William Shakespeare’s Richard III is a veritable charnel house in which all members of the royal family and nobility that do not espouse Richard’s ambition to be king are put to death. Even when these “enemies” are children — the “Princes in the Tower” — Richard does not swerve from his bloody course. He is, as Queen Margaret calls him, “hell’s black intelligencer.”
There exists to this day considerable doubt as to whether Richard was as black as the Bard painted him. In her novel The Daughter of Time, Josephine Tey traces the anti-Richard sentiment to none other than Sir Thomas More, who wrote a work of political assassination on behalf of Henry VII.
Richard III is one of the best of the histories, yet it is too much along a straight line, until Richard is killed by Richmond at Bosworth Field.
The language of the play is what makes it truly great, as when Queen Margaret, widow of Henry VI, curses him in front of his own mother, the Duchess of York:
From forth the kennel of thy womb hath crept
A hellhound that doth hunt us all to death:
That dog, that had his teeth before his eyes,
To worry lambs and lap their gentle blood,
That foul defacer of God’s handiwork,
That excellent grand tyrant of the earth
That reigns in gallèd eyes of weeping souls,
Thy womb let loose to chase us to our graves.