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King Richard III
William Shakespeare




_____ 1. In his opening soliloquy, Richard complains that the king is too involved with love-making to pursue the more important activity of

    A. tax collecting
    B. waging war
    C. foreign trade
_____ 2. Which animal is not included among the many identified with Richard?
    A. boar
    B. horse
    C. toad
_____ 3. Richard and Buckingham dress in battered armor in order to
    A. infiltrate the enemy
    B. pass as common soldiers
    C. deceive the Lord Mayor
_____ 4. How do we know that Richard is not a good sleeper?
    A. his complaints at the Council Meeting
    B. Lady Anne's revelation before her coronation
    C. the Duchess of York's description of his childhood
_____ 5. Which of Richard's cohorts is known to us by two names?
    A. Buckingham
    B. Hastings
    C. Stanley
_____ 6. What prop is used by Richard to convince the Lord Mayor that he was the innocent victim of treachery?
    A. a prayer book
    B. Hastings' head
    C. his own sword
_____ 7. Richard often scoffs at superstition, but he exploits it to serve his immediate purpose when he
    A. rallies his troops
    B. tells the council he has been bewitched
    C. enlists Buckingham on his side
_____ 8. Who fears that God's "justice will take hold / On me and you, and mine and yours, for this?"
    A. The Duchess of York
    B. Queen Margaret
    C. King Edward IV
_____ 9. In which of these quotations do you find a good example of irony?
    A. "When clouds are seen, wise men put on their cloaks."
    B. "I'll have this crown of mine cut from my shoulders / Before I'll see the crown so foul misplaced."
    C. "Bad is the world, and all will come to nought / When such ill dealing must be seen in thought."
_____ 10. Which of the following statements is true?
    A. Richard brags about killing his wife, Anne.
    B. Richmond's sweet dream is Richard's nightmare.
    C. All Queen Elizabeth's children are murdered in the play.

11. What is Shakespeare's view of women in this play?

12. Discuss the importance of religion in Richard III.

13. What role does violence play in the unraveling of the drama?

14. How well does Richmond fulfill the role of "hero"?


_____ 1. Before he dies, King Edward IV makes peace between

    A. Rivers and Grey
    B. Hastings and Rivers
    C. Buckingham and Stanley
_____ 2. Buckingham is told to play down the suggestion of Edward IV's possible illegitimate birth out of consideration for
    A. the Duchess of York
    B. Queen Margaret
    C. Queen Elizabeth
_____ 3. To win her daughter's hand, Queen Elizabeth suggests that Richard send
    A. a lock of his hair
    B. a pair of bleeding hearts
    C. two white doves
_____ 4. When discussing the murder of the princes in the Tower, Tyrrel cannot supply one detail. Is it the
    A. place of burial?
    B. names of their executioners?
    C. method of execution?
_____ 5. According to Richard's recollection, who prophesied "that Richmond should be king?"
    A. Henry V
    B. Henry VI
    C. Henry VII
_____ 6. After the death of King Edward IV, Jane Shore became the mistress of the
    A. Lord Protector
    B. Lord Chamberlain
    C. Mayor of London
_____ 7. Which of the following statements is true?
    A. Buckingham bribed the Lord Mayor to offer Richard the crown.
    B. Catesby deserted Richard during the final battle.
    C. Richard claimed to prefer making war to making love.
_____ 8. Who complained "But for my brother not a man would speak?"
    A. King Edward IV
    B. the young Duke of York
    C. the Marquess of Dorset
_____ 9. The night before the final battle, Richard calls for
    A. a bowl of strawberries
    B. good wishes
    C. wine
_____ 10. Which of these statements shows that Clarence has been deceived by Richard?
    A. "He sends you not to murder me for this."
    B. "O, do not slander him for he is kind."
    C. "I shall be reconciled to him again."

11. What is the role of ambition in Buckingham's downfall?

12. Is Richard's physical deformity really the handicap he claims it to be?

13. How do Margaret and Richard differ in their use of direct speeches to the audience?

14. Was Stanley, the Earl of Derby, a traitor? Justify your answer.


  1. B
  2. B
  3. C
  4. B
  5. C
  6. B
  7. B
  8. C
  9. B
  10. B

11. You must separate the two attitudes- Richard's and Shakespeare's. Richard repeatedly shows the same contempt for women that he does for anyone who gets in his way. To serve his purposes, he exploits what he sees as their "feminine weaknesses." Afterwards he sneers at them.

It might seem that Shakespeare has the same view until you consider Richard's character. Could the playwright possibly agree with someone he depicts as such an outrageous villain? Even though Shakespeare appears to accept the common attitude toward the natural order- that women's proper role was as wives and mothers- he gives the women in this play an added dimension. They are strong, courageous and intelligent. One of the playwright's great talents lies in his providing the language for them to speak clearly. Look at how he uses Queen Margaret as a foil for Richard. Look at the Duchess of York's ordeals and her perseverance. And note Queen Elizabeth's ability to withstand the pressure of his proxy courtship of her daughter.

Shakespeare was not a revolutionary. Note the absence of women as "common folks" in this play. But he shows a broader outlook than might be expected for his time. Examination of this play may show you signs of creeping "liberalism," if not liberation.

12. Consider several approaches to religion, starting with Richard's rejection of religion's power over him. He claims he is above God's law. In the course of his pursuits, he mocks religion while exploiting it at the same time. Just when he is about to commit his most serious political crime, he wraps himself in a cloak of holiness, between two priests. And how he must laugh at the Bishop who surrenders so easily to Buckingham's absurd argument to remove the young prince from the sanctuary. Richard scorns religion constantly, but turns to it the moment he dreams of impending doom. This mighty villain suddenly quakes before the thought of God's vengeance. And ultimately he pays for his abuse of God's laws. While he may temporarily function as an instrument of divine retribution, dealing out justice to previous usurpers of the throne of "God's anointed," it is his enemy, Richmond, who triumphantly represents the moral, religious force of opposition.

13. Were the Elizabethans more bloodthirsty or tolerant of violence on stage than we are? In addition to the visible bloodletting, there is endless discussion of past gory deeds. Offstage violence is even brought into view in the form of a severed head. It's almost as though such over-exposure is designed to make it ordinary. At the same time, consider the basic topic of the play, the usurpation of the crown of England and its consequences. These are dramatic events. They can support the highly charged atmosphere of bloody actions on stage as well as off. By witnessing Clarence's murder, which has been carefully set up, we develop a greater revulsion for its instigator. And even though we are spared the sight of the slaying of the young princes in the Tower, Richard's involvement before and after is carefully exploited. Every drop of blood referred to on stage or in the speeches helps build the effect Shakespeare wishes to achieve. The peace which comes after Richard's death is both a relief and a reward.

14. The Elizabethan audience knew from the start that Richmond was to become Henry VII, the first Tudor king of England and the grandfather of their own queen, Elizabeth I. As such, he had only to appear victorious at the play's conclusion. By the time he shows up, matters have progressed to a point where Richard's downfall is inevitable. But what good would victory be if the opposition had merely caved in? Shakespeare had to build Richmond's importance not only to satisfy history but to fulfill the dramatic development of the plot. By sprinkling his name into the preceding scenes, Shakespeare makes Richmond's arrival a matter of importance. Once Richmond appears on stage, he never makes a false step or says the wrong thing. If his dialogue sounds slightly flat, it may be a deliberate contrast to that of the fiery, passionate Richard. Here is a man of reason who makes his mark with heroic action rather than words. In the duel scene, Richmond has an opportunity to achieve the stature denied him in speech.


  1. B
  2. A
  3. B
  4. A
  5. B
  6. B
  7. C
  8. A
  9. C
  10. B

11. From the start, Buckingham is only too willing to provide his support for Richard's schemes. He immediately allies himself with Richard by scorning his exemption from Margaret's curse. From then on, he willingly shares the risk for his share of the spoils. Remember, patronage is an important issue. During Edward IV's reign, Queen Elizabeth saw to it that her relatives and supporters were taken care of. Buckingham saw Richard as his key to prosperity. His insistence on his reward in the face of his hesitation to participate in the killing of the princes leads to his loss of Richard's trust- and to his final destiny.

12. The actor playing the role of Richard must have great strength to endure the demands of being on stage in so many different situations and for such a long time. But what of the character Richard? Could he have been the successful warrior he is credited with being in the past if he were seriously crippled? Could he have performed the physical demands required by the battle in the final scenes? If he is "unhorsed," surely he is capable of riding. And what about his rapid, sudden turns throughout the play? Review the physical action that must accompany so much of his dialogue and see if you think his deformity was as much a handicap as a convenient excuse. The judgment of Hastings is one place where he certainly exploits it, but see if you can find others.

13. From the beginning, Richard develops an intimate association with the audience as he shares his innermost thoughts. Couched as a sort of "confessional," he confides that he is going to behave wickedly. As such, he virtually invites the audience to come along with him as he proceeds with his business. Periodically, he reviews and recaptures that spirit. Margaret, on the other hand, treats the audience as more of a witness than a partner. She speaks less in soliloquies than in choral recitations. Because so much of Margaret's presence is a symbolic as well as an actual reminder of past events, she is less involved in the action. Her power rests mainly in her ability to witness the past and predict the future. Those on stage may choose to ignore her, but those out front cannot.

14. Stanley walks a narrow line throughout the play. Although an easy answer might be that he never actually did anything to oppose Richard, wasn't his act of withholding support just as harmful? This is how Richard saw things when he ordered George Stanley to be beheaded. But can you accept Richard's judgment? Stanley, more than any other, represents the middle road, or at least a firm commitment to neutrality. Some may find his professed loyalty to Richard and secret meeting with Richmond enough to condemn him as a traitor. Others may find him the victim of a conscience that allows him to make no open choice. Remember the Stanley who dreamed of impending disaster? Contrast him with the hasty, naive Hastings.

[King Richard III Contents]


  1. Richard III has been called Shakespeare's first fully developed character in that we see many sides of his personality. Do any other characters in this play show more than one side? If so, who? And how?
  2. What part do children play in Richard III? Are they believable?
  3. How important are clergymen, the archbishops, bishops, and priests in Richard III? Are they different from other members of the court? Discuss.
  4. Discuss the role of Buckingham. Is he better or worse, wiser or more foolish than Richard's other victims?
  5. Revenge and the quest for justice dominate the action in Richard III. Discuss individual examples and their relevance to this major theme.
  6. Discuss the attitude toward adultery in Richard III.
  7. How successful is the use of stychomythia, the short staccato dialogue used frequently by Richard and others? What effect does it create in the courtship scenes?
  8. Animal imagery is used repeatedly. What dramatic function does it fulfill?
  9. Discuss the importance of the scenes involving common people such as murderers, the scrivener, and the pursuivant?
  10. Richard is a brother, a husband, an uncle, and a son to various characters in the play. Analyze his behavior in each case.
  11. We often hear the lamentations of mothers in Richard III, but there are fathers in the play too. Discuss their relationships to their children.
  12. One objective of Richard III is to conclude the events set in motion by the first usurpation, the overthrow of Richard II. Do you feel this play explains and wraps it all up successfully?
  13. Compare your own knowledge of the historic Richard with Shakespeare's Richard. What obvious changes in history did Shakespeare make? Why did he do so?
  14. Corrupt governments can be found in all historical periods. Compare the corrupt administration of either Richard III or Edward IV with a 20th-century example.
  15. Although political executions take place throughout Richard III, there is some concern for due process. Cite various examples and discuss their significance to the play as a whole.

THE STORY, continued

ECC [King Richard III Contents] []

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