking of Elizabeth and Jane Shore's power over King Edward IV. This is a hint that Richard views Edward as utterly weak and credulous. If he lets himself be controlled even by women, Richard definitely has a chance at persuading and controlling him.

    GLOUCESTER
    Which done, God take King Edward to his mercy,
    And leave the world for me to bustle in! (1.1.16)

    This is a fascinating way to describe how Richard views power. It's less about self-advancement and superiority than just being able to scamper around doing wicked things. Again, it seems Richard delights in his naughtiness.

    ANNE
    O God, which this blood mad'st, revenge his death!
    O earth, which this blood drink'st, revenge his death!
    Either, heav'n, with lightning strike the murd'rer dead;
    Or, earth, gape open wide and eat him quick,
    As thou dost swallow up this good king's blood,
    Which his hell-govern'd arm hath butchered. (1.2.20)

    Though Anne has every right to seek justice for Richard's evils, she calls out to a higher power to avenge her. She doesn't act herself, perhaps because she feels powerless in relation to Richard.

    SECOND CITIZEN
    Truly, the hearts of men are full of fear.
    You cannot reason almost with a man
    That looks not heavily and full of dread.
    THIRD CITIZEN
    Before the days of change, still is it so;
    By a divine instinct men's minds mistrust
    Ensuing danger; as by proof we see
    The water swell before a boist'rous storm.
    But leave it all to God. (2.3.5)

    This scene gives us a social perspective beyond the internal power politics of the royal family. The citizens speculate about what will happen to the country and reveal that they're probably just as concerned as the royals about who will be England's next leader. We see here that what happens with the throne will have real consequences on the people of England, who are more than just a faceless mob. Also, this scene reminds us that the royals aren't operating in privacy – they're in something of a fishbowl. While Richard may think he's fooling everyone with his manipulations, his evil is obvious to everyone, even outside the royal confines.

    BUCKINGHAM
    Now, my lord, what shall we do if we
    perceive Lord Hastings will not yield to our complots?
    GLOUCESTER
    Chop off his head! (3.1.15)

    Richard is knee-deep in his plot by this point. He's already sent the young princes off to the Tower, and he's sent Catesby to feel out Hastings. Riding high on a power trip, Richard feels fairly invincible and famously declares, "Chop off his head!" (The more famous line, "Off with his head! So much for Buckingham!" isn't Shakespeare's at all, but came from Colley Cibber's later reinterpretation of Shakespeare's play.)

    SCRIVENER
    Here's a good world the while! Who is so gross
    That cannot see this palpable device?
    Yet who's so bold but says he sees it not?
    Bad is the world; and all will come to nought,
    When such ill dealing must be seen in thought. (3.6.1)

    The scrivener describes the effects of power: Richard may be a great manipulator, but he's not really fooling anyone in the kingdom. What's keeping them quiet isn't his prowess at lying, it's their fear of his impetuous wrath.

    BUCKINGHAM
    No, so God help me, they spake not a word;
    But, like dumb statues or breathing stones,
    Star'd each on other, and look'd deadly pale.
    Which when I saw, I reprehended them,
    And ask'd the mayor what meant this wilfull silence.
    His answer was, the people were not used
    To be spoke to but by the Recorder.
    Then he was urg'd to tell my tale again.
    'Thus saith the Duke, thus hath the Duke inferr'd'-
    But nothing spoke in warrant from himself.
    When he had done, some followers of mine own
    At lower end of the hall hurl'd up their caps,
    And some ten voices cried 'God save King Richard!'
    And thus I took the vantage of those few- (3.7.3)

    Richard runs into a roadblock upon having himself declared King. While he's lined up all the machinations to make it possible, he's got to overcome the obstacle of the people's will. As evidenced by the earlier scene with the scrivener, the people don't love or revere Richard, and they are hesitant to turn over the kingdom to him. He can manipulate himself into power, but the fact that the people don't support him doesn't bode well, and even foreshadows his downfall (as they will desert him in droves during the battle with Richmond).

    GLOUCESTER
    Cousin of Buckingham, and sage grave men,
    Since you will buckle fortune on my back,
    To bear her burden, whe'er I will or no,
    I must have patience to endure the load;
    But if black scandal or foul-fac'd reproach
    Attend the sequel of your imposition,
    Your mere enforcement shall acquittance me
    From all the impure blots and stains thereof;
    For God doth know, and you may partly see,
    How far I am from the desire of this. (3.7.13)

    Richard is hell-bent on appearing as though he doesn't want power, though all the people of the kingdom know he maneuvered himself into that position, especially as they didn't support his coronation. This whole scene reeks of a sham. We've got to wonder who Richard thinks he's fooling, and why this guise is so important to keep up. Does seeming to shun his power actually increase it?

    KING RICHARD
    I must be married to my brother's daughter,
    Or else my kingdom stands on brittle glass.
    Murder her brothers, and then marry her!
    Uncertain way of gain! But I am in
    So far in blood that sin will pluck on sin.
    Tear-falling pity dwells not in this eye. (4.2.12)

    Richard's speech here foreshadows one made by another of Shakespeare's villains, Macbeth. Macbeth rationalizes crossing the Rubicon of blood and villainy, reasoning to himself about the means necessary to maintain his power: "For mine own good / All causes shall give way. I am in blood / Stepp'd in so far that, should I wade no more, / Returning were as tedious as go o'er" (Macbeth, 3.4). Richard also engages in rationalization, or justification, saying that having already murdered makes the next murder less troublesome. This seems a preparatory sketch for Shakespeare's later work; Macbeth will be a much more developed villain.

    QUEEN ELIZABETH
    My words are dull; O, quicken them
    with thine!
    QUEEN MARGARET
    Thy woes will make them sharp and
    pierce like mine.  Exit
    DUCHESS
    Why should calamity be fun of words?
    QUEEN ELIZABETH
    Windy attorneys to their client woes,
    Airy succeeders of intestate joys,
    Poor breathing orators of miseries,
    Let them have scope; though what they will impart
    Help nothing else, yet do they case the heart.
    DUCHESS
    If so, then be not tongue-tied. Go with me,
    And in the breath of bitter words let's smother
    My damned son that thy two sweet sons smother'd.
    The trumpet sounds; be copious in exclaims. (4.4.6)

    The women bewail the loss of their loved ones and generally curse the men responsible, but they lack military or political power. Queen Elizabeth's decision to confide in Queen Margaret is a final attempt to make her words hit home. Like the other women, Margaret's only weapons are words, but for some reason hers seem to have great, almost prophetic power over the course of events. But the play suggests that she has achieved that efficacy at tremendous personal cost. The Duchess's response is perhaps the most appropriate, as it reflects the frustration of powerlessness. The Duchess wishes she could smother Richard. Since she can't do that, she'll do the next best thing: try to drown her evil son with words. She's the first woman to stand up to Richard as king, and her words fall heavy on him. It seems the women can have a great impact, even if only with words.

  • Betrayal

    GLOUCESTER
    Simple, plain Clarence, I do love thee so
    That I will shortly send thy soul to heaven,
    If heaven will take the present at our hands. (1.1.11)

    Richard utterly delights in the wickedness of his scheme to betray Clarence. Here he jokes that he's doing Clarence a favor by sending him to heaven.

    GLOUCESTER
    Poor Clarence did forsake his father, Warwick,
    Ay, and forswore himself-which Jesu pardon!-
    [ . . .] To fight on Edward's party for the crown;
    And for his meed, poor lord, he is mewed up.
    I would to God my heart were flint like Edward's,
    Or Edward's soft and pitiful like mine.
    I am too childish-foolish for this world. (1.3.11)

    Richard cleverly reminds his listeners that Clarence originally betrayed the family by going over to the Lancastrian side when he married Isabella Warwick (sister to Anne, whom Richard will later marry). Richard brings this point up slyly by saying Clarence betrayed his father-in-law, the Lancastrian supporter, to come back to York. If we were gullible, we might think Richard was implying how much Clarence sacrificed for the family, but he's really undermining Clarence by pointing out his frailty. Of course, the undercurrent of this entire commentary is that Richard has betrayed Clarence, who waits in the Tower even as Richard speaks. Richard feels none of the outrage about betrayal that he suggests others should feel.

    GLOUCESTER
    Vouchsafe to wear this ring.
    ANNE
    To take is not to give. [Puts on the ring] (1.2.55)

    Up to this point, Anne has done an admirable job telling Richard to get lost. Her failing comes when Richard makes the argument that, although she wishes him dead, she can't kill him herself. Her acceptance of his ring is strange. She is willing to take it but unwilling to give her love. Through this act, Anne not only betrays her murdered husband and father-in-law, but also herself. The reasons must be deeper than just her unwillingness to kill. Why else would she submit so meekly?

    DORSET
    The sum of all I can, I have disclos'd.
    Why or for what the nobles were committed
    Is all unknown to me, my gracious lord.
    QUEEN ELIZABETH
    Ay me, I see the ruin of my house!
    The tiger now hath seiz'd the gentle hind;
    Insulting tyranny begins to jet
    Upon the innocent and aweless throne.
    Welcome, destruction, blood, and massacre!
    I see, as in a map, the end of all. (2.4.5)

    Queen Elizabeth learns that Richard has betrayed her family, causing her to predict some serious problems in the future. Elizabeth realizes Richard's move is the first of many that will work to destroy her whole house and life. Richard's betrayal is against her family, but she feels it for all of England.

    CATESBY
    And thereupon he sends you this good news,
    That this same very day your enemies,
    The kindred of the queen, must die at Pomfret.
    HASTINGS
    Indeed, I am no mourner for that news,
    Because they have been still my adversaries;
    But that I'll give my voice on Richard's side
    To bar my master's heirs in true descent,
    God knows I will not do it to the death. (3.2.4)

    Betrayal is a complicated matter. While Hastings hates the friends and family of the new King Edward (thinking they're complicit in his imprisonment), he can't betray Prince Edward. It's more important for him to honor the throne, and its rightful acquisition, than to follow his own pride, even though he knows he might be risking his life.

    GLOUCESTER
    Come, cousin, canst thou quake and change
    thy colour,
    Murder thy breath in middle of a word,
    And then again begin, and stop again,
    As if thou were distraught and mad with terror?
    BUCKINGHAM
    Tut, I can counterfeit the deep tragedian;
    Speak and look back, and pry on every side,
    Tremble and start at wagging of a straw,
    Intending deep suspicion. Ghastly looks
    Are at my service, like enforced smiles;
    And both are ready in their offices
    At any time to grace my stratagems.  (3.5.1)

    Buckingham is eager and willing to show Richard how well he can deceive and dissemble, but he doesn't seem to think about whether Richard will be loyal in return. Buckingham has heard how ready Richard was to kill his old friend Hastings, and he yet seems to have no fear about putting himself in Hastings's old position as confidante.

    GLOUCESTER
    So dear I lov'd the man that I must weep.
    I took him for the plainest harmless creature
    That breath'd upon the earth a Christian;
    Made him my book, wherein my soul recorded
    The history of all her secret thoughts.
    So smooth he daub'd his vice with show of virtue
    That, his apparent open guilt omitted,
    I mean his conversation with Shore's wife-
    He liv'd from all attainder of suspects. (3.5.7)

    Richard makes himself out to be the victim of betrayal by manipulation here.

    BUCKINGHAM
    And is it thus? Repays he my deep service
    With such contempt? Made I him King for this?
    O, let me think on Hastings, and be gone
    To Brecknock while my fearful head is on! (4.2.19)

    Buckingham is smart enough to realize he's out of Richard's favor (and what that might mean). But why is he so surprised when his service is repaid with contempt? We have to wonder why so many characters close to Richard fail to recognize the patterns in his behavior, namely the way he uses people then has them beheaded. Is it that these folks think they're impervious to Richard's betrayals? Do they think they're so close to Richard that they, unlike the others, really know his heart?

    STANLEY
    Most mighty sovereign,
    You have no cause to hold my friendship doubtful.
    I never was nor never will be false.
    KING RICHARD
    Go, then, and muster men. But leave behind
    Your son, George Stanley. Look your heart be firm,
    Or else his head's assurance is but frail.
    STANLEY
    So deal with him as I prove true to you. (4.4.10)

    Stanley is under suspicion, and he chooses to take a great risk by leaving George Stanley with Richard. Richard, however, is over his manipulative games. Everyone else has been surprised by his betrayal, but both Stanley and Richard know their relationship is probably a hair's breadth from over. It seems the end might be near, as Richard is putting less and less effort into covering his quick suspicions and habit of betrayal. Is it really worth it for Stanley to bet his son's life on Richard's whims?

    KING RICHARD
    O coward conscience, how dost thou afflict me!
    [...]
    Conscience is but a word that cowards use,
    Devis'd at first to keep the strong in awe. (5.1)

    Richard's note about conscience here will echo later in one of the most famous speeches of all time. As Hamlet ponders "To be or not to be," he decides, "Thus conscience does make cowards of us all, / And thus the native hue of resolution / Is sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought / and enterprises of great pitch and moment / With this regard their currents turn awry." (<em>Hamlet</em>, 3.1)

    Here Richard awakens from his horrible dream before the final battle. He takes pause, realizing his conscience is weighing heavy on him. For a brief moment, Richard is like Hamlet, unsure of who he is or what he wants. But he quickly gets over all the metaphysical pondering and decides he won't be distracted by conscience – he'll stick with his instincts. Hamlet, on the other hand, allows conscience to hamper the strong resolution of the moment. It's a neat comparison: we get a glimpse of what Hamlet would be like if he were more violently self-assured, or what Richard would be like if he were a bit softer and more reflective.

    Cold fearful drops stand on my trembling flesh.
    What do I fear? Myself? There's none else by.
    Richard loves Richard; that is, I am I.
    Is there a murderer here? No-yes, I am.
    Then fly. What, from myself? Great reason why-
    Lest I revenge. What, myself upon myself!
    Alack, I love myself. Wherefore? For any good
    That I myself have done unto myself?
    O, no! Alas, I rather hate myself
    For hateful deeds committed by myself!
    I am a villain; yet I lie, I am not.
    Fool, of thyself speak well. Fool, do not flatter. (5.3.1)

    For the first time, Richard has betrayed himself, revealing that he's no longer as certain or comfortable about who he is. This sudden bout of conscience, brief though it is, is a mark that Richard's security is over. He no longer has the confidence in his pure villainy that he once did.

  • Man and the Natural World

    GLOUCESTER
    Now is the winter of our discontent
    Made glorious summer by this sun of York;
    And all the clouds that lowr'd upon our house
    In the deep bosom of the ocean buried. (1.1.1)

    Here Richard compares the seasons to the well-being of England. On the surface, the line suggests that Richard is celebrating his brother Edward's ascension to the throne, as though his coronation had transformed winter to summer. Actually though, if we read carefully, the construction of the line belies Richard's happiness for his brother. The opening line of a play often sets the tone. Richard's first words, "Now is the winter of our discontent" probably more aptly sum up the play than any other line. They refer to the here and now, which Richard intends to make miserable. The play is really about the darkest of dark times, and only with Richard's death will England's long winter end, to be followed by a summer rebirth with the union of Richmond and young Elizabeth.

    GLOUCESTER
    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,
    Have no delight to pass away the time,
    Unless to spy 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
    And hate the idle pleasures of these days. (1.1.1)

    Richard speaks of himself as unnatural, brought into the world before he was fully formed. He's referring to his body (remember, he was thought to have a hunchback), but he segues into talking about how he is morally underdeveloped as well. With the line "I am determined to prove a villain," Richard has essentially made the link between his underdevelopment and his wickedness. Had he been better formed, he would have human kindness, but just as his body was not perfectly formed, morality did not form in him either. It seems that Richard lacks human goodness and kindness by his very nature, not by choice.

    ANNE
    Villain, thou knowest nor law of God nor man:
    No beast so fierce but knows some touch of pity.
    GLOUCESTER
    But I know none, and therefore am no beast. (1.2.5)

    Richard is constantly compared to animals in this play.  Here, however, he deftly maneuvers around it.  Anne claims even beasts know pity, and Richard claims that because he knows no pity, then he must not be a beast.

    CLARENCE
    O Lord, methought what pain it was to drown,
    What dreadful noise of waters in my ears,
    What sights of ugly death within my eyes!
    Methoughts I saw a thousand fearful wrecks,
    A thousand men that fishes gnaw'd upon,
    Wedges of gold, great anchors, heaps of pearl,
    Inestimable stones, unvalued jewels,
    All scatt'red in the bottom of the sea;
    Some lay in dead men's skulls, and in the holes
    Where eyes did once inhabit there were crept,
    As 'twere in scorn of eyes, reflecting gems,
    That woo'd the slimy bottom of the deep
    And mock'd the dead bones that lay scatt'red by. (1.4.2)

    Shakespeare does some of his best writing when echoing the beauty of nature. Clarence's dreams extol both the wonder and dread of the ocean. It's rich with the goods of jewels and profit of men, which represent the inevitability of death. All the stuff we amass in life turns into nothing but food for the fish, or the worms (as in <em>Hamlet</em>). Human mortality is contrasted with boundless, unconcerned nature. A man's life amounts to nothing but what he was. Clarence fears death, and Richard has yet to face it. This poetic passage is a precursor to Shakespeare's later writing. The mortality theme is reminiscent of the "full fathoms give thy father lies" speech of <em>The Tempest</em>, and the richness of the imagery suggests the scene where Cleopatra descends down the Nile in <em>Antony and Cleopatra</em>.

    BRACKENBURY
    Sorrow breaks seasons and reposing hours,
    Makes the night morning and the noontide night.
    Princes have but their titles for their glories,
    An outward honour for an inward toil;
    And for unfelt imaginations
    They often feel a world of restless cares,
    So that between their tides and low name
    There's nothing differs but the outward fame. (1.4.6)

    The toils of man are contrasted with nature, which creeps steadily along, night and day, regardless of whether man lives or dies. Men are nothing special to the natural world. Their status in society may lead to nothing but heartache. Their titles mean nothing when faced with the great equalizer, death.

    THIRD CITIZEN
    When clouds are seen, wise men put on
    their cloaks;
    When great leaves fall, then winter is at hand;
    When the sun sets, who doth not look for night?
    Untimely storms make men expect a dearth.
    All may be well; but, if God sort it so,
    'Tis more than we deserve or I expect. (2.3.7)

    The citizens make sense of the political events of the play with reference to the predictable events of nature. Men are just a part of nature, no more impenetrable than the simplest facts of the natural world. In the end, nature is the mysterious work of God. No matter what the men fear or hope, God will decide how things turn out, both for nature and men.

    GLOUCESTER
    Short summers lightly have a forward spring. (3.1.7)

    Translation: Those who die young are often precocious, like these young princes whom Richard will murder.  Richard looks at the child he plans to murder and is able to equate his intended evil with the natural cycle of the seasons. It's as if he's justifying his evil as part of the natural cycle. 

    HASTINGS
    And for his dreams, I wonder he's so simple
    To trust the mock'ry of unquiet slumbers.
    To fly the boar before the boar pursues
    Were to incense the boar to follow us
    And make pursuit where he did mean no chase. (3.2.5)

    Hastings does not make much of Stanley's dream, but he should catch himself here. Like a beast, Richard seems to lack reasonableness. The tiniest thing will set him off to pursue, sensibly or not, whomever he perceives to be his enemy. The boar is a beastly animal, and nothing more should be expected from it than beastliness. Richard will chase after the lives of both Stanley and Hastings, even if they did not know they were inviting him to pursuit.

    RICHMOND
    The wretched, bloody, and usurping boar,
    That spoil'd your summer fields and fruitful vines,
    Swills your warm blood like wash, and makes his trough
    In your embowell'd bosoms-this foul swine
    Is now even in the centre of this isle,
    Near to the town of Leicester, as we learn. (5.2.1)

    Richard is unnatural, and his effects on the natural happiness of a kingdom under God have been understandably horrifying. Richard has presided over a long winter in England, and he rules like a beastly and unnatural thing. The implication is that Richmond, the babe of summer, will restore the natural order of justice and goodness to England.

    STANLEY
    So much for that. The silent hours steal on,
    And flaky darkness breaks within the east.
    In brief, for so the season bids us be,
    Prepare thy battle early in the morning, (5.5.2)

    A beautiful new day is dawning on the battlefield. It's no coincidence that it's a new dawn for England too, as Richard will not last past the sunset.

    KING RICHARD
    Tell the clock there. Give me a calendar.
    Who saw the sun to-day?
    RATCLIFF
    Not I, my lord.
    KING RICHARD
    Then he disdains to shine; for by the book
    He should have brav'd the east an hour ago.
    A black day will it be to somebody.
    Ratcliff!
    RATCLIFF
    My lord?
    KING RICHARD
    The sun will not be seen to-day;
    The sky doth frown and lour upon our army.
    I would these dewy tears were from the ground.
    Not shine to-day! Why, what is that to me
    More than to Richmond? For the selfsame heaven
    That frowns on me looks sadly upon him. (5.6.3)

    Richmond's camp has actually already begun to see the dawn breaking – they've been preparing for this morning for quite some time. Richard comforts himself by thinking that if he can't see the sun, Richmond can't either. He doesn't think about the fact that he has reveled in being unnatural for the whole play. The bounty of nature's days will not shine on him as it will on Richmond, a wholly natural creature in alignment with all that's good and right. Richmond will righteously go out to greet the sun, both literally and metaphorically in battle. (And also in the sense that he will unite with the daughter of Edward IV, whose family symbol was the sun.)

  • Family

    GLOUCESTER
    Plots have I laid, inductions dangerous,
    By drunken prophecies, libels, and dreams,
    To set my brother Clarence and the king
    In deadly hate the one against the other;
    And if King Edward be as true and just
    As I am subtle, false, and treacherous,
    This day should Clarence closely be mew'd up- (1.1.1)

    Richard's first mention of his relation to his family prepares us for the way family will function in the play. Richard speaks of deceiving one brother to imprison the other. He even explicitly compares himself to his brother Edward, saying that he is all the evil that Edward is not. Thus we get the hint that family will not be about the ties and the love that bind people. Instead, it's just one more instrument Richard will use to manipulate and spread his hate.

    GLOUCESTER
    He that bereft thee, lady, of thy husband
    Did it to help thee to a better husband.
    ANNE
    His better doth not breathe upon the earth.
    GLOUCESTER
    He lives that loves thee better than he could.
    ANNE
    Name him.
    GLOUCESTER
    Plantagenet.
    ANNE
    Why, that was he.
    GLOUCESTER
    The self-same name, but one of better nature.
    ANNE
    Where is he?
    GLOUCESTER
    Here. (1.2.41)

    Richard implicitly draws a comparison between himself and Anne's dead husband, the murdered Prince Edward, by pointing out their old family connection. By invoking the Plantagenet name, Richard goes far back to the original family from which the two warring houses, Lancaster and York, sprang. Amidst all the animosity in the play, it's easy to forget that the warring Lancasters and Yorks are actually related by blood (hence the dispute). Remembering the family connection between the Lancasters and Yorks also makes all the quarreling <em>within</em> the York family a bit more understandable. Being family doesn't guarantee allegiance. Fighting within the family is common, hence the Wars of the Roses.

    QUEEN MARGARET
    What, were you snarling all before I came,
    Ready to catch each other by the throat,
    And turn you all your hatred now on me?
    Did York's dread curse prevail so much with heaven
    That Henry's death, my lovely Edward's death,
    Their kingdom's loss, my woeful banishment,
    Should all but answer for that peevish brat? (1.3.10)

    Margaret represents the old guard that the Yorks defeated to come to power. As they turn from their in-fighting to attack her, we get a rare glimpse of family loyalty and unity amongst those related to King Edward.

    CLARENCE
    If you do love my brother, hate not me;
    I am his brother, and I love him well.
    If you are hir'd for meed, go back again,
    And I will send you to my brother Gloucester,
    Who shall reward you better for my life
    Than Edward will for tidings of my death.
    SECOND MURDERER
    You are deceiv'd: your brother Gloucester
    hates you.
    CLARENCE
    O, no, he loves me, and he holds me dear.
    Go you to him from me.
    FIRST MURDERER
    Ay, so we will.
    CLARENCE. Tell him when that our princely father York
    Bless'd his three sons with his victorious arm
    And charg'd us from his soul to love each other,
    He little thought of this divided friendship.
    Bid Gloucester think of this, and he will weep.
    FIRST MURDERER
    Ay, millstones; as he lesson'd us to weep.
    CLARENCE. O, do not slander him, for he is kind.
    FIRST MURDERER
    Right, as snow in harvest. Come, you
    deceive yourself:
    'Tis he that sends us to destroy you here.
    CLARENCE
    It cannot be; for he bewept my fortune
    And hugg'd me in his arms, and swore with sobs
    That he would labour my delivery.
    FIRST MURDERER
    Why, so he doth, when he delivers you
    From this earth's thraldom to the joys of heaven. (1.4.20)

    Clarence seems to have no inkling of Richard's evil and even goes so far as to defend him. Is it fair to assume that a family bond, especially one emphasized by their father, would be sacred? Is Clarence just being naïve and foolish?

    KING EDWARD
    Why, so. Now have I done a good day's
    work.
    You peers, continue this united league.
    I every day expect an embassage
    From my Redeemer to redeem me hence;
    And more at peace my soul shall part to heaven,
    Since I have made my friends at peace on earth. (2.1.1)

    King Edward believes that trying to forge unity in his family is a fitting final act, even though he basically just demands that everyone be friends as soon as they walk back in. Are the old enmities so weak that Edward can really assume an old fashioned "kiss and make up" session will cut it? Edward, in bringing his family together, seems to contradict his condemnation of Clarence. It seems that reckoning with death has made him realize the pettiness of his position. Are the others acting evil because they haven't reckoned with death and aren't considering the consequences of their actions come judgment day?

    KING EDWARD
    My brother killed no man-his fault was thought,
    And yet his punishment was bitter death.
    Who sued to me for him? Who, in my wrath,
    Kneel'd at my feet, and bid me be advis'd?
    Who spoke of brotherhood? Who spoke of love? (2.1.10)

    Edward's pardon of Clarence, had he been able to give it, would have been based on their brotherhood, not on the fact that the original condemnation was unwarranted. This indicates that the Yorks <em>do</em> understand the importance of family ties, if not equal justice under the law. It's also a little unreasonable that Edward condemns the others for having the exact same blindness (or lack of compassion toward Clarence) that he had. He's making others the scapegoats for his own failings.

    DUCHESS OF YORK
    Ah, so much interest have I in thy sorrow
    As I had title in thy noble husband!
    I have bewept a worthy husband's death,
    And liv'd with looking on his images;
    But now two mirrors of his princely semblance
    Are crack'd in pieces by malignant death,
    And I for comfort have but one false glass,
    That grieves me when I see my shame in him.
    Thou art a widow, yet thou art a mother
    And hast the comfort of thy children left;
    But death hath snatch'd my husband from mine arms
    And pluck'd two crutches from my feeble hands-
    Clarence and Edward. O, what cause have I-
    Thine being but a moiety of my moan-
    To overgo thy woes and drown thy cries? (2.2.7)

    The Duchess seems to be comparing her grief to Queen Elizabeth's, as though one could quantify this sort of thing. The real cause of all of this despair is that the Duchess is watching her family crumble. She doesn't lament the destruction of the kingdom, or even the entire house of York, so much as the loss of her support system.

    BUCKINGHAM
    My lord, whoever journeys to the Prince,
    For God sake, let not us two stay at home;
    For by the way I'll sort occasion,
    As index to the story we late talk'd of,
    To part the queen's proud kindred from the Prince.
    GLOUCESTER
    My other self, my counsel's consistory,
    My oracle, my prophet, my dear cousin,
    I, as a child, will go by thy direction.
    Toward Ludlow then, for we'll not stay behind. (2.2.3)

    As Richard talks about separating his nephews from their uncles by whatever means necessary, he embraces Buckingham as part of his family. Buckingham probably should've taken the hint that being in Richard's family was likely more a curse than an occasion for picnics and road trips.

    FIRST CITIZEN
    So stood the state when Henry the Sixth
    Was crown'd in Paris but at nine months old.
    THIRD CITIZEN
    Stood the state so? No, no, good friends,
    God wot;
    For then this land was famously enrich'd
    With politic grave counsel; then the king
    Had virtuous uncles to protect his Grace.
    FIRST CITIZEN
    Why, so hath this, both by his father and
    mother.
    THIRD CITIZEN
    Better it were they all came by his father,
    Or by his father there were none at all;
    For emulation who shall now be nearest
    Will touch us all too near, if God prevent not.
    O, full of danger is the Duke of Gloucester!
    And the queen's sons and brothers haught and proud;
    And were they to be rul'd, and not to rule,
    This sickly land might solace as before. (2.3.5)

    The citizens provide some perspective here. They're aware of the family drama, with Prince Edward's uncles being on opposite sides, but they remind the reader that the drama of the play is not just within the family. The internal saga of the York family is actually a national political drama. Still, despite these brief glimpses of the outside world, the play mostly revolves around the Yorks, blurring the line between political history and family drama.

    PRINCE
    No, uncle; but our crosses on the way
    Have made it tedious, wearisome, and heavy.
    I want more uncles here to welcome me.
    GLOUCESTER
    Sweet Prince, the untainted virtue of your years
    Hath not yet div'd into the world's deceit;
    Nor more can you distinguish of a man
    Than of his outward show; which, God He knows,
    Seldom or never jumpeth with the heart.
    Those uncles which you want were dangerous;
    Your Grace attended to their sug'red words
    But look'd not on the poison of their hearts.
    God keep you from them and from such false friends!
    PRINCE
    God keep me from false friends! but they were
    none.
    GLOUCESTER
    My lord, the Mayor of London comes to greet
    you. (3.1.1)

    Richard is making a clear grab at the prince's affections here. He appeals to young Prince Edward not as a loving uncle, but as one wise enough to protect him. Richard argues to the boy (by talking about his false uncles) that just because people are family doesn't mean they can be trusted. (Richard would know something about this, wouldn't he?) Ironically, it seems that Richard's suggestion that the prince's other uncles are false may be the very thing that clues Prince Edward in to Richard's treachery.

  • Gender

    GLOUCESTER
    Why, this it is when men are rul'd by women:
    'Tis not the king that sends you to the Tower;
    My Lady Gray his wife, Clarence, 'tis she
    That tempers him to this extremity. (1.1.4)

    This is the first mention of women in the play, and it's significant since it sets up our expectations for how they will be treated. Gloucester suggests that the influence of Queen Elizabeth, King Edward IV's wife, is responsible for Clarence's imprisonment. A few things can be distilled here: Richard suggests that women have undue influence, and he may secretly resent their power. Further, he suggests that Elizabeth is villainous. So basically, women have power they shouldn't have, and we should expect them to use that power for evil.

    GLOUCESTER
    He that doth naught with her, excepting one,
    Were best to do it secretly alone.
    BRACKENBURY
    What one, my lord?
    GLOUCESTER
    Her husband, knave! Wouldst thou betray me? (1.1.7)

    Richard shows off his bawdy sense of humor here – and his deftness with language. Brackenbury has said he has nothing ("nought") to do with Shore (Edward's mistress). Richard plays on this word, turning it into "naught," a reference to sexual wickedness. What's important here, though, is that Richard undercuts Shore's sexual power over Edward. He mocks her as one who gets around, and thus reduces her to an object, which distracts us from thinking about the power she has over him as his sexual partner.

    GLOUCESTER
    For then I'll marry Warwick's youngest daughter.
    What though I kill'd her husband and her father?
    The readiest way to make the wench amends
    Is to become her husband and her father;
    The which will I-not all so much for love
    As for another secret close intent
    By marrying her which I must reach unto. (1.1.16)

    Richard views Anne as a means to an end.  We again get a clue that Richard sees how women have power, but rather than be used by a woman, he has every intention to use her. Further, he's absolutely impenetrable when it comes to love, as he delights in killing Anne's father-in-law and husband and then marrying her.

    ANNE
    Be it lawful that I invocate thy ghost
    To hear the lamentations of poor Anne,
    Wife to thy Edward, to thy slaughtered son,
    Stabb'd by the self-same hand that made these wounds.
    Lo, in these windows that let forth thy life
    I pour the helpless balm of my poor eyes. (1.2.1)

    The first woman we encounter in the play is a lamenting and sorrowful mourner. It seems women will often play the role of mourners in <em>Richard III</em>, left behind to grieve over their lost men and the evil of other men.

    ANNE
    O wonderful, when devils tell the truth!
    GLOUCESTER
    More wonderful when angels are so angry. (1.2.22)

    Richard dismisses Anne's anger here, basically saying, "you sure are cute when you're mad."  This is an age-old old trick to disempower women.  We see something similar happen over and over again in Shakespeare's <em>Taming of the Shrew. </em>

    ANNE
    I would I knew thy heart.
    GLOUCESTER
    'Tis figur'd in my tongue.
    ANNE
    I fear me both are false.
    GLOUCESTER
    Then never was man true. (1.2.50)

    Anne collapses at this point.  She already knows what's in Richard's "heart" (she's just provided a laundry list of his evil deeds), but here she acts like it's possible he really loves her.

    GLOUCESTER
    Then be your eyes the witness of their evil.
    Look how I am bewitch'd; behold, mine arm
    Is like a blasted sapling wither'd up.
    And this is Edward's wife, that monstrous witch,
    Consorted with that harlot strumpet Shore,
    That by their witchcraft thus have marked me.
    HASTINGS
    If they have done this deed, my noble lord-
    GLOUCESTER
    If?-thou protector of this damned strumpet,
    Talk'st thou to me of ifs? Thou art a traitor.
    Off with his head! (3.4.5)

    Richard's claim against the women is ridiculous, since Richard's arm has been withered since birth. Perhaps because of Richard's powerful position, or because of the inferior position of the women, Hastings is immediately expected to side with Richard.

    DUCHESS
    O ill-dispersing wind of misery!
    O my accursed womb, the bed of death!
    A cockatrice hast thou hatch'd to the world,
    Whose unavoided eye is murderous.
    STANLEY
    Come, madam, come; I in all haste was sent.
    ANNE
    And I with all unwillingness will go.
    O, would to God that the inclusive verge
    Of golden metal that must round my brow
    Were red-hot steel, to sear me to the brains!
    Anointed let me be with deadly venom,
    And die ere men can say 'God save the queen!'
    QUEEN ELIZABETH
    Go, go, poor soul; I envy not thy glory.
    To feed my humour, wish thyself no harm. (4.1.3)

    The women all commiserate with each other, though their woes are different in kind and degree. There is a sisterhood of sorts, as all the women seem to constantly fall victim to the actions of the men. However, as the duchess points out, the women are literally at the root of the grief, as their positions as mothers and wives tie them intimately to the perpetrators of wrong. Still, they seem to have no power to affect the men's actions, but only to condemn them after the fact.

    KING RICHARD
    Who intercepts me in my expedition?
    DUCHESS
    O, she that might have intercepted thee,
    By strangling thee in her accursed womb,
    From all the slaughters, wretch, that thou hast done! (4.4.1)

    The duchess asserts that her power as a woman might have been to cut Richard off before his birth. Remember, at the end of this speech she curses him to a bloody death. Her power was to give him life, and her curse might be partly responsible for his death.

    KING RICHARD
    You have a daughter call'd Elizabeth.
    Virtuous and fair, royal and gracious.
    QUEEN ELIZABETH
    And must she die for this? O, let her
    live,
    And I'll corrupt her manners, stain her beauty,
    Slander myself as false to Edward's bed,
    Throw over her the veil of infamy;
    So she may live unscarr'd of bleeding slaughter,
    I will confess she was not Edward's daughter.
    KING RICHARD
    Wrong not her birth; she is a royal
    Princess.
    QUEEN ELIZABETH
    To save her life I'll say she is not so. (4.4.12)

    Elizabeth would rather slander her own honor than see her daughter suffer. Women in the play subjugate their own titles and reputations to protect their loved ones. This makes them distinct from the men, for whom power is of the utmost importance. Richard is keen on marrying Elizabeth precisely to protect his title as king of England (as marrying Elizabeth would secure his throne). Queen Elizabeth's intuition that she could protect her daughter by stripping her of her title is correct. Richard would not marry her for love, but rather for her politically strategic importance. Of course, the irony is that none of the women in the play have inherent power. Only their bloodlines and titles are beneficial to the men, who seek legitimacy and legitimate heirs.

    QUEEN ELIZABETH
    I go. Write to me very shortly,
    And you shall understand from me her mind.
    KING RICHARD
    Bear her my true love's kiss; and so, farewell.
    Kissing her. Exit QUEEN ELIZABETH
    Relenting fool, and shallow, changing woman! (4.4.51)

    Richard's condemnation is harsh; he thinks Queen Elizabeth is foolish. Of course, the irony is that Queen Elizabeth will be having the last laugh, as she has no intention of carrying through with Richard's marriage to her daughter. Richard's arrogance leads him to believe that he's manipulated another woman, when in actuality her shrewd decisions regarding her own daughter (another woman Richard meant to manipulate) will be Richard's downfall.