On numerous occasions does Richard use his deformities to his advantage to draw pity and guilt from others, it adds to his ability to act innocent and allows him to give explanations for his actions. In Act 1 Scene 3 when Richard stirs up trouble and makes accusations against the Woodvilles he defends himself with his deformities ‘Because I cannot flatter and look fair, smile in men’s faces, smooth, deceive, and cog, duck with French nods and apish courtesy, I must be held an enemy.’Richard puts on another performance in Act 2 Scene 1, when delivering the news to Edward that Clarence has died. Although he is the one responsible for the murder of Clarence he makes himself the most illusive suspect by seizing the chance to accuse and throw suspicion on the Woodvilles ‘less noble .
.. not in blood’, once again to cloak his guiltiness.
The audience bare witness to Richards’s finest performance when he acts as if he is not worthy and unwilling to receive the crown in Act 3 Scene 7.Richard takes a tremendous risk, but once again it pays out the greatest reward, he gains the backing of the mayor and citizens through acting and reverse psychology ‘Alas, why would you heap this care on me? I am unfit for state and majesty.’ By him acting though he does not want the crown, the citizens insist he has it. Richard even seeks the assistance of a prop in this performance, a prayer book to promote his pure and honest image ‘And see, a book of prayer in his hand, true ornaments to know a holy man’Shakespeare’s Richard is a ruthless character that shows no sign of having a conscience and holds no single person close to his heart. He has his own innocent nephews, who hold him dear murdered and is frequently found to be entirely untrustworthy and horribly deceitful to those most loyal to him. Act 4 Scene 2 conveys the most extreme example of this in his dismissal and rejection of Buckingham, Richards most loyal and worthy associate.After displeasing Richard by refusing to murder his nephews, Buckingham comes to him in the hope of receiving his gift ‘Th’earldom of Hereford’, however Richard turns his back deciding he is no longer of worth to him ‘Thou troublest me; I am not in the vein’. Buckingham is murdered after all his exertion into assisting Richard, he simply finds other men to carry out his deeds such as Tyrell and Catesby and although they may feel they will be rewarded, they are no more than pawns in Richards game of deceit and manipulation.
The only time we are ever presented by Shakespeare with a truly human side of Richard is close to the end of the play after being accused and visited by a variety of ghostly visitors in his dreams who he has betrayed on his path to the throne. He is forced to face up to his own evil and in Act 5 Scene 3, Richard realises the true extent of his damage for the very first time. ‘Is there a murderer here? No. Yes, I am’ he begins to piece together all he has done in his mind and even appears to fear and loathe himself for the crimes he has committed.
Shakespeare’s play Richard III paints the picture of a bitter tyrant, a man angry at the world that will stop at nothing to lie, cheat and murder his was to the throne. However this is a distinctively Tudor view of events. There is an abundance of evidence suggesting that Richard was not the heartless power bent dictator we are presented with. We cannot overlook the fact the Shakespeare is writing this play during the reign of the Tudors and it is very likely that relatives of Henry VII would see this play, it therefore was imperative for Shakespeare to support the propaganda, which may even prove that Richard did not have any deformities.It is proven that a number of portraits of him have been tampered with in order to create a hump and withered arm on Richard; original artwork never displayed him as having any physical inadequacies. It would also have been crucial for Shakespeare to help justify Henry’s right to be king. This is almost certainly why in Act 5 Richmond is presented to us as an almost saint-like character in contrast to Richards evil.Historical evidence suggests a completely opposite man to Shakespeare’s creation.
Richards’s brother Edward IV took the throne in 1461 and all evidence suggests that Richard was nothing but the perfect brother. He had governed the North of England successfully for Edward after 1471 and had never shown any desire or jealousy of the throne. George, Duke of Clarence appeared to have been the true traitor in the family, allied with Edward’s enemies and found guilty of treason on two occasions, the first of which Edward decided to free him, but the second time he was executed.That abolishes Shakespeare’s depiction of Richard having Clarence murdered. Even in a time when Clarence managed to gain some power and Edward was forced to flee, Richard loyally stayed with him when it would have been very easy to go over to Clarence, showing an entirely opposite characteristic to that of Richard in the play. Richard was also a brave soldier who fought alongside Edward.
In a time of corruption records show he was fair and just, settling feuds between other nobles, he also often gave money to the church and to the families of fallen comrades.There are a number of theories on the death of the princes. One is that Richard did have them murdered, but even this can be justified as recent evidence suggests strongly that Edward was a bastard meaning his sons were also illegitimate and had no claim whatsoever to the throne, meaning that Richard did have the strongest claim, and even if he did have them murdered it was purely to preserve the royal bloodline and keep it from becoming tainted.Although Richard is the most likely suspect, some people believe that he may have kept the princes in the tower for the entire length of his reign as it was only two years, then Henry VII had them murdered when he became King as it would threaten his claim. He would not want anything to get in his way, as Henry Tudor was the only claim to the throne that the house of Lancaster had left.
It is for these reasons that it is highly likely that Shakespeare’s Richard III was an extreme exaggeration in order to create an interesting character during a Tudor reign, in reality Richard may have made various good and bad decisions, but was nothing like the tyrant presented to us in the play.