Richard III Questions and Answers
by William Shakespeare

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What was the motivation of Richard III in taking the crown of England?

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Richard, Duke of Gloucester, is bored.

By the time Richard was eighteen or nineteen years old, he was leading troops into battle and gaining victories for his brother, Edward, King of England, during the "War of the Roses"—the war between the Lancastrians and the Yorkists, two sides of Richard's family, the Plantagenets. For the past ten or twelve years of his life, Richard has only known war. He was good at it, and he enjoyed it.

At the beginning of Shakespeare's Richard III, King Edward is safely on the throne, England is at peace, and Richard has nothing to do. In his opening soliloquy, Richard tells us everything we need to know about his motivations for wanting to be King.

RICHARD. Now is the winter of our discontent
Made glorious summer by this son of York;
And all the clouds that lour'd upon our house
In the deep bosom of the ocean buried (1.1.1–4).

The War of the Roses is over.

RICHARD. ...And now, instead of mounting barded steeds
To fright the souls of fearful adversaries,
He capers...

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Looking into Richard's past reveals a deeply troubled and psychologically distressing childhood. Because of his appearance and the supernatural beliefs of the Elizabethan society, Richard was shunned for the majority of his childhood. In adulthood, he has no hope for love - not romantic love, nor maternal love. This isolation has bred an evil in Richard and a desire to "prove a villain" which becomes so apparent through the course of the play. One of the reasons he aims for the crown then becomes his evil nature. Richard also wants all those who have treated him unfairly to suffer. The most thorough way of punishing his friends and family is taking the crown and changing the whole nature of politics in the court. Richard is also driven by his need to prove himself. He does not succumb to social pressures, and instead of accepting his condition as an invalid or one to be shunned, he uses all the negative emotion to fuel his ambition. Richard's ambitions do not centre around getting the crown - rather his greatest ambition is to prove himself as more than just a deformed courtier. The crown merely becomes the means to achieve his end.