William Shakespeare, the actor, knew all about the art of deception known as acting. He also knew about the dark arts. Indeed, the Greek word for "actor" is translated "hypocrite", in the New Testament.
Acting is about deceiving, by creating a convincing mask. "Mask" is derived from the same root as "masquerading". The New Testatment states that "The devil masquerades as an angel of light" which means that the devil impersonates uprightness to deceive the gullible.
To act on stage requires imagination and great art. This is impersonation. But to act for one's selfish ambition in life is sin. Shakespeare was highly sensitized to sin, like the Psalmists.
His Richard of Gloucester is all "self". Embittered Richard thinks he is too misshapen to control and dominate his "fantasy woman". As compensation, he will act, or masquerade his way to the Crown, to which he has no legal right. He will usurp power. The secret manifesto of Richard is fascinating. (The emboldened words are added by me).
"Why I can smile, and murder while I smile...
And wet my cheeks with artificial tears,
And frame my face for all occasions.
I'll drown more sailors than the mermaid shall,
I'll slay more gazers than the basilisk,
I'll play the orator as well as Nestor,
Deceive more slily than Ulysses could,
And like a Sinon, take another Troy.
I can add colours to the chameleon
Change shapes with Proteus for advantages,
And set the murderous Machiavel to school
Can I do this, and cannot get a crown?"
Richard III Act 3, Scene 2
Richard's key skills are : mastery of all his facial expressions, on all occasions, acting ability to produce false emotion and compassion, serious charm and allure, a secret agenda, cunning, conquest, changeability, opportunism and total lack of moral principle. Underneath all this, lurks "murder" (malevolence) and cold and cruel ambition.
Machiavelli was a contemporary of Richard III (but lived longer). His work "The Prince" were not published into English until 1525.
"Richard III" is not really about King Richard III who was not a caricature. The play is a study of Machiavelli's amoral advice resulting in Richard forfeiting his reputation, his life, his kingdom and his soul.
Worryingly, the amorality of Machiavelli is part of modern political theory.