RICHARD III

By William Shakespeare
Written betweem 1592 - 1595

Comments by Bob Corbett
March 2010

General Note: In January 2009 I decided that Iíd like to go back and read all the plays of William Shakespeare, perhaps one a month if that works out. I hadnít read a Shakespeare play since 1959, 50 years ago! But I had read nearly all of them in college. I wanted to go back, start with something not too serious or challenging, and work my way through the whole corpus. Thus I began with The Two Gentlemen of Verona. At this time I have no idea how the project will go, nor if it will actually lead me through the entire corpus of Shakespeareís plays. However, I will keep a separate page listing each play Iíve read with links to any comments I would make of that particular play. See: List of Shakespeareís playís Iíve read and commented on

COMMENTS ON
RICHARD III

The play opens with one of Shakespeareís more famous soliloquies and, at the very end one of his most famous single lines. Alas, in between is the story of one of the worst villains of any literature I have ever read, joyously DEAD at the end.

Richard, the Duke of Gloucester opens the play with:

Now is the winter of our discontent
Made glorious summer by this sun of York;
And all the clouds that lowered 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 smoothed his wrinkled front,
And now, instead of mounting barbed steeds
To fright the souls of fearful adversaries,
He capers nimbly in a ladyís chamber
To the lascivious pleasing of a lute.

However, he isnít in the slightest finished with war, murder and mayhem and very soon is busy murdering people left and right, most either family members who might challenge him for the throne, or people who were days before his friends, whom he now suspects of being traitors to him.

Richard is without a doubt one of the most evil and bloody characters Iíve ever read of, at least in terms of killing individuals as opposed to whole populations.

He lies, betrays, uses, plots and, inevitably, murders.

There isnít much of what I normally expect in a drama. There isnít some character who moves from one position to another, from evil to good or the reverse, and in the process displays some critical moments of changes.

Not Richard. He just follows the same bloody and evil pattern to the end.

Finally, in war, most of his family and closest friends dead by his own hand, he has his last supporters abandon him, and he is unhorsed in battle, standing to fight to the end to continue his rule.

Thatís when he calls out yet another famous line:

A horse! A horse! My kingdom for a horse.

Happily he doesnít get his horse and is cut down in battle.

I did find it a bit amusing that while Richard himself is incapable of anything approaching guilt or a conscience, one of the murderers he hires to do some of his killing does find that he canít really carry on his own work without tinges of guilt:

A man cannot steal, but it accuseth him; a man cannot swear, but it checks him; a man cannot lie with his neighborís wife, but it detects him. ĎTis a blushing shamefaced spirit that mutinies in a manís bosom. It fills a man full of obstacles. It made me once restore a purse of gold that by chance I found. It beggars any man that keeps it. It is turned out of towns and cities for a dangerous thing, and every man that means to live well endeavors to trust to himself and live without it.

Definitely not one of my favorites of Shakespeareís plays!

Bob Corbett corbetre@webster.edu

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Bob Corbett corbetre@webster.edu