I had a blast leading this discussion on the AO forum. And this play is amazing. Richard III is just a slimy villain. He has no remorse, and he adroitly plays with people’s minds. He manages to kill off his brothers, his brother’s sons, his wife, and a gajillion political rivals.
By the end, though, he’s not really fooling anyone. All the fools have been murdered at this point. So even though he’s king, he can’t really sit on that throne securely. He doesn’t trust anyone and grows paranoid.
My favorite scene was the night before the battle between Richmond (the future Henry VII) and Richard. Shakespeare has a most intriguing set-up on the stage: Richard is sleeping in his tent on one end of the stage, and Richmond is sleeping in his own tent on the other end of the stage. And then the ghosts come and haunt both of them in their sleep. Of course, these are the ghosts of all the people Richard has murdered, and so they all curse him, and bless his rival with success. In the morning Richard wakes up as if from a nightmare, very ill-rested. Richmond, on the other hand, wakes up after the best sleep of his life. Such a clever stage play.
Shakespeare’s Richard is an amazing villain, but of course, we all know this is a bunch of Tudor propaganda, don’t we? So I’ll have to read Josephine Tey’s Daughter of Time soon to balance this one out. Woohoo!