How does Shakespeare use soliloquy to inform us about Richard's plots, as well as to reveal his character in Act 1 scenes 1, 2 and 3?
The opening scenes of the play tell us a lot about Richard's character. And that character—wicked, scheming and insanely ambitious—is expressed through Richard's numerous soliloquies. The House of York has achieved victory in its seemingly endless war with the rival House of Lancaster. Yorkists can smile again, enjoying themselves by dancing in their ladies' chambers to the seductive tones of the lute.
But Richard's not like other Yorkists. For one thing, his disability precludes him from gallivanting around like those dandies at court:
"But I, that am not shaped for sportive tricks,Nor made to court an amorous looking glass;I, that am rudely stamped and want love’s majestyTo strut before a wanton ambling nymph" (act 1 scene 1)
"And therefore, since I cannot prove a loverTo entertain these fair well-spoken days,I am determinèd to prove a villainAnd 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 kingIn deadly hate, the one against the other" (act 1 scene 1)
"He cannot live, I hope, and must not dieTill George be packed with post-horse up to heaven.I’ll in to urge his hatred more to ClarenceWith lies well steeled with weighty arguments,And, if I fail not in my deep intent,Clarence hath not another day to live"
"Having God, her conscience, and these bars against me, And I no friends to back my suit at all but the plain devil and dissembling looks?And yet to win her, all the world to nothing! Ha!" (act 1 scene 2)
"Shine out, fair sun, till I have bought a glass,That I may see my shadow as I pass." (act 1 scene 2)
"But then I sigh and quote a chunk of the Bible—how God says do good in return for evil. Ha! Dressing my out-and-out wickedness in scraps of Scripture, I look like a saint exactly when I’m most like the devil." (act 1 scene 3)
Soliloquy is used to keep the audience informed as to what particular characters are thinking and, in this case, plotting.
In all three scenes, Richard is shown to be 'mis'hapen' but very articulate. In scene 1 Richard tells the audience that he is more suited to war than peace because of his deformity and in times of 'romance' is 'determined to prove a villain'. So here the audience's introduction to Richard's cruel, almost abhorrent, personality is formed.
In scene 2 he carries this further by convincing Anne, whose husband and father in law he has had a hand in killing, to accept a ring from him. His soliloquy here reveals his gloating nature. He is very sure of himself and makes sure the audience hears about his plans and schemes as well as how clever he is in achieving them.
By scene 3, not only has has he proven himself to be articulate and scheming, but also murderous as he plots to have Clarence killed. These traits are taken to the ultimate degree throughout the rest of the play.
With Richard, soliloquies become an even more important tool than they are with most characters, because his personality is so deceptive and dissembling. He is not truthful or consistent with any of the other characters, and so to understand his true character and motives, it is important for the audience to see him in the privacy of his own mind.
The opening soliloquy also helps to build the complex relationship that Shakespeare intends for the audience to have with Richard. Not only are we made privy to his future plans (and the future course of the play), we also see him as an isolated individual from the society he is in. This helps the audience to develop a connection with Richard, which then allows us to sympathise with him, to admire him and to laugh with him later on in the play.
Without the soliloquies, the audience's relationship with Richard would not be half as complex as it is, nor would Richard be as intriguing as he is. Understanding Richard's character is crucial to understanding the plot, themes and other characters.