Richard III

Richard's Physicality

Richard III’s deformity and unnatural birth is constantly mentioned throughout Shakespeare’s play. Most characters cannot criticise Richard’s actions and flaws without aligning them to his physical form. Even Richard himself constantly draws attention to his own physicality.


Make a character table of all the ways that Richard is described (physically) throughout the play, by others, and most importantly by himself. Categorise them into each Act so you see how this changes over the course of the play. The table will be a helpful resource for recalling quotes when it comes to essay writing. It will also allow you to analyse the impact that this sort of labeling might have on a character’s emotions, actions and self-esteem. An example is offered at the bottom of this article.

Answer the following questions:

  • Now seeing all the labels and insults grouped together what sort of impact do you think this might have on the character? Do you think this is what motivates Richard’s villainous actions?
  • Do you think Richard isolates himself because of his deformity?
  • Many theorists see Richard’s deformity as more of a sign or symbol of a broken or corrupt state? Do you think this was Shakespeare’s intention? Was he just trying to appease Queen Elizabeth and promote the current Tudor monarch above their past enemies or does Shakespeare makes us connect and feel for Richard’s plight?


Act One

Act Two

Act Three

Act Four

Act Five

Richard III

‘cheated of feature’

‘Rudely stamped’

Duchess of York



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