Richard III Questions and Answers
by William Shakespeare

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What are some elements of humor in Richard III?

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In Shakespeare's King Richard III, Richard, Duke of Gloucester (later King Richard III) is portrayed as a diabolical serial murderer, but this shouldn't detract from the fact that Richard is also a terrific comedian. Richard is witty, charming, and charismatic—disarmingly and dangerously so—and his at times self-deprecating humor arises from his clear realization of who and what he is.

Richard has no illusions about himself, and he has no delusions about the path he's chosen to reach the throne of England. Richard knows that he has nothing to lose and everything to gain as he maneuvers his way to the crown, and he intends to thoroughly enjoy the adventure of it all, no matter what awaits him at the end of his journey.

At the opening of the play, Richard takes center stage and begins his "stand-up" routine. After a few jokes about the end of the War of the Roses, Richard makes fun of his own deformities.

RICHARD. ...I, that am curtailed of this fair proportion,
Cheated of feature by...

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sk8terboi8160 | Student

Richard's ability to laugh and make fun of himself, but also there are various examples of how he ridicules those who foolishly place confidence in him.

For example, you might like to consider the way in which dramatic irony adds to the humour of the play. For example, in Act I scene 1, Richard makes many kind and caring comments to his brother Clarence as he is being taken to prison, even though we know that Richard is actually the one responsible for Clarence being locked up in the first place.

Secondly, parody is used by Richard at various stages to poke fun at someone or something that is meant to be treated with a serious attitude. This is perhaps most clearly seen when Richard parodies both himself and Anne following the success of his romantic overtures. Note how he makes fun of himself in the following lines from Act I scene 2:

I'll be at charges for a looking-glass,

And entertain a score or two of tailors

To study fashions to adorn my body.

Richard, therefore, although he is a figure of evil, is nonetheless somebody who manages to present an often grimly humorous take on what happens in the play and his own conduct, even being willing to make fun of himself to add to the comedy.