The Opening Speech of Richard III in William Shakespeare's Play
Richard III is a historical play and we are drawn to this factor from
Richard's speech at the opening of the play. Shakespeare uses
Richard's character as his main device for setting the scene. As it is
a play the audience would see Richard entering on a bare stage and
this alone would leave an effect of them which would soon be
reinforced by the speech he is about to give. The speech itself is
delivered in a soliloquy, a device that is well associated with
Shakespeare. It reveals the inner most thoughts of the character,
exposing their true nature and their state of mind.
The first words of his opening speech,
"Now is the winter of our discontent"
This single, very effective line enables the audience in understanding
what the situation is.
We know that England is at peace after the war of the roses that took
place between the York's and the Lancastrians and that King Edward is
currently in reign. But this glorious mood soon changes as we sense a
change in Richard's tone. All is not well as Richard shows the
contempt he holds for his brother, the king as he describes the King's
displeasing attitudes and corrupt behaviour,
"He capers nimbly in a lady's chamber,
To the lascivious pleasing of a lute...."
Richard is essentially saying that instead of being a fearful brave
leader, King Edward spends his time indulged in amorous activities.
The power of the language itself emphasises to great lengths the
disgust that Richard holds for his brother. As the speech goes on his
contempt that he holds for the king grows. Richard then changes the
attention to his personal concerns,
"But I, that am not shap'd for sportive tricks,
I, that am rudely stamp'd, and want love's majesty,
I, that am curtailed of this fair proportion....."
Richard quickly switches the emphasis from the king to himself and his
standing in the whole matter. At this moment in time Shakespeare's
main concern is Richard and Richard's main concern is also Richard.
Which emphasises and singles out Richards main concerns which is
The speech in itself is a very effective way it is used to arouse the
audience in such a way that they are left with mixed questions and
feelings. Such as who Richard is and what has caused his descriptive
outpour. In the course of the speech, Richard says,
"I am determined to prove a villain"
Quickly the audience is made to believe that evil, is the source of
Richard's pleasure and that