No one is safe from his murderous ambition. One of the ways that Richard is able to obtain power is by the manipulation of the people around him. He goes so far as to pledge love and offer marriage to a woman solely because of the benefit she may do him, planning to discard her once she is no longer useful in his endeavors. Richard III uses the women in his acquaintance as pawns in his intellectual and ambitious plans to acquire and keep the throne of England. First Richard wins the affections of a woman whose husband he had killed, then after she is disposed of, he endeavors to marry his niece, the daughter of the queen whose family he has decimated with his greed.
After killing her husband, Richard III attempts to win over the widowed Lady Anne and coerce her into marrying him. He uses his charm and his ability to flatter in order to make the woman forget how much ill this man has already done her and she agrees to marry him. Even as Lady Anne stands in her husband's tomb, Richard begins to woo her and quickly succeeds. At first she absolutely detests this man because she associates him, quite rightly, with her husband's death. She calls him all manner of deplorable names and yet all he does is compliment her and deny his involvement in her husband's death. Lady Anne spits at says that she wishes it were poison. His response is that "Never came poison from so sweet a place" (I.ii.147). Then he hands his/her own sword and begs her kill him rather than spurn his affections. His words play on her anger at her husband's death, her desire to find someone to blame, her vulnerability, and her desire to be loved and worshipped. She allows herself to be wooed by her enemy because he says all the right things and because he is a very good liar.
Almost the opposite character of Lady Anne is the Queen Elizabeth. When Richard III asks her if he may marry her young daughter, she absolutely refuses. Elizabeth is not the same character as Lady Anne and she will not be coerced into abandoning what she knows to be true. Richard is directly responsible for the deaths of her children and her kinsmen. No amount of flattery or bluffs about allowing her to kill him will convince her that he is anything else but a conniving killer. When he sees that Elizabeth cannot be won with flattery, he changes tactics and appeals to Elizabeth's feeling of purpose. He tells her that the marriage will prohibit the potential for civil war between the two factions. Also, he states that he endeavors to make amends for all the wrong that has been done to her through his actions. He says, "I intend to prosper and repent" (IV.iv.397). This finally convinces her. She is ambitious enough that she wants to retain her position in the kingdom which she can do if she remains the mother of one of the people in power.
Whereas Lady Anne is won over by flattery and false affection, Queen Elizabeth is won over by Richard's appeals to her vanity and to her position in the community. His relationships with women are indicative of his character. He is able to manipulate both women. When the techniques that worked with one woman do not work with the second, he is able to change tactics. Richard is a master manipulator who is able to appeal to whatever disparages are present in the other person.
Shakespeare, William. Macbeth. The Norton Shakespeare. New York: W.W. Norton, 2008.
Shakespeare, William. Richard III. The Norton Shakespeare. New York: W.W. Norton, 2008.