[[quoteright:250:http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/Olivier_-_RichardIII.JPG]]
[[caption-width-right:250:Now is the winter of our discontent...]]

->''Why, I, in this weak piping time of peace,\\
Have no delight to pass away the time,\\
Unless to spy my shadow in the sun\\
And descant on mine own deformity.\\
And therefore, since I cannot prove a lover\\
To entertain these fair well-spoken days,\\
[[CardCarryingVillain I am determined to prove a villain]]\\
And ''hate'' the idle pleasures of these days.''

{{In Which|ATropeIsDescribed}} [[RichardOfGloucester Richard, Duke of Gloucester]], decides to become king by Being Extremely Evil. It works pretty well until it doesn't.

With the possible exception of ''Theatre/TheTamingOfTheShrew'', this is the earliest-written of Creator/WilliamShakespeare's plays to still be commonly performed today.

The play opens as Edward IV lies dying. Hoping to prevent the generation of dynastic warfare that ended with his (second) ascension to the throne from starting up again, Edward calls together all of England's powerful factions and makes them shake hands and promise to be nice to each other and his young son once he croaks.

They all do, and everyone lives happily ever after.

[[KillEmAll Yeah, okay, not so much.]]

With the aid of the Duke of Buckingham, and to the great delight of Lord Hastings and the rest of nobility, upon Edward IV's death his younger brother, Richard, after taking a brief detour to successfully woo the widow of a man he killed, quickly has several of the Queen's relatives arrested and executed and sends the young princes off to the Tower of London.

Lord Hastings, under the impression that Richard was just going to chop the heads off of the Queen's relatives and leave it at that, is dismayed to find that Richard plans to have Edward's children declared illegitimate and to take the throne himself and refuses to go along.

And so, with the aid of Buckingham, Richard has Hastings' head chopped off too.

From there, Richard decides that the kids will be trouble as long as they're alive, and he might as well have them whacked too as long as he's got the ax out, but by this point [[EvenEvilHasStandards even Buckingham begins to get squeamish]] and, not having noticed the pattern, leads a failed rebellion and gets his head chopped off. (For those keeping score at home, add the princes to the body count at this point as well.)

Once Richard murders his wife so that he might marry his niece, the remaining non-villainous members of the cast finally DO manage to notice the pattern and band together under some guy who hasn't even appeared in the play yet, and, with a night before assist from the ghosts of everyone Richard has had killed, successfully kill Richard in battle and install Henry Tudor, the Earl of Richmond, on the throne.

Sir Ian [=McKellen=] played Richard III in a [[Film/RichardIII 1995 film adaptation]] that was very well received by critics and audience alike.

Trivial note: For all of the eighteenth and much of the nineteenth century, any ''Richard III'' performed on stage was not Shakespeare's, but a reworking penned by Creator/ColleyCibber, which retained only about 800 of the original's 3600 lines, excised several characters (including Clarence and Queen Margaret), and added a large amount of new material.

This page is exclusively concerned with the play by Shakespeare. For the historical Richard III, please see RichardOfGloucester.

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!!Tropes in ''Richard III'' include:

* AgeLift: In various productions, he's been played by 47-year-old Creator/BasilRathbone, 48-year-old Creator/LaurenceOlivier, 51-year-old VincentPrice, 46-year-old PeterCook[[note]]it's ''Series/{{Blackadder}}'' but it still counts[[/note]], 56-year-old Creator/IanMcKellen, and also 56-year-old Creator/AlPacino. It should be noted that Richard was only ''33'' when he died at the battle of Bosworth Field, and only five years older than his usurper, HenryVII, who, unlike Richard, is usually played by a reasonably young actor. Then again, Shakespeare's Richard starts appearing in the ''HenryVI'' plays, as an adult, at a time when the historical Richard would have been a toddler, so playing him as older even in his own play makes a certain amount of sense.
** Same goes for Edward IV, who was actually only 40 when he died, but since he's supposed to be Richard's ''older'' brother, he is usually played by older actors.
* AndYourLittleDogToo: The final straw leading to open rebellion is when Richard tries to forcibly marry his niece.
* [[BeamMeUpScotty Beam Me Up, Scotty]]: "Off with his head! So much for Buckingham." For many years one of Richard's most iconic lines -- but not part of Shakespeare's play. It was added in 1700 by leading-man [[SmallNameBigEgo Colley Cibber]].
* BigBad: Richard
* BlackAndGreyMorality: Unsurprising, considering that this is part of a [[IncrediblyLamePun teratology]] on the War of the Roses. While Richard and Buckingham are unambigiously evil, the good guys (except for Richmond and the princes) aren't exactly saints, as seen by some of their actions in the previous installments.
* BuryYourDisabled: Type 2, but of course Richard III is hardly helpless.
* TheCaligula: Once Richard kills the princes, he really starts to become one of these.
* CardCarryingVillain: "I am determined to prove a villain."
** To be sure, the root meaning of "villain" is "villein, serf" -- and just as "noble" or "gentleman" became a term of praise, so it became an insult, starting with meaning unchivalrous and crude. In Shakespeare's time, it still carried some of the connotations. So it could be interpreted as, "If everyone thinks I'm just a common thug, by golly I'll show them how [[{{Badass}} scary a thug ]] I can be". Interpret that thought how you will. (CSLewis discusses the term at length in ''Studies In Words''.)
* CassandraTruth:
** Margaret foretells the fate of most of the characters and is ignored and mocked for it.
** Stanley tries to tell Hastings about his dream in which the latter had been decapitated by Richard. Naturally, he is ignored.
* ComfortingTheWidow: Richard to Anne, with the {{squick}}tastic twist that he killed her husband and father-in-law, and she knows it. And her father-in-law's body is ''lying right there still bleeding.''
* ConspicuousGloves: In some performances of the play, it's not uncommon for Richard to wear a glove over his [[RedRightHand withered hand]]. [[http://skemman.is/stream/get/1946/11532/28652/1/KolbrúnGunnarsBAFINAL.pdf In the English Shakespeare Company's 1990 production of the play, part of a series called “The War of The Roses,” starring Andrew Jarvis as Richard and directed by Michael Bogdanov, Jarvis wore a black glove on one hand]].
* DeathGlare: In the Olivier version, Richard gives the ''mother'' of all death glares to his nephew, little Richard, when the boy foolishly asks if Richard can bear him on his shoulder. The kid's so terrified that he backs away and falls over.
* DespairEventHorizon: Richard in his tent after he has a vision of all his murder victims damning him.
--> '''Richard:''' I shall despair. There is no creature loves me;\\
And if I die no soul shall pity me.\\
Nay, wherefore should they? Since that I myself\\
Find in myself no pity to myself.
* DisabledSnarker: Possibly the UrExample.
* EvenEvilHasStandards: The murder of children, as seen in the examples below:
** Buckingham is a-okay carrying out Richard's orders until he hints that he'd like the Little Princes offed.
** What Margaret did to Richard's father (Richard of York)[[note]]which was to give him a rag soaked in the blood of his own son, Rutland.[[/note]] is treated as a MoralEventHorizon by everyone. Yes, even Richard.[[invoked]]
---> '''Grey:''' Tyrants wept when they heard of it.
* EvilCripple: Richard was born prematurely, with a gnarled spine and hunchback which makes him unappealing. Poor guy can't even walk down the street without dogs growling at him. (Did Shakespeare foresee the EvilDetectingDog trope?)
* EvilUncle: Richard to the Little Princes.
* FamousLastWords: The lines "A horse! A horse! My kingdom for a horse!", one of the most quoted ones from the play, are Richard's last words on-stage before he is killed.
* FauxAffablyEvil: Richard. To the point where in a recent production, the audience was enjoined to chant his name to get him to take up the throne at the public urgings of Buckingham. The fact that he likes breaking the fourth wall to point out exactly what a MagnificentBastard he is only adds to the allure.
* FlatCharacter: Richmond's characterization can basically be summed up as "being the opposite of Richard".
* FreudianExcuse: Freud argued that Richard does what he does because he was hated and belittled his whole life by his family for being ugly, giving that trope its name.
* TheGhost: Princess Elizabeth of York, much talked-about and crucial to the plot as a bargaining chip but never seen (in the 1995 film, she's in a lot of the royal family scenes and gets a line reassigned from another character (in a ''completely'' different context).
** [[IThoughtItMeant Not to be confused with Henry VI.]]
** Mistress Shore. (Who does appear, briefly and [[TheVoiceless silently]], in the Olivier film.)
* GiveMeASword: "A horse! A horse! My kingdom for a horse!"
* HandicappedBadass: Richard
* HeelFaceTurn: Meta-example with the entire Yorkist faction other than Richard. In the preceding ''HenryVI'' play cycle they were the villains, but (in a process beginning in the final scene of ''Henry VI, Part 3'') in this one they're all quite nice. Particularly pronounced with George, Duke of Clarence, who in the earlier plays was a fairly historically-accurate opportunistic bastard but here becomes utterly harmless and a bit of a fool.
** In the case of Clarence there's also an in-universe case of this trope (as well as FaceHeelTurn) because he was originally fighting for the House of Lancaster until the very end, when he switched sides to York.
* HistoricalVillainUpgrade: Doing this to Richard is largely the whole point of the play.
** So much so that he gets played ''as Hitler''. The dude is not popular.
* TheHouseOfPlantagenet: This play purports to be a chronicle of the overthrow of the Plantagenets; Richard III's death marked the end of their 331-year reign.
* IllegalGuardian
* IrrevocableMessage: Edward's execution order for Clarence, sort of...
* KarmicDeath: Richard, who after spending the entire play scheming to gain the crown ends the play (and his life) with the line "A horse, a horse, my kingdom for a horse!"
* KavorkaMan: Despite Richard being deformed and a CardCarryingVillain, he still manages to woo Anne... over the corpse of her first husband's father, King Henry VI, whom Richard had killed prior to the events in the play.
** Then again due to the values of the time, as a woman both orphan and widowed, Anne is helpless and requires a husband to survive
* KingOnHisDeathbed: Edward IV's illness creates this situation at the beginning of the play, since Edward's son is too young to be an effective ruler, and Richard not-yet-III devotes a great deal of his energy to knocking off everyone who'd be a more respectable regent than himself.
* TheLateMiddleAges: Set in this period, and helping to establish its bad reputation.
* ManipulativeBastard: Richard again.
* MistreatmentInducedBetrayal: Buckingham helps Richard to the throne; in return, Richard promises him an extra title of nobility. When Richard refuses to grant it to him, he soliloquizes, "Made I him king for this?" and runs off to join the nascent rebellion.
* OffstageVillainy: Most of Richard's acts. Justified by the fact that in Shakespeare's time the stage had no curtains (or only on the innermost portion), and it required considerable "business" to get "dead" characters removed. (The Elizabethans weren't all that squeamish - they loved them some bear-baitings and public hangings.)
* OpenShirtTaunt: In the original text, the stage directions explicitly say Richard "layes his brest open" [sic] - that is, he opens his shirt/jerkin for Anne to run him through with his sword, which he has given her for the express purpose after she says she wants to see him dead. (In the 1995 film adaptation of the scene, the title character does this after giving her a dagger.) She doesn't go through with it.
* PetRat: Tyrell as well as the murderers of Clarence.
* PropheciesAreAlwaysRight: Margaret shows up at the beginning to predict everyone's eventual horrible fate, and then reappears at the end to rub their noses in how right she was.
* {{Pun}}: The opening lines are a pun on "Sun of York" (the commonly used symbol of the Yorkists, more so than the White Rose) and Richard describing his brother King Edward as a "son of York".
* RasputinianDeath: Clarence, stabbed multiple times and then drowned in a barrel of wine.
* TheReasonYouSuckSpeech: In Act IV, Queen Elizabeth (the ancestor of the most well known one) gives one to Richard when he tries to get her help in wooing her daughter. She not only calls him out on everything he's done, but whenever he tries to swear by something, she cuts him off deconstructing why he has no ''right'' to swear by it (including ''himself'').
* RedRightHand: The Richard character being a hunchback (which, incidentally, his historical counterpart was not).
** Or so everyone thought until the [[http://www.le.ac.uk/richardiii/science/spine.html discovery of Richard's remains in 2012]]
*** Except even then he wasn't a hunchback--his scoliosis probably only made his shoulders a bit uneven rather than a proper hunchback--making this yet another case of exaggerating for dramatic effect.
* RegentForLife: Richard
* RememberTheNewGuy: Practically two thirds into the story, Richmond suddenly shows up and he and his wife are treated as if they have been in the story the whole time, and need no introduction or explanation. (Because, to an Elizabethan audience, they wouldn't have; he's Queen Elizabeth's grandfather.)
* RightfulKingReturns: Richmond
* ScrewThisImOuttaHere: After seeing all of her curses come true, Margaret essentially does this by migrating from England.
* SmugSnake: Hastings does little to hide his hate of the house of Lancaster, only pretends to be friendly with them in front of Edward IV, celebrates the fact that Rivers, Dorset and Vaughan are going to be executed by Richard and refuses to listen to Stanley about his visions of Richard decapitating him, saying that Richard and Duke Buckingham would never turn against him. Unfortunately for him, he makes the mistake of refusing to support Richard's claim to the throne and only realizes it when it's far too late.
* SupportingLeader: Averted, by making Richmond the battlefield commander at Bosworth Field. In RealLife he wisely confined himself to politicking and left the fighting to his crack general, the Earl of Oxford.
* ThoseTwoBadGuys: The two killers sent to off Clarence are a proto-example of this.
* TooGoodForThisSinfulEarth: The Little Princes
* UnaccustomedAsIAmToPublicSpeaking: Richard's claim that people hate him because he's plain-spoken and incapable of flattery.
* VillainousBreakdown: Richard has one in the final act when confronted by the ghosts of his victims.
* VillainousValor: Richard at the end of the play.
* VillainProtagonist: Richard
* VillainWithGoodPublicity: Richard again.
* WrittenByTheWinners: Not the play, but it's pretty obvious what Shakespeare was drawing on.
* TheWrongfulHeirToTheThrone: Richard tries to convince everyone of this, claiming that his nephew is unfit to rule, and that he's only taking the throne for the good of the kingdom.
* YoungerThanTheyLook: Richard has been portrayed as a creepy old man when he was only 32 when he died.
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