Henry VI Part 3

by: William Shakespeare


While Richard is one of the most violent and cruel personas among Shakespeare's cast of characters, he is nevertheless one of the most compelling. He draws us in through his soliloquies, in which he reveals charisma and a sharp wit, and he becomes the most finely drawn figure in the play by revealing his motivations and drives. He is no hero, but all the other characters are stick figures compared to him.

By the end of the play, Richard has announced his isolation from the titles of "son" or "brother," and while he kisses Edward's new baby, he likens himself to Judas. The court prepares to celebrate the new king, thinking the civil war is over, but the worst is yet to come. The previous chapters of the War of the Roses served to set branches of a family against each other; with no other enemies to fight, members of a single family will struggle among themselves, and vicious ambition will threaten to bring down the nation.

In Richard III, Richard succeeds in bringing about the death or downfall of both his brothers, and he manages to take the throne, but somehow he loses his charismatic power once he has achieved the crown. Challenged by Henry, Earl of Richmond, Richard loses the throne and his life, while Richmond ends the War of the Roses by uniting the red and white rose through marriage and originating the Tudor line. Elizabeth I, the reigning sovereign when this play was written, was an heir of Henry VII; Shakespeare's history plays show the faults of the Lancasters and Yorks, thus, indirectly championing the Tudor succession.