When a stereotypical villain is imagined, ideas of ‘pantomime baddies’ and James Bond’s arch enemies appear. On the surface, these seem unlikely to relate to the character of Richard III in William Shakespeare’s play of the same name, however, on closer inspection character traits can be identified that seem very common between all of them. It is to the extent of which that will be investigated. It is simple to identify Richard’s villainous role as his opening soliloquy reads, “I am determined to prove a villain.
This seems similar to the idea that all evil characters plan deliberately to act vile rather than be forced into it by someone else. There is no mistaking his desire to do wrong as shown by the word “determined” which can suggest his mental attitude to attain the role as well as the thought that his life choices were already laid out before him by God and that he was born evil. A stereotypical villain could most definitely be one that has chosen their evil ways and know exactly what they plan to do.
Richard falls into this category as he explains his idea to have his brothers murdered so he can take the throne. It can be argued that his disability, exaggerated by Shakespeare for dramatic effect, turned him toward the dark side but Richard himself blames his deformity for a lack of sexual activities and yet he still asks Lady Anne for her hand in marriage . This suggests he isn’t particularly affected by his disability. A technique he uses to undermine his physical irregularity, though, is another similarity between him and a stereotype, his intelligence.
A cunning understanding of language and human behaviour. Much likened to the modern character of Blackadder, Richard can manipulate, charm and deceive almost anyone. As when Richard speaks to Clarence about his imprisonment by the King, “Meantime, this deep disgrace in brotherhood / Touches me deeper than you can imagine. ” This is a complete lie on Richard’s behalf as he addresses King Edward as being a terrible brother to Clarence when it is indeed himself that has betrayed Clarence.
Not only is it not true but it is said to empathise with Clarence so Richard sounds the loving brother, when once again, that is not the case at all. He is using this line to deceive Clarence and manipulate the way he feels towards Edward and Richard himself. He follows this line with, “your imprisonment shall not be long” which purposefully sounds comforting to Clarence but its underlying meaning is that Richard will have him soon killed. This intelligence gives Richard an opportunity to form plans and commit actions to achieve his sinister aims as well as making it entertaining for the audience.
Just as any modern day villain would do, the intellect is used only to find ways to revenge the leading man and seems wasted as it could be used for so many better deeds. So he may possess the cunning and wit of any other villain but it is important to appreciate Richard as an individual personality created before the idea of ‘stereotypical’ being around. He has this poetic language inside him that allows him to admit his inner feelings and show an emotional weakness that is unusual in your average bad guy.
Why, I, in this weak piping time of peace, / Have no delight to pass away the time, / Unless to see my shadow in the sun / And descant on mine own deformity. ” Spoken in his opening soliloquy, Richard admits to being unhappy and presents himself as ugly and unpopular. “Weak piping time of peace” suggests he does not feel that the end of the war will keep peace in the country for long and that the monarchy is as unstable now as ever before. It is unusual for villains to be doubtful with their place in the world and to admit that there is a flaw about them, in this case Richard’s abnormality.
He sounds almost lonely, “no delight” and dejected which could imply why he turned to becoming villainous so the audience almost feels pity for him. It is unlike most wicked characters that people can almost empathise with them which is one way which makes him completely different. He was, after all, created almost 500 years ago before the idea of a ‘stereotype’. He may well have been the beginning of the creation or deliberately fashioned that way to increase the entertainment value of the play.
However, it seems difficult to fully answer how stereotypical he is as he shows elements of being so unlike them, such as how he explains his emotional weakness, as well as giving evidence that he is not unlike a stereotype at all, such as the intelligence he has to plot his evil deeds. Perhaps being an evil character instantly creates an idea of being stereotypical and Richard III is no different to any other villain created for the purposes of entertainment.