Richard III Essential Quotes
by William Shakespeare

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Essential Quotes by Character: Richard III

Essential Passage 1: Act 1, Scene 1

But I,--that am not shap'd for sportive tricks,
Nor made to court an amorous looking-glass;
I, that am rudely stamp'd, and want love's majesty
To strut before a wanton ambling nymph;
I, that am curtail'd of this fair proportion,
Cheated of feature by dissembling nature,
Deform'd, unfinish'd, sent before my time
Into this breathing world scarce half made up,
And that so lamely and unfashionable
That dogs bark at me as I halt by them;--
Why, I, in this weak piping time of peace,
Have no delight to pass away the time,
Unless to spy my shadow in the sun,
And descant on mine own deformity:
And therefore,--since I cannot prove a lover,
To entertain these fair well-spoken days,--
I am determined to prove a villain,
And 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 king
In deadly hate the one against the other:
And if King Edward be as true and just
As I am subtle, false, and treacherous,
This day should Clarence closely be mew'd up,--
About a prophecy which says that G
Of Edward's heirs the murderer shall be.

Richard, Duke of Gloucester, brother to the newly crowned Edward IV, opens the play with a soliloquy, explaining in sarcastic tones that peace has come through the victory over the House of Lancaster by the House of York. He speaks of the festivities and celebrations over Edward’s ascension on Henry VI’s throne. Yet he himself, he states, is not made for such joyousness, due to his physical appearance. He is portrayed as hunchbacked and crippled, unattractive to women and of a somewhat frightening appearance so that even the dogs bark at him. Because he has been cheated out of love and attractiveness, he will take his vengeance on the world by claiming power by whatever means he can. He announces to the audience that he is not content to be the “ugly brother” of the king. He intends to be the king himself. But first he must remove all roadblocks between him and the throne.

First of all, he must eliminate his elder brother the Duke of Clarence, who would next be in line for the throne. He has planted rumors that Clarence has been the subject of a prophecy that someone whose name begins with “G” would supplant Edward’s heirs. Since Clarence’s first name is George, Richard hints that it is he that is the future traitor. He does not give much thought to the fact that he himself bears a title, the Duke of Gloucester (that also begins with a “G"). Thus Richard sets up the dramatic irony in which the audience is fully away of Richard’s intentions and that he himself will fulfill that prophecy.

Essential Passage 2: Act 3, Scene 5

There, at your meet'st advantage of the time,
Infer the bastardy of Edward's children:
Tell them how Edward put to death a citizen,
Only for saying he would make his son
Heir to the crown;--meaning, indeed, his house,
Which, by the sign thereof, was termed so.
Moreover, urge his hateful luxury,
And bestial appetite in change of lust;
Which stretch'd unto their servants, daughters, wives,
Even where his raging eye or savage heart,
Without control, listed to make a prey.
Nay, for a need, thus far come near my person:--
Tell them, when that my mother went with child
Of that insatiate Edward, noble York,
My princely father, then had wars in France
And, by true computation of the time,
Found that the issue was not his begot;
Which well appeared in his lineaments,
Being nothing like the noble duke my father.
Yet touch this sparingly, as 'twere far off;
Because, my lord, you know my mother lives.

Richard has begun his cutting down his relatives in earnest. He has imprisoned his nephews (including Edward V, the new king) in the Tower of London and is ready to seize power. Yet he wants to ensure that the people of England are behind him, so he is prepared to spreads malicious rumors and insinuations concerning those who are either in preference to the crown over him or who might prevent his...

(The entire section is 3,524 words.)