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Key Facts

Main ideas Key Facts

full title  · The Tragedy of King Richard the Third

author  · William Shakespeare

type of work  · Play

genre  · History play

language  · English

time and place written  · Around 1592, London

date of first publication  · 1597

tone  · Shakespeare’s attitude toward Richard is one of condemnation and disgust, combined with a penetrating fascination with the mind of the power-hungry psychopath.

settings (time)  · Around 1485, though the actual historical events of the play took place over a much longer period, around 1471–1485

settings (place)  · Various palaces and locales in England

protagonist  · Richard III

major conflict  · Richard, the power-hungry younger brother of the king of England, longs to seize control of the throne, but he is far back in the line of succession. He plots and manipulates his way past the obstacles in his path to power, betraying and murdering with reckless abandon as he proceeds.

rising action  · Richard persuades Lady Anne, Prince Edward’s widow, to marry him; he has his brother Clarence murdered; he has the two young princes in line for the throne murdered .

climax  · In Act III, scene vii, Buckingham and others entreat Richard to accept the crown, which he pretends to refuse and then accepts.

falling action  · Richard turns against Buckingham and murders the young princes and his wife Anne; Richmond defeats Richard at the Battle of Bosworth Field.

themes  · The allure of evil; the relationship between ruler and state; the power of language; the rise of the Tudor dynasty in England

motifs  · The supernatural, dreams

symbols  · The boar

foreshadowing  · The play is full of foreshadowing, including Margaret’s curses (which foreshadow almost all the future action of the play), Richard’s monologues, the prophetic dreams of Clarence and Stanley, and the pronouncements of the ghosts in Act V.