Who was Richard III?

       ‘Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely’, said Lord Acton, a British historian. Shakespeare’s Richard III is an account of how men are intoxicated by political power and what moral corruption they undergo as they manipulate people with their power. Richard III is the first of Shakespeare’s history tetralogy. Some scholars also regard this historical play as a tragedy.

       Richard was not the usual handsome prince, as he was an ugly hunchback. His brother Edward IV had acceded to the throne and was the reigning King at the start of the play. As he himself claimed, Richard wanted to be a ‘villain’. He schemed successfully to woo Anne Neville, whose husband and father were killed by Richard. He plotted to kill his brother Clarence who stood in the line of succession before him. Richard sent two murderers to kill him with whom Clarence pleaded to spare his life. He tried to convince them in many ways to save his life out they revealed to him that his brother Richard had sent them to kill him. However, he did not believe them until his death. Richard used the death of Clarence to send Edward IV, already ailing with diseases, to his death-bed. He died heartbroken and Richard went about clearing his way off the final obstacle to his dreams of becoming the king. Edward IV had sons and young Edward V was the rightful heir. Edward IV’s sons were clever and they resisted the dark hands of their uncle for a time with their intelligence. However, they were killed eventually. Richard also killed, one by one, all who stood in his path. He poisoned his wife in order to marry his niece, Elizabeth of York.

       Richard slowly lost all the popularity he had garnered through deceit and treachery. He started to become paranoid and terror-stricken. He was visited by ghosts of all people he had killed. At last, he is killed in the battlefield as he cried to his opponent, ‘A horse, a horse, my kingdom for a horse’.

       Richard III is the longest play by Shakespeare after Macbeth. Richard’s character undergoes extreme fluctuations of moral positions and is tilted so much to the evil that he is considered an anti-hero.

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