While reading the first act of Richard the III , the most prominent aspect is how Shakespeare uses language. The word choice affects the imagery, alters the meaning and can make the ugliest sentiments an auditory delight.
In Richard’s speech in the opening act he refers to his deformity, “Unless to spy my shadow in the sun” (1.1.26). The use of the words “spy” and “shadow” resonates the darkness of his deformity but the last word, “sun” seems hopeful. Although he goes on to say in the next line, “And Decant on my own deformity” (1.1.27) which renders the sun at fault because it shows him his deformed shadow and provides him with opportunity to be miserable about his condition.
The exchange between Lady Anne and Richard is significant. Her words toward him are harsh and her emotions are raw yet by the end, she has seemingly softens towards him. She repeatedly refers to him as a “devil” and he refutes her allegation that he not a beast because he does not pity anyone. Richard blames his brother for her losses, than admits guilt to win her favor and blames her beauty as his motive. While the vibrant insults Lady Anne hurls at Richard are notable more importantly is that way Richard flips her accusations of him into some sort of compliment towards her. She wants revenge on him because he killed her husband but he tells her that he killed her husband to get her a better one, himself (1.2137-139)! She refers to him as a “black magician” (1.2.34), in this conversation he seems to be a magician because he gets her from wanting him dead, to accepting a ring and agreeing to meet up with him at his estate. As not having read the rest of the play, I am hoping she is in fact using him, not being used by him.
Queen Margaret’s anger drives her sharply delivered wit. Although, Richard flips her curse onto herself by getting her to say her own name afterwards. It is another example of how Richard manipulates language/conversation to suit himself. Queen Margaret unleashes her rage on Queen Elizabeth, “Die, neither mother, wife, nor England’s queen.---“ (1.3.206). The words of this line should way heavy on Queen Elizabeth because it represents a potentially huge void but she doesn’t speak until after Margaret leaves. She responds by saying she has never done her any wrong. I wonder if this is representative of what kind of character Queen Elizabeth is as the play progresses. In the following passage Queen Margaret warns Queen Elizabeth:
Poor painted Queen, vain flourish of my fortune,
Why shrew’st thou sugar on that bottled spider
Whose deadly web ensnareth thee about?
The alliterative of “poor painted” followed by “queen” is moving. The association of queens with being poor and painted is not atypical. The other dissimilarity between sugar and a spider is also effective tool of imagery.
Act 1 is constructed in such a way that I look forward to discovering more beautiful lines of imagery as the play progresses. I also want to know if Lady Anne truly falls for the evil wizard, Richard. I am interested to learn if Queen Elizabeth it clueless, and the outcome of Queen Margaret’s prophesies.