In Richard the Third, Hastings rashly says, “I’ll have this crown of mine cut from my shoulders // Before I’ll see the crown so foul misplaced” (III.ii.43-44) on Richard’s head. Two Scenes later, he gets his wish in a glowing example of the BCWYWFYJMGI Principle (Be Careful What You Wish For… You Just Might Get It).
If Hastings is the micro-view of the Principle, then our title character is the macro-view.
His goal is simple: “to prove a villain” (I.i.30).
NOTE: nowhere in the opening soliloquy does he announce he quest for the crown. Though he does intimate this objective in The Third Part of Henry the Sixth, he does not has such explicitly lofty goals at the beginning of this play.
The first villainy is to engender a hate between his two brothers, resulting in Clarence’s imprisonment (“mewed up” [I.i.38]). As he learns in his meeting with Clarence, mission (very easily) accomplished. In his next soliloquy, he ratchets up the villainy past imprisonment to murder: “shalt ne’er return… send (his) soul to heaven” (I.i.117, 119).
but still no throne…
Only in the post-Hastings/pre-Anne soliloquy do we get hints of a greater (and possibly royal) goal. But they are only hints:
God take King Edward to his mercy,
And leave the world for me to bustle in!
For then I'll marry Warwick's youngest daughter.
What though I kill'd her husband and her father?
The readiest way to make the wench amends
Is to become her husband and her father:
The which will I; not all so much for love
As for another secret close intent,
By marrying her which I must reach unto.
But yet I run before my horse to market:
Clarence still breathes; Edward still lives and reigns:
When they are gone, then must I count my gains.
He now seeks Edward’s death to have the “world…to bustle in.” And the bustling includes “another secret intent” which becoming Anne’s husband will be aid him in achieving… he is to become not only her husband also her stately and symbolic “father.” Nothing explicit through this speech still, though the ending comes close–rhyming Edward’s reign with Richard’s gain, tying the two together.
We are Richard’s confidante at this point in the play, but he hasn’t told us about becoming king yet… would not that be so wonderfully delicious a concept that the would be dying to share it? So is it possible that he’s only now coming around to the idea? … especially since, in his post-Anne soliloquy, he references only his “dukedom” (I.ii.251).
After Margaret’s curses, Richard soliloquizes on his “wrong… the secret mischiefs that (he) set abroach” (I.iii.324-325), pitting Derby, Hastings, and Buckingham against Rivers, Dorset and Grey. He then sends murderers to dispatch his brother Clarence, but still makes no explicit admission of royal ambitions.
By the end of Act Two, Scene Two, we hear that Richard and Buckingham have “late talked of” (II.ii.149) of some — as yet unnamed — enterprise for which the separation of “the queen’s proud kindred from the prince” (II.ii.150) is but the prologue (“index” [II.ii.149]). This seems to be yet another insinuation of the goal of the crown.
Hints do not disappear, however, until Act Three, Scene One, when Buckingham queries Catesby on Hastings’ position on Richard’s “installment … in the seat royal of this famous isle” (III.i.163-164). Within thirty lines, Richard too can see a time “when (he is) king” (III.i.194). This is the first mention of the crown as his motive.
There is no other goal in the play (what else could there be?). From here on, all is either gaining the crown (removing Hastings’ objections) or keeping it (killing the princes).
Richard gets what he wants by Act Four. But what then? All that’s left are isolation, defense (of the indefensible), and growing confusion.
this evolution (then devolution) of goals (imprisonment, marriage, death, intra-familial hate, the throne) shows an interesting parallel to the drop-off trend in Richard’s communication with us… but it also parallels another trend, that idea of growing (and gnawing) confusion… one I hope to get around to discussing before the end of the month…