The seat of power Richard so ruthlessly seeks is the English throne, whose rightful holder, the play suggests, will be worthy because of both blood and character. The blood claim to the throne derives from England's tradition of royal lineage. At the time the play opens, this tradition is embroiled in dispute: Richard's brother King Edward has just taken the throne after the Wars of the Roses, a drawn-out series of civil wars between two families - the Yorks (Richard's family) and the Lancasters – who both claimed the right to rule England through their bloodline. Even aside from the Lancastrian claim to the throne (frequently articulated by Queen Margaret), Richard does not have a legitimate right to be king at play's start. His brother King Edward has two sons and Richard has another older brother, Clarence, all three of whom stand ahead of Richard in succession. Richard kills them all to claim the throne. Later, he wheedles Queen Elizabeth into giving him her daughter's hand in marriage as an attempt to solidify that claim. By marrying King Edward's daughter, Richard would deactivate any threat she might pose to his seat. Richard's brief rule is cut off by Richmond, a Lancaster, who kills Richard, ends the Wars of the Roses, and becomes King Henry VII, ushering in the Tudor dynasty of which Queen Elizabeth I (ruler during Shakespeare's time) was a representative.
Yet apart from addressing the complex intricacies of the royal bloodlines, the play also suggests that the rightful ruler of England will be a person of good character and strong ethics. The play frequently compares the state of England to a human body or a natural landscape whose health and fertility depends on the moral rectitude of England's ruler. Richmond combines the figures of body and landscape in describing Richard as, "The wretched, bloody, and usurping boar, that spoil'd your summer fields and fruitful vines, swills your warm blood like wash, and makes his trough in your embowell'd bosoms." Later, he says that England has "scarr'd herself" under Richard's brutal leadership and looks forward to "smooth'd-fac'd peace." Queen Margaret calls Richard "the troubler of the poor world's peace," and compares him to an "elvish-mark'd, abortive, rooting hog" – an unnatural and deformed animal. Queen Elizabeth's retort to Richard implies that Richard is the opposite of nature: "As long as heaven and nature," Richard says, and Elizabeth responds, "as long as hell and Richard." A London citizen likens the precautions people should take against a dangerous ruler to the measures people prepare against bad weather: "When clouds are seen, wise men put on their cloaks." In keeping with the metaphor of the state as a human body or a landscape, the common people are able to feel the onset of illness and blight even as Richard's circle of supporters publicly proclaims England's health. Early on, one of the London citizens note, "By a divine instinct, men's minds mistrust ensuing danger, as by proof, we see the water swell before a boisterous storm." Later the scrivener asks, "Who is so gross that cannot see this palpable device? Yet who so bold but says he sees it not? Bad is the world, and all will come to naught…" And, when Buckingham gladly declares Richard's impending coronation to the public, his announcement is met with the unyielding, stony silence of deep fear. Try as he might, Buckingham can't elicit cheers from a public that knows Richard's reign is not good news.
The Throne and the State ThemeTracker
The Throne and the State Quotes in Richard III
Now is the winter of our discontent
Made glorious summer by this son of York
Ay me, I see the ruin of my house!
The tiger now hath seiz'd the gentle hind;
Insulting tyranny begins to jet
Upon the innocent and aweless throne.
Welcome, destruction, blood, and massacre!
I see, as in a map, the end of all.
Your are too senseless-obstinate, my lord,
Too ceremonious and traditional.
Weigh it but with the grossness of this age,
You break not sanctuary in seizing him.
The benefit thereof is always granted
To those whose dealings have deserv'd the place
And those who have the wit to claim the place.
The Prince hath neither claim'd it nor deserv'd it,
And therefore, in mine opinion, cannot have it.
Then, taking him from thence that is not there,
You break no privilege nor charter there.
Indeed, I am no mourner for that news,
Because they have been still my adversaries;
But that I'll give my voice on Richard's side
To bar my master's heirs in true descent,
God knows I will not do it to the death.
What! think you we are Turks or Infidels?
Or that we would, against the form of law,
Proceed thus rashly in the villain's death
But that the extreme peril of the case,
The peace of England and our person's safety,
Enforc'd us to this execution?
Who is so gross
That cannot see this palpable device?
Yet who's so bold but says he sees it not?
Bad is the world; and all will come to nought,
When such ill dealing must be seen in thought.
No, so God help me, they spake not a word;
But, like dumb statues or breathing stones,
Star'd each on other, and look'd deadly pale.
Which when I saw, I reprehended them,
And ask'd the mayor what meant this willful silence.
I must be married to my brother's daughter,
Or else my kingdom stands on brittle glass.
Murder her brothers, and then marry her!
Uncertain way of gain! But I am in
So far in blood that sin will pluck on sin:
Tear-falling pity dwells not in this eye.
The wretched, bloody, and usurping boar,
That spoil'd your summer fields and fruitful vines,
Swills your warm blood like wash, and makes his trough
In your embowelled bosoms—this foul swine
Is now even in the centre of this isle
The sun will not be seen to-day;
The sky doth frown and lour upon our army.
I would these dewy tears were from the ground.
Not shine to-day! Why, what is that to me
More than to Richmond? For the selfsame heaven
That frowns on me looks sadly upon him.
And then, as we have ta'en the sacrament,
We will unite the white rose and the red:
Smile heaven upon this fair conjunction,
That long have frown'd upon their enmity!
What traitor hears me, and says not amen?
England hath long been mad, and scarr'd herself