richard iii

Title: richard iii
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BARRON'S BOOK NOTES WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE'S RICHARD III ^^^^^^^^^^WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE: THE AUTHOR AND HIS TIMES William Shakespeare lived in an exciting time. The economic prosperity sweeping England contributed to the growing power of the middle class. And this extended to the market town of Stratford, on the Avon River--some one hundred miles from London--where Shakespeare was born, probably on April 23, 1564, during the sixth year of Queen Elizabeth's reign (1558-1603). England was enjoying what we might call a "boom." Under the queen's brilliant administration, international trade was flourishing, geographical exploration had expanded, artistic creativity was encouraged, and the pursuit of learning was vigorous. Shakespeare's grandfather had been a tenant farmer, but his father, John, became a prosperous merchant and even held the high office of bailiff, the equivalent of today's mayor. Thanks to his family's prosperity, the future playwright most likely had a good head-start in life. Young Will probably was sent to local schools where he would have learned the Latin and Greek classics that were the basis of education in those days. Some scholars think that it was during this time that Shakespeare acquired his lifelong interest in the classics and developed an ear for poetic rhythm. After he left school, little is known of Shakespeare's Stratford days, other than at age eighteen he married Anne Hathaway and became the father of three children. Some scholars believe he worked as an apprentice to his father, while others suggest he was a schoolteacher. There is even an old legend that he was driven out of Stratford after hunting game illegally on a nearby estate. While there is no proof for all this, we do know that John Shakespeare's business losses caused him to give up his local government offices. Not long afterward, William left for London to seek his fortune in that hub of opportunity. London was bustling with activity and adventure. Creative fervor was in the air as business people and artists mingled in the streets. Caught up in this excitement, Shakespeare soon became a member of an acting company and launched a career in the theater. No doubt he did many backstage jobs before moving on to small acting roles. He might even have collaborated in writing stage texts until he eventually created entire plays by himself. Among the earliest of Shakespeare's dramatic works are believed to be the romantic comedies set in far-off places--The Comedy of Errors and Love's Labour's Lost. They are typical of many popular Elizabethan plays set in ancient foreign settings. Less typical were his three plays focusing on the reign of the English monarch, King Henry VI. While each was produced independently--and not in chronological order--they form a unit and share common bonds besides their characters. Unlike many presentations of historical subjects on stage, Shakespeare's plays explored a number of concerns that reflected current interests. Foremost among these was the fear of a return to the civil disorder of the 15th century that had preceded the accession to the throne of the Tudor monarchs (see Historical Background). Many members of the great 15th-century families were still prominent in Elizabeth's court. As a member of an acting company that frequently performed at court and enjoyed the financial support of the nobility, Shakespeare had direct contact with these family descendants. Could their ambitions and lust for power and revenge rise up again? Would the fragile peace between domestic factions as well as foreign enemies remain secure after the death of Elizabeth? These were questions he had to confront when writing the drama of Richard III's rise to power and rapid downfall. In order to make a case for his queen--and against the Yorkist claim--Shakespeare studied the history books available at that time. Human motivation, which he wanted to examine, was not recorded in them. All he could find was outlines of events. Few written documents remained from the period of Richard III. Many had been destroyed by his successors while others had simply disappeared. The history books financed by the Tudor court sang the virtues of Richmond and portrayed Richard III as an evil man. Shakespeare used the information to construct a drama that would sustain audience interest in the story of Richard's villainy. He juggled historical facts by rearranging people and places to support dramatic tension. By all accounts, Richard III was well received in Shakespeare's time, with the great Elizabethan actor Richard Burbage in the title role. Later in his career, he wrote four more history plays about kings whose reigns preceded the Wars of the Roses (1455-85), and whose lives and actions strongly influenced it. In addition to these plays--and the two unrelated history plays, King John and Henry VIII (whose true authorship is still disputed)--Shakespeare went on to write the great comedies and tragedies that have insured his fame for some four centuries. During the twilight of Elizabeth's reign and the first years of her successor, James I, Shakespeare created such masterpieces as Hamlet, Othello, Measure for Measure, King Lear, and Macbeth. But when the Globe Theater, in which he owned an interest, burned in 1613 during a performance of Henry VIII, he returned to Stratford where he had purchased property, and spent his last days there until his death in 1616 at the age of 52. ^^^^^^^^^^RICHARD III: THE PLOT Richard III opens with the arrival of Richard, Duke of Gloucester, in London. His oldest brother, King Edward IV, is slowly dying as a result of overindulgence in "the good life." The ambitious, restless Richard sees an opportunity to attain the crown for himself. The first step is to get rid of his other brother, the Duke of Clarence, who has a closer claim to the throne as the older heir. Richard instigates a rift between the king and Clarence which results in Clarence's being imprisoned in the Tower of London. Later he is executed by murderers sent by Richard. Richard's next move toward his goal is to propose marriage to the great Neville family heiress, Lady Anne, widow of the son of the late Henry VI. Richard has been instrumental in the death of both her husband and father-in-law and this presents a huge obstacle to such a match. In an extraordinary demonstration of his persuasive powers, he woos and convinces Anne to marry him. Meanwhile, Edward IV's wife, Queen Elizabeth, is concerned that Richard has been named Protector of the Realm, making him guardian of her young son Edward, heir to the throne. There is no love lost between her family and Richard, who resents their rise to power. King Edward summons his wife and nobles to meet to settle their differences, but on their way they are interrupted by old Queen Margaret, widow of Henry VI, who was exiled but who has never left the country. She recalls past horrors and predicts future disasters for the country. Her hatred for Richard is so great that she curses him and all those responsible for the evil she has witnessed, predicting a bad end for them all. During the reconciliation attempt, Clarence's death is announced. Soon afterward, King Edward dies and Richard begins to conspire with the Duke of Buckingham to succeed his brother. They set off to bring young Edward, the Prince of Wales, to London to await his coronation. In their absence, Queen Elizabeth learns that Richard has imprisoned her brother and a son by a previous marriage. Fearing for her life, she flees to the protection of church sanctuary with her youngest son, the Duke of York. When the Prince of Wales' party arrives in London, Buckingham arranges to have the little Duke of York taken from sanctuary. The two brothers are then sent for their safety to the Tower of London. Lord Hastings, an old ally and friend to the family of the late King Edward IV, is questioned about the possibility of Richard's succession to the throne. He forcefully rejects the idea, thus signing his own death warrant. At a subsequent Council meeting, Richard accuses Hastings of treason and condemns him to death. Buckingham then addresses the public, praising Richard and instigating the rumor that the late King Edward's children are illegitimate. Although the crowd is unmoved, city officials are convinced that only Richard can prevent civil disorder. A delegation arrives at his residence and, through Buckingham, pleads with him to accept the crown. He "reluctantly" does so after pretending to have no interest in becoming king. Once Richard is on the throne, he must secure his position. He first tries to have Buckingham eliminate the legal heirs (the young boys in the Tower), but Buckingham hesitates. So Richard arranges for their murder himself. He now reveals his next move: he will get rid of his wife and solidify his power by marrying his niece, the daughter of Edward IV and Queen Elizabeth. Buckingham is in disfavor and flees. Shortly afterward, Richard's problems begin to intensify. There are stirrings from France, where the Lancastrian heir, Henry, Earl of Richmond, is in exile. Buckingham has raised an army and is marching against the king. Richard must take up arms against these enemies. But first he attempts to win Queen Elizabeth to his side in his plan to marry her daughter. Her defenses are eventually worn down and she appears to give her consent to the marriage. Meanwhile the forces against Richard are mounting. But Buckingham has been defeated and is eventually captured and executed. Richmond lands in England and establishes a position at Bosworth Field, near Richard's army. The two camps settle in to prepare for battle the next day. During the night, Richard receives the news of desertions among his allies, but his troops still outnumber the enemy three to one. Richmond is informed that Queen Elizabeth has approved of his marriage to her daughter, which upsets Richard's plans. At night, the ghosts of Richard's victims appear in both commanders' dreams. Richard is shaken by the vision of his own tyranny but vows to carry on his fight. Richmond is encouraged by the good wishes of Richard's victims. Both leaders address their troops, exhorting them to fight bravely. Richmond stresses the security of the country, while Richard condemns his enemies as a band of vagabonds and exiles. During the battle, Richard fights bravely, but is slain by Richmond. The victor, Richmond, declares an amnesty and vows to unite the two families through his marriage. He will establish the peace which has been denied to England for so many years. ^^^^^^^^^^RICHARD III: RICHARD, DUKE OF GLOUCESTER (LATER, RICHARD III) Shakespeare based his portrait of Richard on information found in the histories written by Edward Hall (Union of Two Noble and Illustre Houses of Lancaster and York), Raphael Holinshed (Chronicles), and Sir Thomas More. Drawing on historical data, Shakespeare created a dramatic character from one of the most unusual figures in the 15th-century Wars of the Roses. Richard III was England's last king to die in battle. His most notorious phase was the period just prior to his gaining power, followed by that of his rapid downfall in the Battle of Bosworth Field. Holinshed's histories gave a biased description of Richard, stressing his supposed physical deformity and depicting him as arrogant, hypocritical, cruel, and ambitious. At a glance, it may appear that Shakespeare accepted this view since there is little to refute it in Richard III. You should realize, however, that many historians have criticized this portrait of Richard as being not only unfair, but untrue. As early as Sir George Buck's writings in the 17th century, many historians have insisted that Richard was actually a warm, courageous, and outstanding king. When you read Shakespeare's play, keep in mind that the playwright was obviously attempting to make the Tudors look good, at the expense of Richard and his ancestors. To serve his own dramatic needs, Shakespeare refined and embellished the available historical material. His Richard becomes a fully developed character who is both the victim of circumstances and the commander of his own destiny. This conflict is the force that most critics feel gives the play its special energy and fascination. A Richard who merely parades his way through a series of wicked deeds and then pays for his crimes in the end would never hold an audience's attention. Shakespeare's Richard, on stage for most of the play, is never less than interesting and usually quite compelling. Shakespeare takes you inside the character and gives you a chance to see the motivation behind the acts. Richard tells you in his own words what he will do and why. But you can also judge him through his actions and reactions to a variety of characters, as well as in other people's words about him. Right up until the last moment of his life on stage, you are given every opportunity to assess Richard. Even the most controversial charges against him are presented in detail. You are shown that most horrible of his crimes, according to rumor and Elizabethan historical records--the murder of the young princes in the Tower. But you are also exposed to Richard's wit, his psychological understanding of others, and the evil record of Richard's "victims." You are even invited to consider how much Richard himself may be a victim--of his nature, of his circumstances, of his deformed body, and of the past in general. The playwright's greatest challenge was to inspire a response to the notorious Richard. You can measure his success by your own reactions. How do you feel about Richard's powers of persuasion after he has successfully wooed Lady Anne? How do you react to the string of nasty names he is called--"Foul Devil," "Lump of foul deformity," "Bottled spider," "Cacodemon," "Poisonous bunch-backed toad?" He may brush them aside, but can they be ignored? Shakespeare did not offer a real defense of Richard, but instead considered the forces motivating him. Richard himself tells you that he represents Vice, a stock personification of evil in earlier forms of drama. In the so-called medieval "mystery" or "miracle" plays, Vice was the traditional representative of the devil. His function was to entrap people into sin by charm, wit, and double-dealing. Clearly Richard enjoys his own cleverness. You may even find yourself smiling and nodding in approval as he performs his devilish pranks and outwits his victims. When Richard is slain by Richmond at the play's end, a certain sense of loss, even regret, is often felt. This raises the question of why Richard III is not considered a tragedy. After all, Shakespeare entitled the play, The Tragedy of Richard III. But is Richard really a tragic figure? To deserve this label, Richard would have had to change within the framework of the play and suffer a fall from greatness. Most readers agree that he never really undergoes any change and that his downfall is a well-deserved punishment for his personal crimes. At his most fragile moment, when he awakens from his terrifying dream in the final act--aware of what he has done and exposed at his most naked self--you may feel some sympathy. But within seconds, he is up to his old tricks, playing the villain with no further motivation than his own wickedness. By the play's end, you will be able to decide how well Shakespeare succeeded in creating a portrait that no amount of accurate and objective historical research has ever been able to displace. ^^^^^^^^^^RICHARD III: QUEEN MARGARET The widow of Henry VI, the former Lancaster ruler overthrown by the York family, is historically inaccurate insofar as her being in England when the play's events take place. She had already been exiled to France after Henry VI's execution and remained there until her death. But Shakespeare chose to ignore this, taking "poetic license" to plant her right in the middle of Richard's quest for power. Here she serves a useful function as a purveyor of truths and prophecies. A once powerful foe, she has been reduced to a shadow of her former self, wandering half-mad and constantly weeping over her lost cause. But as with most Elizabethan fools and madmen, this gives her a capacity for "second-sight." Through her curses and visions, she predicts the doom that will occur to individual characters and the entire York dynasty. The attempts to dispute her arguments, along with the ignoring of her curses and predictions, are two elements which charge the play with tension as it moves toward its conclusion. For Richard, Margaret is a towering figure of divine punishment, or Nemesis (the ancient Greek concept of retribution). She haunts him constantly. As she repeatedly demands her revenge, the air will be filled with electric tension. She provides Richard with his greatest challenge: Can he ignore her curses and will he survive her prophecies? ^^^^^^^^^^RICHARD III: DUKE OF BUCKINGHAM Of all Richard's victims, Buckingham is the most foolhardy from the start when he ignores Margaret's warnings about Richard's evil nature and the curse that will fall on all who serve him. He also boldly asks for God's punishment, in the event that he should be false to Edward IV and his family. As Richard's chief ally, the greedy Buckingham does much of Richard's dirty work, while Richard flatters him and plays the naive pupil. Raised higher and higher by his expectations of wealth and land, Buckingham is stunned when Richard refuses to reward him. Shakespeare underscores Buckingham's shock and Richard's contempt with the chilling but almost casual denial: "I am not in the giving vein today" (IV, ii, 115). As Buckingham goes to his execution, he remembers Margaret's prophecy and reflects on the price that one pays for falseness. ^^^^^^^^^^RICHARD III: QUEEN ELIZABETH Historically, the wife of Edward IV was a powerful political force in her own right and had reinforced her position through patronage. But when we meet her, she arrives on a weak note as she bemoans the king's illness and her own danger. She does, however, demonstrate intelligence in her fear of Richard. Still, she lacks the resources to resist him. Unlike Margaret, Queen Elizabeth cannot rally an army to her side. Elizabeth is a survivor, and though her losses are great, she never becomes one of Richard's victims. In the prolonged proxy courtship scene, where Richard asks Elizabeth for her daughter, she tolerates his clever and skillful arguments longer than Lady Anne had earlier. Even her apparent surrender to Richard's wishes leaves room for doubt. Indeed, as you later discover, the final victory is hers. ^^^^^^^^^^RICHARD III: LADY ANNE (NEVILLE) The first great contest between the determined Richard and a formidable opposition takes place quickly with Lady Anne, daughter of the powerful Duke of Warwick and the widow of Henry VI's son, the former Prince of Wales. It is one of Shakespeare's finest scenes and demonstrates the playwright's genius. Lady Anne's collapse might serve as fair warning of Richard's uncanny ability to exploit other people's weaknesses. Occurring early in the play, it should put you on alert for subsequent encounters with other enemies. ^^^^^^^^^^RICHARD III: HENRY TUDOR, EARL OF RICHMOND Richard is such a compelling character that Shakespeare probably knew he was in a "no win" situation when it came to presenting his successor. To build a proper case for Richmond as a hero would require more space than was available in this play. But this was one bit of history Shakespeare would not dare to alter. The grandfather of his own monarch, Queen Elizabeth I, must emerge as the glorious victor and peacemaker. To minimize the problem, Richmond is not introduced until the latter stages of the play. After a brief introduction, he is shown only in direct contrast to Richard. The parallel is reinforced by the bold presentation of the two tents--the two camps on stage. Further differences in personality are clarified in their dealings with their attendants and by their responses to their dreams. The final differences are shown in their individual orations to their troops. Notice how Richmond stresses the justice of their cause and invokes God throughout his speech. It serves not only to inspire his warriors, but to prop him up as the "chosen" champion. ^^^^^^^^^^RICHARD III: GEORGE, DUKE OF CLARENCE (BROTHER OF RICHARD AND EDWARD IV) Like Lady Anne, Clarence becomes one of Richard's first victims--forerunner of what will take place again and again. His first mistake is to trust his brother Richard. Clarence, we later discover, has committed a number of crimes in the name of Yorkist power and deserves punishment by any standard. But unlike Lady Anne, Clarence does not get to confront his enemy or to struggle for his life with Richard. Instead, he wrestles with his own crimes in the terrible dream before his assassination by Richard's henchmen. In his death you will find the pattern of prophecy and retribution (Nemesis) that will be repeated throughout the play--the prediction of doom (in his dream), the irony (of trusting Richard), and the final awareness that he deserves punishment by the very God whose mercy he invokes. ^^^^^^^^^^RICHARD III: EDWARD IV In his opening soliloquy, Richard draws attention to his brother, King Edward IV, as being lazy, lecherous, and gullible. This might seem like a narrow-minded opinion of a monarch who had twice triumphed over the Lancaster enemy and had ruled England peacefully for more than two decades. But when you do get to meet him during his one appearance on stage, is there any reason to disagree with Richard's evaluation? Is this anyone's picture of what the head of government should be? Shakespeare never suggests that Richard's criminal acts should be sanctioned. Instead, he shows you an alternative view of a king and lets you reach your own judgments. You can't help but compare the two men who occupy the throne during the play. Perhaps the lack of choice between these two "unfit" rulers helps create the need for an ideal monarch who will appear in the end. ^^^^^^^^^^RICHARD III: DUCHESS OF YORK The mother of two kings (Edward IV and Richard III) and their brother (the Duke of Clarence), the Duchess of York reveals a great deal in her statements about her children. She can snarl at Queen Margaret and defend every vicious deed committed by her husband and sons. Yet nowhere does she approve of her son Richard. She denies him even the courtesy of a mother's blessing, and at the earliest opportunity she denounces him. To offset any claim to goodness that Richard might have from his effective administration in the North or his courage in battle, she laces with contempt her recollections of his childhood. She can still stand up to him, but lacks the force of Queen Margaret. Richard is clever enough to realize the political danger of implicating her as an adulteress in establishing the illegitimacy of Edward IV's lineage. ^^^^^^^^^^RICHARD III: LORD HASTINGS The Lord Chamberlain seems to be a typical Shakespearean gull, a fool whose end is predictable from the start. Beneath his naive trust lurks an ugly lust for revenge that leads to his downfall. Shakespeare uses him as another victim whom Richard lulls into an unwarranted sense of security, then crushes in an instant. Notice how the Nemesis pattern--prophecy, irony, and recognition--applies to Hastings as he meets his Fate. ^^^^^^^^^^RICHARD III: LORD STANLEY, EARL OF DERBY Stanley is a difficult figure to follow as he winds cautiously through the play. He is established as a decent man in his first appearance when he pleads for one of his servant's lives. He shows caution when he sends his messenger to Hastings with the story of his dream. And he personally warns Hastings of the mounting danger which Richard represents. But Stanley is careful with his words and never defies a prophecy, nor does he trust an enemy. Though Richard suspects he is disloyal, he cannot detect a vulnerable spot in Stanley. Even the holding of Stanley's son as hostage is a sign of weakness rather than power. ^^^^^^^^^^RICHARD III: LORD MAYOR A civil functionary of importance, the Lord Mayor is depicted in this play as a man so gullible that one wonders why he doesn't join Richard's list of victims. He gives in easily to Richard and Buckingham's schemes. According to some critics, Shakespeare may be pointing a finger at the weakness of a system which permits major changes in government to be influenced by such incompetent officials. 1ST MURDERER AND 2ND MURDERER Notice Richard's ease in dealing with this lower element of society. What does that tell you about his willingness to soil his own hands? And does this ever change? These murderers represent a certain type of commoner in England and were easily identified by the Elizabethan audience. As they speak with Clarence, they are clearly aware of the goings-on in high places. Yet they do differ with one another. In their separate positions regarding the bloody act of murder, they exemplify the two strong attitudes toward a Higher Authority that run through the play--defiance and fear. ^^^^^^^^^^RICHARD III: THE PRINCE OF WALES AND THE DUKE OF YORK (SONS OF EDWARD IV) Like all the children in this play, both are precocious. But there are differences between them. Wales appears to have leadership ability and is already somewhat haughty when we first meet him. He goads his Uncle Richard with boyish fantasies of foreign victories. His younger brother, York, seems content in his smart-alecky word play with his uncle. Yet the two boys remain dangerously alone without the protection of their maternal uncles, and their departure for the Tower of London is bittersweet. They are a vital element in maintaining the audience's interest especially through their mother and grandmother's abortive attempt to visit them in the Tower. In Tyrrel's careful description of their final moment, they become a powerful focus of sympathy. Richard III's role in the murder of the princes in the Tower has been at the center of the case against him throughout the centuries. Shakespeare spares nothing but the actual sight of blood in this version of the fate of the two boys whose mysterious disappearance has never been solved. Even today the pro-Richard forces concentrate their campaign to clear his name on absolving him of the murder of the princes. ^^^^^^^^^^RICHARD III: SETTING Richard III takes place in late 15th-century England just before Richard, Duke of Gloucester, seized control and ascended the throne. It concludes with his death at the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485. In all, it embraces events occurring over roughly a fourteen year period. But Shakespeare has greatly condensed and rearranged the sequence of events to create intensity and heighten the drama. For a play that suggests action taking place across a sweeping landscape, there are remarkably few locations actually created on stage. In fact, the first part of Richard III is set entirely in London, on anonymous streets, in non-specific rooms of the royal palace at Westminster (the present site of the Houses of Parliament), or in the bare outline of a room at the Tower. It is not until the brief scene at Pomfret Castle (III, iii) that the action moves outside the capital. Afterward, it quickly returns to London where it remains until the last act, when the two sides move toward their final encounter. Here, in Act V, Scene I, the setting is Salisbury, about 70 miles southwest of London, where Buckingham is about to be executed. The next scene takes place in the north, at Richmond's camp of Tamworth, "but one day's march" from Leicester, the city closest to Richard's camp. In the following scene, you are taken to Bosworth Field where the two opponents are mustering their troops and preparing for combat. It is there that the final resolution of the play takes place. With these few on-stage locations, how does Shakespeare then achieve the suggestion of great panoramic action? First, remember all the offstage action. How many things are we told about, and sometimes re-told, that have just taken place offstage? The imprisonment of Rivers, Grey and Vaughan; Buckingham's rebellion and capture; the murder of the princes in the Tower; Richmond's abortive attempt to land in Dorset--these are just a few events that take place within the play's time frame. What about past events? How often are they recalled? Listen to all the reminders of past battles, fallen enemies, and the rise and fall of previous powerful rulers. Not only Henry VI, but the Duke of Warwick (Anne's father), Richard of York (Richard III's father), Richard II, all are brought forth from memory and add to the sense of a larger arena. Shakespeare's audience would have demanded a play with a breadth of action equal in concept to the importance of the story. The playwright has indeed provided that, but with a remarkable economy of settings which do not intrude on the important business on stage. ^^^^^^^^^^RICHARD III: THEMES Here are major themes you will find in Richard III. 1. NATURAL ORDER The Elizabethan attitude toward nature, a holdover from medieval times, was as structured and formal as an organizational flow-chart would be today. Nature consisted of a universe in which there was an established hierarchy, with God at the top. Everything below had a specific position and status. The king ruled the state; the father was the head of the family; next came the mother, the children, and so on. At the bottom were the animals; even they had higher and lower rankings. Snakes, insects and vermin were at the very bottom. Remember this when you come upon the animal images used in the curses heaped upon Richard. When the natural order was upset, the bottom moved toward the top. As a result, chaos set in. The symbol of chaos was the monster. Richard is frequently called a monster and related to "monstrous" acts. When you hear of something being monstrous, it suggests a drastic, unnatural change or upheaval that demands a restoration to the way things are supposed to be. Richard's personal position--low down on the scale of animal life--and his political position at the top, are at odds. His removal from the throne and humiliating downfall in the mud of Bosworth Field resolve the unnatural state of events. 2. LEGITIMACY AND USURPATION The concept of a natural order extended to such matters as political inheritance and succession. Again, the most important aspect of this was at the very top, the monarchy. A king achieved his position by birth, according to firmly established rules of inheritance. In the absence of an immediate heir, the next closest male relative was entitled to the crown. It was not until after the death of Henry VIII that women could become heirs to the throne. To break with such an accepted tradition of royal succession was to defy the natural order. Usurpation--the unlawful, illegitimate, seizure of the crown--was a major crime. It was as serious as regicide, the killing of a king, which it usually involved. Such a monstrous act produced disorder, chaos, and even revolution. Richard demonstrates that he is aware of this as he carefully contrives to attain his goal. He must appear to be the legitimate occupant of the throne. That he is not a legitimate ruler is one of the play's chief political messages. If he were, Elizabeth I's legitimacy would be in question since she became queen as a result of Henry VII's own violent accession to the throne (the killing of Richard at Bosworth Field). 3. ON KINGSHIP In the natural scheme of things, as the father was to the family, so was the king to the state. But while there were many fathers, there was only one king whose position at the head of the government ensured the smooth working of the political order. As such, it was essential that the king represent all that was good and just. If he failed to do this, the civil order would collapse--and this is often mirrored in Shakespeare's works by images of disease and other natural abnormalities. Like the sun, a king must bring about fruitfulness and life. The sun is, therefore, a symbol of kingship as well as being Edward IV's family symbol. In his very first words, Richard binds the two together with his reference to this "son of York." The audience also hears the word sun, which represents Edward as both king and son of the House of York. There will be many other references to sun and light (a state of natural well-being) as opposed to darkness and shadow (illness). This reminds the Elizabethan audience of both the good and the bad monarch. After all, no fewer than five kings of England appear in Richard III--Henry VI, Edward IV, Edward V (the young Prince of Wales held the title although he was never crowned), Richard III, and Henry VII (Richmond). Track down and compare the images surrounding each monarch to see how Shakespeare presents them. 4. VENGEANCE Throughout the play, a number of crimes are committed that cry out for revenge. Moreover, in several references to past events, the crimes committed not only by Richard, but by others (Clarence, Edward IV, Richard of York, Henry VI and Margaret) are all revealed in great detail. Demands for vengeance will echo throughout the play. And, for the most part, they will not be satisfied until the final scene when Richard is slain. Prior to that, another form of vengeance takes place and Richard, surprisingly, is the instrument. As you examine the fate of Richard's victims, you must consider their own participation in criminal acts. Isn't Clarence guilty of murder? Hasn't Hastings participated in the usurpation of Henry VI's throne? In executing them, isn't Richard an agent for divine justice, a so-called "Scourge of God?" Yet at the same time, he defies that very God by committing homicide for his own gain. Critics point out that there was a theological explanation to permit such a duality. An apparently criminal act could often serve a greater purpose, as it did in this case. But the tension between these two aspects of Richard's character certainly adds to his fascination. 5. NEMESIS (DIVINE RETRIBUTION) Most of the characters in Richard III experience a pattern of ultimate punishment for their sins, both during the play and before the action begins. The pattern leads from warnings that are ignored to eventual punishment. Clarence, Edward IV, Queen Elizabeth's relatives (Rivers, Grey, and Vaughan), Hastings, Buckingham, Lady Anne, Queen Elizabeth herself, and finally Richard himself are made aware of their crimes, and suffer punishment as a result. Either death or severe loss comes to the representatives of both houses of Lancaster and York in much the same way that noble families were cursed and destroyed by divine plan in ancient Greek drama. Thus, Richard can be seen not only as the maker of crimes, but also as the final victim of a succession of cursed family crimes. His own actions may be seen as the final blow to the royal house of Plantagenet, which included both the Lancasters and the Yorks. This view of family guilt, of course, makes Richard as an individual seem less responsible. There is plenty of evidence in the play that Richard is to be held strictly accountable for his crimes. How would your balance sheet on Richard add up, either as a victim or a moral monster? 6. APPEARANCE AND REALITY From the moment Richard announces that he will "prove a villain," a great deal of role-playing takes place on stage. Note the difference between a character's role in private speeches (soliloquies) and in public speeches. Richard is obviously a great actor, but he is not the only successful role-player. There is Buckingham, with whom he compares technique at the start of Act III, Scene V. Examine the truce arranged by Edward IV. How honest are the participants as they embrace one another? Notice the vast number of hypocritical posturings, the sworn oaths and outright falsehoods that take place, and the results they inevitably produce. 7. FORTUNE The Elizabethans believed that Fortune was not simply a haphazard matter, but an ordered part of their universe. This regulation of destiny was symbolized by the Wheel of Fortune. Constantly in motion, it moved from top to bottom and back again. Those who were on top could not afford to be stuffy since they had only one place to go--down. Still, there were those who ignored or scorned Fortune's power to reverse one's position. Think of Buckingham's rise and fall, Margaret and Elizabeth's past glory, and Richard's swift road from duke to king to Bosworth Field. 8. AMBITION It's hard to find a character in this play who is content with his or her lot in life. Scratch deep enough and you'll usually find a restless ambition that is eventually declared. The most obvious example is Richard's overwhelming lust for the crown. This is followed closely by Buckingham's desire to help him and thus share in the spoils. Ambition of this sort would seem to be evil. On the other hand, consider the young Prince of Wales' hope of winning back lost English territory abroad. And what about Richmond's goal "to reap the harvest of perpetual peace?" Do you think that ambition is good or bad? Are there different types of ambition? Moreover, can it always be justified? For the part it plays in driving the action of this play forward, you may find that there are no easy answers to these questions. ^^^^^^^^^^RICHARD III: STYLE Because Richard III was written early in Shakespeare's career, it is sometimes suggested that its simple style is the mark of a young, developing playwright. On the other hand, many find its straightforward, classical march to a foreseeable end as a deliberate and excellent choice for this particular historical subject. The play is different in many ways from Shakespeare's later familiar comedies and tragedies, which contain more of the blank verse for which the playwright is famous. Iambic pentameter, the five-beat line with stress on every second syllable, is present in Richard III, but this play has fewer poetic passages than his later ones. The intensity of Clarence's dream is a good example. Here poetry, with its ability to compress ideas into a few powerful images, brings Clarence's fear and guilt into clear focus. Tyrrel's description of the murder of Edward IV's sons in the Tower is also made more effective through the use of verse. Equally skillful is Shakespeare's use of symbols and imagery. The obvious use of the sun and its relationship to the king is extended by references to light and darkness. Shadows and mirror images make you aware of what is good and true or what is bad and false. A virtual menagerie of animal references reminds the audience of the high or low esteem in which a character is held. Notice, too, how often references to food and meals are used to underscore the abstract appetite for power. The importance of the rule of law is stressed by the use of legal terminology (e.g., "windy attorneys," "libels," and "perjury"). Equally effective are the technical devices of speech which Shakespeare borrowed from classical drama. Particularly noticeable in this play is the use of stichomythia, a short, rhythmic exchange of words in equal balance. Shakespeare also works a form of the ancient Greek chorus into Richard III. When Margaret, whose prophetic role is similar to that of a chorus, is joined by the other women in Act IV, Scene IV, their chorus of lamentation has an ancient religious quality that may remind you of another level of concern--the presence of a Higher Authority in the affairs of human beings. Shakespeare uses language to produce rapid and convincing characterizations. A superb actor such as Richard can change his manner of speaking to suit his needs of the moment. Others are generally consistent and true to their class. The nobles and members of the court use a formal, somewhat elegant speech, while the common people speak in plainer terms. When that pattern is broken, it is deliberate. When the Third Citizen offers his pessimistic vision of trouble ahead ("When clouds are seen, wise men put on their cloaks"), the impact is all the greater. For all its classical devices, verse, imagery, and the like, Richard III is remarkably uncomplicated. ^^^^^^^^^^RICHARD III: ELIZABETHAN ENGLISH All languages change. Differences in pronunciation and word choice are apparent even between parents and their children. If language differences can appear in one generation, it is only to be expected that the English used by Shakespeare four hundred years ago will diverge markedly from the English used today. The following information on Shakespeare's language will help you in your understanding of Richard III. ^^^^^^^^^^RICHARD III: MOBILITY OF WORD CLASSES Adjectives, nouns, and verbs were more freely interchanged during Shakespeare's day. Adjectives were often used as nouns, as in: We are the Queen's abjects [that is, abject subjects] (I, i, 106) and: Now fair [that is, fair times] befall thee and thy noble house! (I, iii, 281) Adjectives functioned also as adverbs. "Fair," for example, is used where we would now require "fairly": Either be patient and entreat me fair. (IV, iv, 152) Nouns could be used as verbs and as adjectives: This sickly land might solace (i.e., give solace) as before (II, iii, 30) Tell me, thou villain (i.e., villainous) slave (IV, iv, 144) and verbs could be used as nouns. ^^^^^^^^^^RICHARD III: CHANGES IN WORD MEANING The meanings of all words undergo changes. For example, the word "chip" extended its meaning from a small piece of wood to a small piece of silicon. Many of the words in Shakespeare still exist, but their meanings may have changed. The change is sometimes small, as in the case of "jealous" meaning "mistrustful" in: The jealous, o'erworn widow (I, i, 81) Other examples: "halt" (I, i, 23) meant "limp"; "mewed" (I, i, 38) meant "continued"; "gossips" (I, i, 83) meant "old women" (probably relatives); "diet" (I, i, 139) meant "way of life," and so on. ^^^^^^^^^^RICHARD III: VOCABULARY LOSS Words not only change their meanings, but frequently disappear from the language. In the past, "leman" meant "sweetheart," "sooth" meant "truth," and "thole" meant "endure." The following words used in Richard III are no longer current in English, but their meanings can usually be gauged from the context in which they occur. HAP (I, ii, 17) fortune AVAUNT (I, ii, 44) go away FALCHION (I, ii, 94) curved sword DENIER (I, ii, 251) small coin COG (I, iii, 48) fawn NOBLE (I, iii, 81) gold coin IWIS (I, iii, 101) certainly CACODEMON (I, iii, 143) devil PILLED (I, iii, 158) spoiled, plundered MALAPERT (I, iii, 254) impertinent FRANKED (I, iii, 313) closed away, shut up in a sty SOP (I, iv, 159) bread dipped in wine MEED (I, iv, 285) reward HEAP (II, i, 54) troop, company DUGS (II, ii, 30) breasts, teats COMPLOTS (III, i, 192) plots BOOTLESS (III, iv, 102) useless RECURE (III, vii, 129) cure, make better EMPERY (III, vii, 135) sovereignty over EGALLY (III, vii, 212) equally GRATULATE (IV, i, 10) greet, look after TEEN (IV, i, 98) sadness UNRESPECTIVE (IV, ii, 29) unobservant SENIORY (IV, iv, 36) seniority CAITIFF (IV, iv, 101) wretched person OWED (IV, iv, 142) owned HAPLY (IV, iv, 273) by chance HOISED (IV, iv, 527) hoisted PURSUIVANT-AT-ARMS (V, iii, 59) low-ranking officer PEISE (V, iii, 106) weigh BOBBED (V, iii, 335) cut down, thrashed ^^^^^^^^^^RICHARD III: VERBS Shakespearean verb forms differ from those of modern usage in three main ways: 1. Questions and negatives could be formed without using do or did, as when the keeper asks Clarence: Why looks your grace so heavily today? (I, iv, 1) or where Anne tells Richard: Alas, I blame you not. (I, ii, 44) Shakespeare had the option of using forms a. and b. whereas contemporary usage permits only the a. forms: a b What are you saying? What say you? What did you say? What said you? I do not love you. I love you not. I did not love you. I loved you not. 2. A number of past participles and past tense forms are used which would be ungrammatical today. Among these are: "holp" for "helped" in: Let him thank me that holp to send him thither (I, ii, 107) "forgot" for "forgotten" in: Hath she forgot already that brave prince (I, ii, 239) "waked" for "woke" in: I, trembling, waked (I, iv, 61) "spoke" for "spoken" in: Spoke like a tall man that respects thy reputation (I, iv, 154) "bare" for "bore" in: Some tardy cripple bare the countermand (II, i, 91) and "beholding" for "beholden" in: Then he is more beholding to you than I. (III, i, 107) 3. Archaic verb forms sometimes occur with "thou" and he, she, or it: When thou didst crown his warlike brows with paper And with thy scorns drewst rivers from his eyes (I, iii, 174-5) And, if I fail not in my deep intent, Clarence hath not another day to live. (I, i, 149-50) ^^^^^^^^^^RICHARD III: PRONOUNS Shakespeare and his contemporaries had the extra pronoun "thou," they used in addressing equals or social inferiors. "You" was obligatory if more than one person was addressed: Stay, you that bear the corse, and set it down (I, ii, 33) and: Of you, Lord Woodville, and, Lord Scales (II, i, 69) but it could also be used to indicate respect, as when Richard tells Prince Edward: My lord, the Mayor of London comes to greet you. (III, i, 17) Frequently, a person in power used "thou" to a child or a subordinate, but was addressed "you" in return. This usage is clearly illustrated in the conversation between King Edward and Buckingham: KING: Now, princely Buckingham, seal thou this league ......... BUCK: Whenever Buckingham doth turn his hate Upon your grace, with all duteous love Doth cherish you and yours... (I, i, 29ff) but if "thou" was used inappropriately, it could cause grave offense. Margaret intended such offense when she told Richard: A husband and a son thou owest to me. (I, iii, 169) One further pronominal reference warrants a comment. King Edward uses the royal plural "we" to stress his sovereignty in: Happy indeed, as we have spent the day. (II, i, 49) ^^^^^^^^^^RICHARD III: PREPOSITIONS Prepositions were less standardized in Elizabethan English than they are today and so we find several uses in Richard III that would have to be modified in contemporary speech. Among these are: "in" for "into" in: But first I'll turn yon fellow in his grave (I, ii, 260) "with" for "by" in: But thus his simple truth must be abused With silken, sly, insinuating Jacks (I, iii, 52-53) "in" for "by" and "for" for "on" in: Led in the hand of her kind aunt of Gloucester Now, for my life, she's wandering to the Tower (IV, i, 2-3) "upon" for "with" in: Are they that I would have thee deal upon (IV, ii, 73) and "in" for "about" in: The late request that you did sound me in. (IV, ii, 83) ^^^^^^^^^^RICHARD III: MULTIPLE NEGATION Contemporary English requires only one negative per statement and regards such utterances as: I haven't none as nonstandard. Shakespeare often used two or more negatives for emphasis, as when Derby tells the King: None good, my liege, to please you with the hearing Nor none so bad but well may be reported. (IV, iv, 457-8) ^^^^^^^^^^RICHARD III: HISTORICAL BACKGROUND In order to understand Shakespeare's Richard III, you will find it helpful to review the few generally accepted facts about the historical Richard and his ancestors. In the mid-15th century, a prolonged contest for the rule of England had begun between the noble house of York, whose emblem was the white rose, and the equally high-ranking Lancasters, who were later associated with the red rose. The contest was eventually named the Wars of the Roses after these opposing symbols. It started when the monarchy of the weak Lancastrian King Henry VI was challenged by Richard, Duke of York, who managed to have his own claim to the throne acknowledged by the Parliament. Since Henry and his wife, Margaret of Anjou, had no sons, Richard of York had been named heir. The subsequent birth of a son to the royal couple caused a setback in Richard's plan, so he resorted to arms. In 1452, the Duke of York's wife gave birth to their youngest son, the future Richard III. He was too young to partake in the first battle between the two sides, which took place in 1455 at St. Albans, about twenty miles northwest of London. The Yorkists were victorious, but a compromise allowed Henry VI to remain on the throne. At another struggle, in 1459, the king was captured by the York opposition. Only by naming Richard of York and his successors as heirs could he retain the throne. But then Queen Margaret raised an army and defeated the Yorkists at Wakefield in 1460. The Duke was slain and his head displayed on the gates of the city of York, wearing a paper crown. Power shifted back and forth in later battles until the king's party was finally defeated at Mortimer's Cross, and the oldest son of Richard of York marched into London to assume the throne as Edward IV. Henry fled north with Margaret, but was eventually captured and imprisoned in the Tower of London. Richard openly supported his brother, Edward IV, who ruled for twelve years without a challenge from the opposition. As a reward for his support, Richard was made Duke of Gloucester and also Constable of England. He served his brother faithfully in maintaining peace along the troublesome Scottish borders. But quarrels broke out among the victors. King Edward IV's brother, the Duke of Clarence, joined forces with the opposition, now led by the Earl of Warwick (Lady Anne Neville's father), the one-time Yorkist champion. In 1470, they succeeded in restoring Henry VI to the throne. But the reign was short. In a matter of months, two important battles were fought at Barnet and Tewkesbury. Warwick was slain along with the Prince of Wales. Margaret was captured and imprisoned, then exiled to France. Henry was taken to the Tower again and executed within a month. At Edward IV's death in 1483, Richard was named Protector of the Realm. In this role, he was responsible for overseeing the affairs of state in the name of his twelve-year-old nephew, the Prince of Wales, who would become Edward V. But before the boy's coronation could take place, rumors of his and his brother's illegitimacy circulated and Richard was offered the crown, which he accepted. Once Richard was on the throne, a number of serious problems undermined his position. The Prince of Wales and his brother disappeared from the Tower where Richard had imprisoned them. The boys were never seen again. It was widely rumored that King Richard was responsible for their deaths, but many historians deny this. There are no accurate historical records to confirm either position. Opposition to Richard began to mount. The king's greatest supporters among the nobility began to defect, and an exiled challenger returned to England to contest Richard's claim to the throne. Henry, Earl of Richmond (the future Henry VII), raised an army, then met Richard and his troops in the Battle of Bosworth Field. Richard was slain and his corpse reputedly buried in an unmarked grave. Henry VII united the two warring families by marrying Elizabeth of York, daughter of Edward IV. As the first Tudor king, Henry VII succeeded in ending the Wars of the Roses. Years later, Henry VII's granddaughter, Elizabeth I, would come to the throne. But since she had no children--and was known as the "virgin" queen--what would happen to the Tudor line after her death? This was a question of great importance in Shakespeare's day, and this is why the playwright went to such great lengths to portray her family as the legitimate heirs to the throne. His description of Richard III was designed to make people think Richard was an evil man. After all, if there were threats to the legitimacy of the Tudors as monarchs, the whole question of the throne might be opened up again in another bloody war like the Wars of the Roses. But as you can see from history, Elizabeth was indeed the last Tudor monarch. Her successor, James I, ushered in the era of the Stuarts. ^^^^^^^^^^RICHARD III: FORM AND STRUCTURE There was no strict pattern for presenting history plays in Elizabethan times. As plays dealing with historical subjects evolved from early forms of drama and pageants, they were generally shaped into the basic five-act structure of classical tragedy. Shakespeare was no revolutionary in breaking with this pattern. His great contribution was in his use of a simple structure to deal with the complexities of his subject. In Richard III, the story breaks conveniently into two divisions--before Richard has the crown and after. Most modern productions present the play this way, with one intermission. But the energy of the play is really structured around the five-act division. Within that framework, Shakespeare faced a number of challenges. First of all, how do you maintain suspense in a story that had a conclusion known to almost every member of the audience? For the most part, he overcame that obstacle by presenting a string of dramatic encounters, each one ending with a degree of uncertainty. What would happen next? Would this part of the plan succeed? Another device used by Shakespeare was that of a secondary concern, if not a fully developed subplot. The introduction of Queen Margaret and her lust for revenge opened up the question of fulfillment of her curses and prophecies. Here are two powerful forces in conflict with one another--Richard seeking power and Margaret seeking revenge. At the highest and lowest level lies the ultimate goal--peace in the land. Richard's deliberate disruption at the beginning of the play demands a satisfying resolution at the end. But how will it occur? What mistakes will be made? The need for that peaceful resolution is never forgotten as the action moves relentlessly forward. The playwright's aims are supported by these progressive divisions of the five acts. ACT I: EXPOSITION. Richard reveals his personal goals. He removes his first obstacle and gains his first victory. The immediate opposition is introduced. ACT II: RISING ACTION. The opposition solidifies. But Richard gets support when Buckingham allies himself with Richard's cause. A plan develops. ACT III: CLIMAX. The princes are imprisoned. Richard overwhelms the opposition. He is offered the crown and accepts it. ACT IV: FALLING ACTION. Now king, Richard must deal with rebellious forces. He devises new plans. Richmond's threat becomes apparent. ACT V: RESOLUTION. Richmond appears. Richard's past crimes are reviewed but he does not repent. During combat, Richard is slain. The war ends. The victorious Richmond unites the two families and brings peace to England. ^^^^^^^^^^RICHARD III: THE GLOBE THEATRE There were many theatres in London during Shakespeare's time but the most famous was undoubtedly the Globe. Built in 1599 for L600 just across the Thames River from London, it was destroyed by fire in 1613 but quickly rebuilt and remained in operation until 1644. No one knows exactly what the Globe looked like but some scholarly detective work has given us a fairly good idea. When it was built, the Globe was the most modern example of theater design. It consisted of a three-story octagon, with covered galleries surrounding an open yard some fifty feet across. Three sides of the octagon were devoted to the stage and backstage areas. The main stage was a raised platform that jutted into the center of the yard or pit. Behind the stage was a tiring house--the backstage area where actors dressed and waited for their cues. It was flanked by two doors and contained an inner stage with a curtain used when the script called for a scene to be revealed. Above the inner stage was the upper stage, a curtained balcony that could serve as the battlements in Hamlet or the balcony in Romeo and Juliet. Most of the action of the play took place on the main and upper stages. The third story held the musicians' gallery and machinery for sound effects and pyrotechnics (fireworks, explosions, etc.). Above all was a turret from which a flag was flown to announce, "Performance today." A roof (the shadow) covered much of the stage and not only protected the players from sudden showers but also contained machinery needed for some special effects. More machinery was under the stage, where several trap doors permitted the sudden appearance of ghosts and allowed actors to leap into rivers or graves, as the script required. For a penny--a day's wages for an apprentice--you could stand with the "groundlings" in the yard to watch a play. Another penny would buy you a seat in the upper galleries. A third would get you a cushioned seat in the lower gallery--the best seats in the house. The audience would be a mixed crowd--sedate scholars, gallant courtiers, and respectable merchants and their families in the galleries; rowdy apprentices and young men looking for excitement in the yard; and some pickpockets and prostitutes taking advantage of the crowds to ply their trades. And crowds there would be--the Globe could probably hold 2000 to 3000 people, and even an ordinary performance would attract a crowd of 1200. The play you came to see would be performed in broad daylight during the warmer months. In colder weather, Shakespeare's troupe appeared indoors at Court or in one of London's private theaters. There was no scenery as we know it but there are indications that the Elizabethans used simple set pieces as trees or battle tents to indicate locations. Any props needed were readied in the tiring house by the bookkeeper (we'd call him the stage manager) and carried on and off by actors. If time or location were important, the characters usually said something about it. Trumpet flourishes told the audience an important character was about to enter, and a scene ended when all the characters left the stage. Bodies of dead characters had to be carried off, and justification was usually provided in the script. Little attention was paid to the appearance of historical accuracy in plays such as Julius Caesar or King Lear. One major difference from today was that female parts were played by young boys since it was an Elizabethan custom that women did not act. If the scenery was minimal, the performance made up for it in costumes and spectacle. English actors were famous for their skill as dancers, and some performances ended with a dance or jig. Animal blood or red paint was used as blood and was lavished about in the tragedies. Ghosts made sudden appearances in clouds of swirling fog. Thunder was simulated by rolling a cannon ball along the wooden floor of the turret or by rattling a metal sheet. The costumes were handsome and expensive. One "robe of estate" cost L19, a year's wages for a skilled workman of the time. But the costumes were a large part of the spectacle that the audience came to see and were designed to look impressive in broad daylight, with the audience right up close. This structure and the conventions of such a theater offered Shakespeare a wide range of possibilities for staging his plays. Now let's take a look at how Richard III might have been performed in a similar theater when it first appeared in 1592-1593 and later at the Globe itself. Shakespeare wrote his plays for an acting company. Its leading man was Richard Burbage, who became so identified with the role of Richard III that for years afterwards, his delivery of the line, "A horse! A horse! My kingdom for a horse!" (Act V, Scene iv) was famous. Richard III ends with a spectacular dueling scene which must be done properly. Shakespeare's audience would have included men who carried swords and knew how to use them. They expected a good, realistic duel, so the actors had to be accomplished swordsmen. Few props would have been needed for most of the play's action. King Henry's coffin, Edward IV's throne, the council table--these could easily have been taken on and off stage. There would be little need for the action to move off the main stage except for the "Petition Scene" when Richard appears aloft between two clergymen on the upper stage. When you get to Bosworth Field in the last act, the tents for the two opponents would be set up on either side of the stage. Even though they might only be twenty feet apart, you would accept that they were out of sight of each other. The ghosts would emerge through the trap doors and disappear the same way. Instead of vast crowds of soldiers, the battle would be suggested by a series of small personal combats, with individual warriors racing across the stage. The duel between Richmond and Richard would be fierce, with Richard being slain in full view. To highlight the final triumph, the corpse would be carried off by the victors. ^^^^^^^^^^RICHARD III: LINES 1-42 Dispensing with fanfare, a prologue or any other formal method of introduction, Shakespeare has Richard, Duke of Gloucester, enter the bare stage and set the scene. NOTE: CHARACTER IDENTIFICATION The Elizabethan audience would have no trouble identifying the character. Whether or not it was historically accurate, Richard's crippled stance, one shoulder higher than the other, a slightly withered arm and a scowling face, was an accepted picture. It was as recognizable as Lincoln's stove-pipe hat and bearded face would be to an American audience today. With his first words of the famous opening speech--"Now is the winter of our discontent"--he lets us know right off where matters stand. England is at peace. The Yorkist faction, identified by their family symbol, the sun, is in power. His brother, Edward IV, sits triumphantly on the throne, retired from the field of battle. But is all really well? Has the change in government been for the better? Richard's contempt is obvious as he describes the king's immoral behavior. Instead of acting like a military leader, King Edward now passes his time in amorous pursuits. None of that for Richard. As he continues, his displeasure spews forth. Listen as he draws the focus of attention to his own target: But I, that am not shaped for sportive tricks (line 14) I, that am rudely stamped, and want love's majesty (line 16) I, that am curtailed of this fair proportion (line 18) With speed and emphasis, Richard draws attention from the king's wanton pursuits to his own position in the world. It reinforces his aloneness, his singular concern. Yes, there are the various warring factions to contend with, as well as the troubled country. Yes, there is the political and dynastic situation. But Richard's main concern is Richard. Who is this Richard? His descriptive outburst is designed to stir the audience. Have you begun to feel sympathy for this deformed Duke? Is he the passive victim of a cruel fate, unable to transcend his physical handicaps? Or is he, as one critic has suggested, glorying his uniqueness? Is this his challenge, to see what he can do with such misshaped raw material? Here is reason to hate a world that puts him in his brother's shadow, outside the sunlight. Here are the first clues Shakespeare provides for the motive behind Richard's subsequent actions. Since Richard, the outsider, cannot enter into the pleasure of these sunny days, he will deliberately choose darkness. The sun will be made to shine on that negative aspect, his villainy. If he cannot be appreciated for benevolence, he will be a model of evil. That will be the source of his pleasure. There is no hesitation, just grim determination, expressed so clearly and candidly that there's no time to question it. As he continues to mull things over, Richard shares the first of his schemes with the audience. He has created a rift between the king and his older brother, George, the Duke of Clarence, by clever insinuation. NOTE: DREAMS Keep in mind that the Elizabethans were great believers in dreams. To Shakespeare's audience, dreams would have great prophetic value, and the interpretation of dreams was as commonplace then as astrological chatter is today. Like those of us who identify our personal fortunes with our daily horoscopes, the Elizabethans praised the parts that fit and rationalized those that didn't. Richard continues to share (intimately and generously) with the audience the pleasures he gets from his ability to act "subtle, false and treacherous." He has every hope that the king will believe the suggestion that his heirs will be murdered by someone whose name begins with the letter "G." The choice of the letter "G" did not originate with Shakespeare, but came from one of his sources. In the context of this play, however, it's particularly ironic. The letter could easily represent that part of Richard's title--"Gloucester"--commonly used by intimates. But as Richard has set it up, the finger clearly points to George, the Duke of Clarence. ^^^^^^^^^^RICHARD III: LINES 43-121 As if on cue, Clarence enters, guarded by Brakenbury, the Lieutenant of the Tower. He is being taken there at the king's command. NOTE: Although it was officially a royal palace and commonly used as a residence, the Tower of London was also a prison, notorious as a place where famous people had met their deaths. The mere mention of the Tower summoned up images of long imprisonment, torture and execution. In Elizabethan times it had been the scene of Mary, Queen of Scots' imprisonment and, a few years after Richard III was first presented, the celebrated Earl of Essex was executed there. Clarence explains that his only crime was in being christened "George." The gullible Edward IV has been told by a wizard that his heirs will be displaced by someone whose name begins with "G" and he has used that as an excuse to condemn poor Clarence. Richard's scheme has begun to work. Now it will be easier to dispose of this older brother, an obstacle to the throne. Apparently commiserating, the wily Richard suggests that Clarence's predicament is undoubtedly the result of the meddling of Edward IV's wife, Queen Elizabeth. He refers to her contemptuously by her former married name, "My Lady Grey." NOTE: It is difficult today to keep track of the various 15th-century families and their intertwined relationships. But for Shakespeare's audience, these were familiar names, some still prominent in Elizabeth I's court. They wouldn't have trouble remembering that Edward IV's wife Elizabeth had been born a Woodville and was then married to a man named Grey. But the name had even greater ironic impact as it recalled another Lady Grey, Jane, who had claimed the throne unsuccessfully and had been beheaded in 1554. Richard is lighthearted as he discusses Clarence's problem and makes snide comments about the king's mistress Jane Shore. He suggests that it was an appeal to her that enabled Hastings, the Lord Chamberlain to the king, to gain his release from the Tower. He generously offers to go to the court to plead for Clarence, telling him, "I will deliver you, or else lie for you." Does Richard plan to deliver Clarence from prison or to eternity? The irony of this statement will be apparent before long. For as soon as Clarence has been taken away, Richard's hypocrisy explodes. Love Clarence, does he? So much, he states outright, that he will speed his brother's journey to heaven. ^^^^^^^^^^RICHARD III: LINES 122-162 His pleasure in his own guile is interrupted by the entrance of Hastings. Now freed from imprisonment in the Tower, the Lord Chamberlain reveals hatred for the queen's relatives who caused his confinement. When Hastings gives the news that the king is ailing, Richard assumes a pious attitude, still managing to get in a sly reference to the king's wicked ways: O, he hath kept an evil diet long And overmuch consumed his royal person. (lines 139-140) For all Richard's cleverness and humor, the politician is at work. Hastings may hate the queen and her relatives, but he is loyal to the king and his children. By his intimacy, Richard tries to draw Hastings closer to himself. When Hastings leaves, Richard directs his intimacy to the audience as he reveals more of his plans. He is charged with energy as he speaks bluntly and directly about his purpose. Without coming right out and saying that he is after the crown, what other goal could he be driving at? Why else should he be concerned that the king may die before Clarence is out of the way? Why else would he attempt to bind up old wounds by marrying Lady Anne, the widow of the previous heir to the throne? NOTE: LADY ANNE A marriage to Lady Anne would suit Richard for many reasons. Not only was she the widow of Henry VI's heir, but she and Queen Margaret were the most prominent living representatives of the former Lancaster dynasty. Moreover, she was a great heiress whose property could enhance Richard's position substantially. The great obstacle to such a match was Richard's claim to having killed members of her family. Historically, there is no record of his direct involvement in her father Warwick's death. However, it was widely held that he may well have slain Anne's husband, the Prince of Wales, in hand-to-hand combat. And when her father-in-law, Henry VI, was tried and executed in prison, Richard was listed among the official observers. It was enough, however, for her to believe him guilty of such crimes and to despise and oppose him. Richard is cold-blooded as he states his plans and purpose. Recognizing the danger of haste and wasted energy, he tosses off what might seem like an idle metaphor: "But yet I run before my horse to market." It will be worth your while to keep that image in mind. ^^^^^^^^^^RICHARD III: LINES 1-32 This scene is generally considered one of the greatest ever written by Shakespeare and among the most difficult to perform. It involves a single-minded attempt by Richard to make good on his boast that he will marry Lady Anne, a formidable enemy. Against all odds, he must not only overcome her loathing of him, but must turn her so completely in the other direction that she will agree to marry him. Furthermore, this complete revolution is to take place within a few minutes on stage. Could any real-life person possibly achieve such an objective? By setting up this incredible challenge so early in the play, is Shakespeare giving the audience a compressed view of Richard's energy and powers of persuasion? How much does this tell you about Richard the actor? By his own admission, you know his motives. There is nothing to do now but observe the master at his craft. The scene opens with a procession that is carrying the coffin of the late Lancastrian king, Henry VI. It is a striking reminder that even kings are mortal. Lady Anne, attended by two noblemen, leads the way as chief mourner for her father-in-law. In case anyone in the audience had forgotten the relevant details of the situation, Shakespeare provides a reminder in Anne's first speech. Ironically, the one who will become united with the ultimate cause of her grief pronounces the first curse on Richard. Not only does she cry for vengeance, but "if ever he have a wife," let her know even greater misery than Anne knows now. Remember this violent wish of Anne's. Like those repeated throughout, it is not an idle remark but carries the potential force of prophecy. Notice, too, the number and kinds of animals she invokes to curse him, including the lowest forms. ^^^^^^^^^^RICHARD III: LINES 33-170 As the funeral procession starts up again, Richard enters and commands it to stop. The whirlwind courtship is about to take place. It will take him slightly more than five minutes, speaking forty-three times, to persuade a woman whose husband and father-in-law he has acknowledged murdering to become his wife of her own accord. Does this sound preposterous? Then get set for a lesson in verbal economy. NOTE: STICHOMYTHIA In the course of their verbal duel, Richard and Anne will use that form of patterned speech Shakespeare probably learned from the works of the Roman playwright, Seneca, which were popular in his time. It involves a bouncing back and forth, in exact meter, of parallel expression, roughly a "point" and "counterpoint" to the same beat. There will be other powerful examples later in the play, but notice how the device operates here. ANNE: I would I knew thy heart. RICHARD: 'Tis figured in my tongue. ANNE: I fear me both are false. RICHARD: Then never was man true. (lines 192-195) Anne's first response to his arrival is an outpouring of fresh curses. But Richard ignores her words and assumes a falsely pious position, mildly chiding her and launching into his courtship. As the honey pours from his lips, a new obstacle arises. In his presence, the corpse seems to undergo a mystic change and blood begins to pour out of its wounds. Here is a touch of gore that the Elizabethan audience, steeped in a tradition of mystical happenings, would readily accept. Richard ignores the fresh stream of insults and curses prompted by the incident. Instead he quickly returns to his main line of attack--flattery. He calls Lady Anne the "divine perfection of a woman." Such praise must startle her, even though she is quick to reply that he is the "divine infection of a man." No matter. Nothing will stop him. Even when her contempt reaches its ultimate point, when she spits in his face, he turns it to his advantage. He adds pity to his flattery. Not even the savage deaths of his father and brother, the Duke of Rutland, have filled his eyes with tears. But the thought of her beauty has. Can such a claim fail to impress? In a long speech, he summons up images of personal sorrow and remorse, and further claims of his sincerity. It gives Lady Anne enough reason to pause for reflection. ^^^^^^^^^^RICHARD III: LINES 171-263 Having used intimacy, Richard will now be generous, as well as daring. He offers her his sword. If she cannot believe that it was her beauty and his passion for her that drove him to commit murder, then she must kill him right then and there. Forgive him or be his executioner. Imagine what the weight of such expressed passion must be to Lady Anne. It is more than she can bear and she drops the sword. If she had thrust forward, would the course of English history have changed? Do you think Richard would have allowed her to kill him? Doesn't Richard seem to know her better than she knows herself? How does his verbal mastery indicate her psychological insight? Note how many different stances he takes in a very short period of time. Even though she cannot do it, she claims he must do the job himself. But there is no more resistance in her now. Although they continue to exchange barbs, the game is won and Richard manages to put a ring on her finger to seal the engagement. Has he merely worn her down or has he swept her off her feet? Has his ugliness and deformity really stood in his way, or has he exploited it to his advantage by arousing her compassion? Obviously, he has advanced a step closer to his goal, but what else has happened in this perverse courtship scene? Does it tell you something about Richard's attitude toward winning? Did you feel any real passion in his wooing--enough to move you? Any notion that he may have been touched by Lady Anne's own grief is shattered the moment she leaves. Willfully, he changes the direction of the funeral cortege for no discernible reason. Is it done out of spite? Or is it simply a display of his authority and control? Once the stage has been cleared, he can barely contain himself. He seems as surprised by his own success as by Lady Anne's default. Winning her is sweet, although he admits he "will not keep her long." Spurred on by his success with Anne, and despite his physical shortcomings, he has a seemingly newfound change in attitude. He will adorn this character of his own creation with new clothes and will attend to his outward appearance. Remember the "sun" that spotlighted his deformity? How does he feel about it now? ^^^^^^^^^^RICHARD III: LINES 1-41 The entrance of Queen Elizabeth, attended by her brother (Lord Rivers) and her sons from a previous marriage (the Marquess of Dorset and Lord Grey), signals that the action has moved inside the royal palace, probably at Westminster. Until now, we have had only Richard's word about the political situation. Is the kingdom secure? Are there political squabbles at court? Questions have been suggested, but we have had only one point of view. This scene gives you a chance to enlarge your picture of outside events. Queen Elizabeth expresses her concern over the king's precarious health. What troubles her most? What will happen to her if he dies. Even though her son, young Edward, the Prince of Wales, should inherit the throne, he is underage. Here is the first warning that succession is no simple matter. It is further established that the queen fears her brother-in-law, Richard of Gloucester, who has been named Protector. NOTE: PROTECTOR The position of Protector of the Realm was an important and powerful assignment. In the event that the king died and his heir was underage, the Protector was the ultimate authority, speaking for and acting in the name of the monarch. Richard's father, the Duke of York, had also held that title under Henry VI and had used it as a springboard for his attempt to seize the crown. For those Elizabethans familiar with that story, this first mention of the title might have suggested that the Wheel of Fortune was turning. The Earl of Buckingham enters with Lord Stanley (the Earl of Derby), and Queen Elizabeth reveals that Derby's wife, the Countess of Richmond, is still considered her personal enemy on the Lancaster side, even though the war is over. Was Richard right? How powerful and petty is this Elizabeth? But Buckingham and Stanley have more important matters to discuss. The king, whom they have just left, is improving. He now wishes to make peace among the various court factions--between the Duke of Gloucester and the queen's party, between the latter and Hastings, the Lord Chamberlain. ^^^^^^^^^^RICHARD III: LINES 42-108 As Queen Elizabeth expresses her doubts of that happening, Richard makes a boisterous entrance. He is loudly engaged in what sounds like a private conversation with Hastings. He swears that he is being libeled by complaints that he is too harsh. He complains that he is condemned because he is too honest, that he "cannot flatter and look fair." Alas, he moans, "Cannot a plain man live and think no harm?" (I, iii, 51) By now you should be familiar with such hypocrisy, but what is its effect on the characters on stage? Are they any better as they protest their own innocence of such charges? Is Richard very far from the mark when he observes: ...the world is grown so bad That wrens make prey where eagles dare not perch. Since every Jack became a gentleman, There's many a gentle person made a Jack. (lines 69-72) NOTE: Historical records indicate that when she married Edward IV, Elizabeth brought many relatives into the court and used her position to help them obtain property and titles through royal appointments and favorable marriages. Richard's speech reflects the grumbling that commonly took place by those who were shunted aside to make room for these "newly-arrived" court favorites. No way will that slight go unanswered. The queen insists that envy is at work. Well, then, if his subtle rhetoric won't work, Richard will be blunt. He needs the queen, so he claims, to help free his brother Clarence from the prison to which he has been condemned as a result of her backbiting. Elizabeth's quick denial and support from Rivers provides an opportunity for Richard to demonstrate his lightning quick shrewdness. He seizes upon the single word "may" and twists the whole discussion to his advantage. As he and the queen continue to accuse one another, old Queen Margaret, the widow of Henry VI (whose corpse was seen only moments ago) enters the stage unnoticed. Shakespeare's condensation of history is compounded by Margaret's presence here. Not only is this historically inaccurate, but it is chronologically impossible. To break so blatantly with fact, the playwright must have seen a genuine need for her presence on stage. Notice the careful steps that are taken to bring her forward, gradually but powerfully. At first she appears to be merely a chorus, commenting on the action although not participating in it. But she soon becomes a visible force in her own right. ^^^^^^^^^^RICHARD III: LINES 109-318 As Margaret enters, the present queen, Elizabeth, makes a prophetic statement as a virtual cue. Small joy have I in being England's queen. (line 109) From here on, as a contrast to the conversation between Elizabeth and Richard, Margaret continues her bitter side comments. Richard thunders forth his defense of poor Clarence, his scorn for the queen's turnabout from the Lancastrian side and for the royal patronage she has extended to her family and friends. It's enough to draw a searing curse from Margaret, who has been privately telling the audience about the wickedness of both Richard and Queen Elizabeth in the past: Hie thee to hell for shame, and leave this world. Thou cacodemon! There thy kingdom is. (lines 142-143) Right on the heels of this prophetic wish comes the first hint that others are aware of Richard's intentions. As Lord Rivers defends loyalty to the throne, Richard snaps at his words. If he should be king? Far be it from my heart, the thought thereof! (line 147) Queen Elizabeth continues to harp on her misery. The repetition serves notice that this is not to be forgotten. Is it mere self-examination? Or is prophecy at work? Whatever the case, it is too much for Margaret, who now steps forward and draws attention by the force of her presence. NOTE: MARGARET OF ANJOU While the audience might be moved by the sight of this pitiful old woman, the Yorkists would have less sympathy. They might well remember, as Richard will point out, her vicious campaign to keep the crown for her husband and son. Margaret had been a powerful political force in her own right and had never shied from bloodying her own hands. According to tradition, the Duke of Rutland, the younger brother of Edward IV, Richard, and Clarence, was slain by her forces at the Battle of Wakefield. Margaret then took a handkerchief dipped in his blood and flourished it gleefully in Richard's father's face. She later had the Duke of York's head displayed on the city gates to broadcast her Lancastrian victory. This was no timid old lady, but a toughened veteran of combat. She is the visible reminder of what can happen to the crown as the Wheel of Fortune changes direction. She directs her curses toward the newest contender for its possession, and reminds them somewhat jealously of the price of usurpation: This sorrow that I have, by right is yours, And all the pleasures you usurp are mine. (lines 171-172) Aren't they all usurpers, guilty of meddling with the rightful political order? In the end, who will win? What do you think will be the effect of Queen Margaret's prophecies? Of the curses leveled at Elizabeth, Rivers, Dorset, and even Hastings? And, most of all, at Richard? Notice what she wishes for him--that he have no friends he can trust, no sleep without nightmares, no peace at all. She offers a checklist for the audience as she curses him by the foulest names, striking even at his crippled form. As this duel of words accelerates, it may remind you of another duel recently performed. In his match with Lady Anne, Richard had the clear advantage. Is there a difference with Margaret? In your opinion, which character gains the upper hand? Can you find lines to support your decision? Even though he scorns them as mere pawns or enemies, the women Richard encounters are never at a loss for words. In his courtship scenes and face-offs with the women in this play, Richard must push his intelligence and energy to the limit to keep up with them verbally. As Margaret's ranting mounts, Dorset tries to pass her off as a lunatic. But she has a few words for this upstart, and for once Richard can echo her sentiments. He quickly turns the focus back to his own nobility. In doing so, he picks up his original disdain for the sun, and, as it were, the king. Margaret makes an appropriate response, only now she represents the shade, the opposing side. Even the intervention of Richard's future henchman, Buckingham, cannot stop her. He is not a target for her curses, but she warns him, too, to beware of Richard. As Buckingham sneers at her warning, she repeats it, now emphatically. Buckingham has just earned his place in her prophecy of doom at Richard's hands. When Margaret leaves, Richard states that he cannot blame her for what she has become. Has he been deaf to the greatest cry for revenge that will be heard on that stage? Or is this a real expression of a human emotion coming from this apparent fiend? Is it just a "curve" he throws at the audience and those on stage? As the play progresses, Richard will frequently come up with the unexpected. The duality of his character surfaces soon enough when Rivers praises him for his "virtuous... and Christianlike conclusion." Richard agrees, but in an aside he quickly shares his diabolical motivation with the audience. ^^^^^^^^^^RICHARD III: LINES 319-354 Catesby, whom you will soon recognize as Richard's close ally, announces that King Edward has called for them to join him in his chambers. All leave, except Richard. Rejoicing in his devilish behavior, he announces his intention to be revenged on Rivers, Dorset, and Grey--the queen's family--for their affronts. Even this villain seeks revenge for petty offenses. How will he accomplish all this? By playing the role of virtuous soul while practicing villainy. Is there any reason to doubt his ability to act that part? He has summoned two murderers who now arrive. They need a warrant to gain admission to the Tower where they will assassinate Clarence. Appearances must be maintained. As he hands over the warrant, Richard warns them to do the job swiftly and not to listen to Clarence: For Clarence is well-spoken, and perhaps May move your hearts to pity if you mark him. (lines 347-348) Richard fears the power of the spoken word, especially in an enemy. But the First Murderer is plainspoken and offers his opinion that "talkers are no good doers," providing the audience with food for thought. ^^^^^^^^^^RICHARD III: LINES 1-73 Any question about Clarence's gifts for speaking is soon cleared up. As the scene begins, he is given the perfect straight line by his jailer: "What was your dream, my lord? I pray you tell me." And he does, in an impassioned poetic passage. Notice the contrast between Clarence's lyric speech and the abrupt dialogue or soliloquies we've been hearing up to now. This is the story of a dream, but it weaves a spell of its own with its vivid images and lush metaphors that appeal to all the senses. With their profound belief in the supernatural, imagine how this must have moved the Elizabethan audience. Clarence relates how he had escaped from prison and had embarked on a journey by ship, accompanied by his brother Richard. Tempted to walk along the slippery deck, Clarence was knocked overboard by the stumbling Richard, whom he tried to save from falling. As Clarence began to drown, incredible images appeared--rotting ships, great treasures, corpses, etc. Eventually he was conveyed to the "kingdom of perpetual night" where he saw the ghosts of those he had wronged and murdered. NOTE: In this symbolic journey of political crimes and death, Clarence's role in several murders also claimed by Richard is revealed. Is the guilt for these crimes shared by the entire York dynasty? The terror of his dream has triggered remorse as Clarence openly acknowledges his guilt. Praying that his wife and children be spared from his punishment, Clarence then lies down to sleep. ^^^^^^^^^^RICHARD III: LINES 74-286 Brakenbury, the jailer, enters and reflects on the nature of royalty. As he looks at this great prince asleep on the prison floor, he observes how little a difference there is in human beings, with the exception of outward titles. Shakespeare will often put the words for such an important statement into the mouth of a relatively minor character in order to call attention to them. Keep that in mind and see if it happens again in later scenes. Since there has not yet been any humor in the play, the discussion which takes place as the two murderers arrive presents an opportunity for broad comic interpretation. Here is an opportunity for the groundlings to identify with what happens on stage. Shakespeare understood the need to provide relief from the dark mood. But in those comic lines, is there perhaps more than a grain of wisdom? As they discuss how they will murder Clarence, notice the difference in their personalities. The Second Murderer has scruples, despite his profession. He has a conscience which troubles him. Clarence asks why they have come, but can't believe his brother, the king, is the agent of his doom. He recounts the many past services he has rendered King Edward. But the two men, surprisingly well informed, deflect his every thrust. Eventually, they reveal that it is the Duke of Gloucester, Richard, who has arranged for Clarence's execution. Clarence is astonished. By calling Richard "kind," he displays the depth of his gullibility and the extent of Richard's success as a schemer. NOTE: The First Murderer answers Clarence's claim that Richard is "kind" with a flippant, "Right as [just like] snow in harvest." Shakespeare sprinkled everyday expressions such as this throughout the play, and usually placed them in the mouths of common people. In doing so, he gave the average Elizabethan viewers touches of familiarity and comforting connections between their ordinary world and the world of kings on stage. In desperation, Clarence looks to religion for help. He reminds them that they will have to answer to God for what they are about to do. Moreover, those who commissioned the deed will desert them and even blame them. But these threats of vengeance do no good. His last plea reaches from the highest to the lowest--"A begging prince what beggar pities not?" (I, iv, 265)--but to no avail. He is stabbed and, to insure that he is dead, his body is taken off to be drowned in a "malmsey butt," a cask of wine. Unable to bear the burden of his conscience, the Second Murderer declares that he rejects the fee. He is genuinely contrite in contrast to the First Murderer, who shares no such feeling. As the First Murderer leaves to collect his reward, he acknowledges, however, that he must then flee for his own safety after word of this deed gets out. ^^^^^^^^^^RICHARD III: LINES 1-46 Following this scene of blood and death, there comes a sharp contrast. We witness our first royal procession as Edward IV enters, trailed in order of rank by Queen Elizabeth and members of the court. This includes her brother (Rivers), her sons (Dorset and Grey), the Lord Chamberlain, Hastings, the Duke of Buckingham and Sir Thomas Catesby. NOTE: ROYAL PROCESSIONS This is the second King of England to appear on stage and the differences are striking. When the corpse of Henry VI was brought on stage, there would have been a mournful sound of muffled drums. The tone would be dark and somber. Now, the presence of this live king is heralded by trumpets, banners and great ceremony. His courtiers would be dressed in rich finery, bright and gaily colored. What does this tell you about kingship? Each procession would have been strictly formal, of course, with participants ranked in order of nobility or service. Such processions were a graphic reminder of the importance of order in this world and the beyond. This tradition was still a fact of life in Elizabethan times. Aware that he doesn't have long to live, the frail king tries to make peace in his court before he dies, to perform his kingly function by re-establishing order. He has arranged a truce between Hastings and Rivers, who had been bitter enemies. He then makes peace between Dorset and Buckingham and the queen herself. Swearing his loyalty to the queen, Buckingham vows to be true to his oath, calling on God to punish him if he is ever false. ^^^^^^^^^^RICHARD III: LINES 47-96 At this moment, Richard enters. He claims to be pleased with the king's peacemaking efforts and professes his desire for harmony, too. In fact, he claims to be at peace with every Englishman alive. Is there a reason why anyone on stage should doubt this? Has Richard perhaps reformed during the few moments we haven't seen him? This piety, real or assumed, seems to work. Moved by the spirit of the moment, Queen Elizabeth asks King Edward to pardon his own brother Clarence. That's Richard's cue. He startles everyone by announcing that Clarence is already dead. A stay of execution? The order from the king came too late, he cries. ^^^^^^^^^^RICHARD III: LINES 97-142 While the shock waves are still rippling, Lord Stanley enters. He asks King Edward to pardon one of his servants who has killed a man, possibly in self-defense. Can the king feel compassion for a mere servant at such a time? Hardly. His thoughts are with Clarence, whom he now recalls as faithful and dear to him, this brother whom he imprisoned. He echoes Clarence's story of loyal service and turns against the others. Why had they never spoken up for Clarence when Edward lashed out at him? They will pay, they will all pay, he prophesies as he departs in grief and anger. Another cry for revenge? Is this what you expect of a king? With Edward and his court gone, Buckingham and Richard are left behind. Richard remarks that he noticed a sense of guilt in members of the queen's family when Clarence's death was announced. Now he, of all people, asks God to avenge that deed. Is this a device to deflect suspicion from himself? Or does he possibly believe himself to be God's messenger? Is it simply a way to draw Buckingham into his confidence? There's no time to ponder as they leave to join the others in consoling the king. ^^^^^^^^^^RICHARD III: LINES 1-100 Following a scene of treachery and intrigue comes one of great emotion. You have heard and seen sadness with regard to past events. Now you witness the grief of a mother and children for an event that has just occurred on stage. Through such contrasts, Shakespeare maintains the balance that will hold his audience's interest as the plot develops. The aged Duchess of York, mother of Edward IV, Richard, and Clarence, enters with Clarence's young son and daughter. She tries to contain her grief, passing her tears off as concern for their sick uncle, the king. But these children, the first we meet, are too wise. They know their father is dead. Uncle Richard told them that the king, "provoked to it by the queen," was the cause. But he has assured them that they can rely on kindly Uncle Richard. The Duchess cannot contain her scorn for this deceitful son, referring to him as her "shame." Still, he seems to have captured the children in his web. Queen Elizabeth, followed by Rivers and Dorset, bursts in, announcing that King Edward IV has just died. A chorus of lamentation now begins, setting a standard for the cries of women heard throughout the play. Again Shakespeare borrows from the classics in his design of this "wailing chorus" section. As the children, the Duchess, and the Queen, lament and echo each other's cries, they are following the antiphonal style established for such moments in ancient Greek and Roman drama. An "antiphon" is like a psalm or verse sung responsively. Amidst all the weeping, Dorset and Rivers maintain their balance. They urge Queen Elizabeth to have her son (the Prince of Wales) brought to London. The sooner he is crowned, the safer they all will be. ^^^^^^^^^^RICHARD III: LINES 101-154 Hard on their words, Richard enters, accompanied by what is becoming his "party"--Buckingham, Derby, and Hastings. After paying respects to the bereaved queen, he asks for his mother's blessing. But he mocks her privately in an aside to the audience. The platform stage which thrust out into the audience made asides quite common in Elizabethan drama. An actor might stand in one corner and, by fixing his gaze at a few groundlings (those in the cheaper, ground area) project a conversation to the entire audience. He could speak in what seemed like a soft or a loud voice but still be recognized as being involved in an intimate conversation. Buckingham takes the initiative of discussing the future of the heir to the crown, the Prince of Wales. He suggests that the Prince be brought quietly to London from his residence in Ludlow, a journey of about 130 miles. Why such a subdued entrance? Buckingham suggests that the disagreement in the court has trickled down to the general population and there is great unrest. It is too soon to test the late King's peacemaking. Why stir things up? Rivers and Hastings agree, then go off with the women and children to commence arrangements. Buckingham and Richard, alone on the stage, have something else in mind. It must be arranged that they are both members of the escort party, says Buckingham. During the journey, they will separate the queen's party from the rest in order to further their secret plan. What is this plan? You may know the end they hope to achieve, but what about the means? Richard claims that these are his very thoughts--even the words he would have used himself. He lavishes praise on Buckingham, calling him "my other self." As Buckingham drinks it all in, notice how Richard's skillful charm is as effective with men as with women. Buckingham may now be added to the list of the gullible. ^^^^^^^^^^RICHARD III: LINES 1-47 Until now, attention has been chiefly focused on the great affairs of state, involving the rulers and members of the nobility. But what is really going on in the country? How are such affairs perceived at the lower levels? Shakespeare shifts attention to that in this scene. Here are three commoners meeting, apparently on a London street, to discuss what has happened and what is likely to happen to the country. This is certainly not the broad comedy of the two murderers in their earlier banter, but it still has the effect of lightening the texture of the drama. It provides a change of pace. This allows the darkness of the scenes which follow to have greater effect. These Three Citizens represent a cross section of attitudes. The First Citizen is a friendly, optimistic man who feels that "All will be well." The Second Citizen is not so confident. He fears "'twill prove a giddy world." Even though there is an heir, he is still a minor and can rule only with the aid of a Council. See how Shakespeare works the concern for orderly succession into the general conversation. The Third Citizen is pessimistic about the "troublous world" caused by Edward IV's death. He knows what a king should be and echoes the biblical sentiment, "Woe to that land that's governed by a child!" Shakespeare's borrowings from the Old Testament are not uncommon in this play. At times such as this, they are almost literal. Whenever a familiar expression is sounded, it offers a reminder of the Old Testament God, that fierce avenger of evil who transcends the drama on stage. The Third Citizen knows that the presence of a Council will not insure security since there are so many hostile uncles lurking about. Notice how he singles out the Duke of Gloucester on one side and Queen Elizabeth's relatives on the other. The three Citizens freely refer to God throughout their conversation, but the Third Citizen lacks confidence as he points out the troubled state of their "sickly land." The cause is clear; Edward IV is gone, and when the "sun sets," darkest night is sure to follow, despite God's will. All may be well; but if God sort [arranges] it so 'Tis more than we deserve or I expect. (lines 36-37) This short scene among the three commoners expresses the familiar Shakespearean notion that whenever there is trouble in high political places, it is reflected in nature's turmoil of "untimely storms." ^^^^^^^^^^RICHARD III: LINES 1-73 The confrontation of forces has been slowly building. But before any eruption will take place, Shakespeare carefully creates tension and suspicion. Notice how this transitional scene begins with a relatively calm interlude. The Archbishop of York is seen conversing with Queen Elizabeth, her youngest son (Duke of York) and her mother-in-law (Duchess of York). They discuss the progress of the escort party bringing the Prince of Wales to London. The old Duchess has not seen her grandson in some time and mentions rumors of his great growth. We are in the midst of a quiet domestic scene. A slightly jarring note is introduced when the young Duke of York quotes his uncle, Richard. The Duke of Gloucester has told him that "Small herbs have grace, great weeds do grow apace." Obviously, the proverb is not designed to provide much comfort for the younger boy who has grown more quickly than his older brother. Does this suggest anything about the relationship between Richard and his older brothers? Taking him literally, the Duchess states that Richard is not a good example of the saying's message. The boy continues to jest about his uncle, relating the rumor he has heard that Richard was born with a full set of teeth! NOTE: This was just one of the rumors surrounding Richard's birth. The superstitious Elizabethans believed that getting teeth early was the sign of a troublesome child, an evil temper, and a capacity for mischief. Silly as that may sound, is it any different from the recent attitude that a high brow is the sign of an intellectual? The boy is scolded for his boldness when a messenger enters with more news. The Prince of Wales is well, but Rivers and Grey, along with Sir Thomas Vaughan, another member of the queen's party, have been sent to Pomfret Castle as prisoners. Gloucester and Buckingham have committed them for unknown reasons. Queen Elizabeth rightly perceives that Richard has moved to consolidate his power. She sees the danger to her son and the political peril in almost equal balance. The Duchess of York recalls the tragic loss of her own husband in his quest for the crown. She prays for an end to her misery. But Queen Elizabeth moves to protect her remaining child. They must flee to the sanctuary. NOTE: SANCTUARY According to medieval tradition, the protection of the Church was extended to all those within the boundaries of the cathedral. No one could be forcibly removed from a place of sanctuary against his or her will. Designated places of sanctuary included Westminster Abbey in London where the queen was now headed. So great was the sanctity of such a place that it was considered the ultimate sin to violate a place of sanctuary. ^^^^^^^^^^RICHARD III: LINES 1-59 The long-awaited entry into London by the Prince of Wales now takes place. He enters to the sound of trumpets, followed by Richard, Buckingham, Catesby, Cardinal Bourchier, the Archbishop of Canterbury, and other members of the court with all their attendants. The Prince is dissatisfied that his maternal uncles are not there to greet him. Richard assures him that they were a threat to his safety. As the Prince disagrees, showing some spirit, there is a reminder that technically this boy is the king, although not yet crowned. Here, you see another view of a king on stage. By way of contrast, the Lord Mayor arrives to offer his welcome. He is followed by Lord Hastings, who informs everyone that Queen Elizabeth and the Duke of York have gone into sanctuary. The elegant gathering begins to turn into a family spat. Buckingham orders the Cardinal to extract the young duke--by force, if necessary. The Cardinal warns that such an act would be an infringement of the privilege of sanctuary. But Buckingham argues persuasively that the boy is too young to have sought sanctuary on his own, and thus not technically entitled to its protection. The spineless Cardinal is easily convinced. For all his bluster, he crumbles under pressure and leaves with Hastings to bring the boy to his brother. ^^^^^^^^^^RICHARD III: LINES 60-94 As Lord Protector, the guardian of the realm and of the young king, Richard has some authority, which he now exercises. He reveals that he has chosen the Tower of London as the best place for the two princes to await the coronation. But the Prince of Wales does not like the idea of the Tower. In a clever dialogue with Richard, he shows his brand of precocity, prompting his uncle to remark snidely in an aside: "So wise so young, they say do never live long" (III, i, 79). But this ironical comment is only half-heard by the alert prince. So Richard revises it in repetition. Then, in another aside, he gloats over his own cleverness, comparing himself to "the formal Vice, Iniquity." As the prince continues to expound on the virtue of brave acts, he keeps rubbing Richard the wrong way. Has anyone been able to provoke the Duke of Gloucester in this way? In an aside, using another proverb, Richard continues to predict a bad end for this prince. Hastings and Cardinal Bourchier then return with the younger brother, the Duke of York. ^^^^^^^^^^RICHARD III: LINES 95-200 A warm but formal greeting follows. All must acknowledge this youngster because of his royal status. But the respect shown to these children must appall Richard and remind him that they stood in his way. Nevertheless, the picture is not as clear-cut as it may seem. Even though Richard is the obvious villain, where is the opposing view of goodness? How well do the princes represent virtue and innocence? Richard has had enough and announces that the boys are to be housed in the Tower. When young York hears that this is to be their destination, he expresses fear that the ghost of his late uncle Clarence will haunt them there. He claims that he was told by his grandmother, the Duchess of York, that Clarence had been murdered in the Tower. The older prince assures his brother that he fears no dead uncles. The foxy Richard replies, "Nor none that live, I hope" (III, i, 147). Imagine, then, how this young King Edward V's parting words would touch the audience who knew, or believed they knew, his fate: And if they live, I hope I need not fear. But come, my lord; with a heavy heart, Thinking on them, go I unto the Tower. (lines 148-150) In an orderly recessional, all leave the stage except Richard, Buckingham and Catesby. Buckingham tells us that he does not admire "this prating little York" who appears to be prompted by his mother to harass his uncle. Richard agrees, but not without admiration. To him, the youngster is "bold, quick, ingenious, forward, capable" (III, i, 155). Instead of expressing contempt, Richard surprises us yet again. Assuming the role of campaign manager, Buckingham sends Catesby off to find out how Hastings feels about Richard becoming king. There can be no doubt about their intention to install Richard on the throne. They now need support from Hastings and Stanley. As Catesby goes off, Richard suggests he notify Lord Hastings that his former enemies, the prisoners at Pomfret, are about to be executed. He adds a greeting, too, for Jane Shore, who has moved from his master the king's bed to Hastings'. Catesby has barely left before Buckingham asks what they will do if Hastings doesn't come over to their side: RICHARD: Chop off his head! (line 193) No hesitation, no question of mercy. This is serious life-and-death business. But Richard tempers his harshness by soothing Buckingham with promises of great rewards for his faithful service. He will receive the earldom of Hereford as well as much of the late king's household treasure. Richard promises Buckingham that he will "have it yielded with all kindness," as the two go off to dinner and further plotting. Richard's promises will be worth remembering when Buckingham comes for his reward. ^^^^^^^^^^RICHARD III: LINES 1-34 As the list of Richard's victims grows, Shakespeare carefully provides you with a character sketch of each. Before they are condemned to their fates, their gullibility and weaknesses are exposed plainly. Hastings has been a mere functionary until now. Here you see him on his own ground. A messenger sent by Stanley arrives in the middle of the night at Hastings' door. Stanley has had a strange dream, warning him of impending danger to those who oppose "the boar," Richard's personal symbol. And, if that is not enough of an omen, Stanley has heard that there will be two Council meetings on the following day, a public and a private one. At the latter, the fate of those loyal to the late king and his family may be decided. They must do something about this, Stanley urges. Hastings wonders how anyone can believe in dreams. Yet the Elizabethans placed great store in them and their prophetic value. Hastings continues. All this nonsense about boars might only stir up quiet waters. As for the private Council meeting, his good friend Catesby will be there and will surely report everything that takes place. ^^^^^^^^^^RICHARD III: LINES 35-70 As the messenger leaves, Catesby enters and gets right to the point. There is unrest in the land and there will be no true peace until Richard wears the crown. Aghast, Hastings points to his head and declares: I'll have this crown of mine cut from my shoulders Before I'll see the crown so foul misplaced. (lines 43-44) Another of Richard's doomed victims has pronounced his own sentence. Even the news of his enemies' execution at Pomfret Castle cannot change Hastings' mind. Catesby continues to bait him, but Hastings only confirms his loyalty to the children of his late master, Edward IV. Besides, he smiles confidently, his safety is virtually guaranteed by his friends, the Dukes of Gloucester and Buckingham. Catesby, of course, knows better. He confides to the audience that they'll end up treating Hastings like a traitor. ^^^^^^^^^^RICHARD III: LINES 71-122 Hastings welcomes Stanley, who arrives in a state of anxiety. When he openly expresses concern about the two Council meetings, Hastings insists that there is no danger. Would he risk his life if there were? Stanley reminds him that the prisoners at Pomfret were just as confident a short while ago. And where are they today? Beheaded, replies Hastings with obvious delight at the fate of his enemies. He, too, can be vengeful. But Stanley is not as confident and distrusts the situation. Hastings will hear no more, so he dismisses Stanley and Catesby. Having barely left for the only Council meeting there really will be at the Tower, Hastings comes upon a "pursuivant," a state messenger. He recognizes this man as the same person he had met once before when he was, coincidentally, on his way to imprisonment in the Tower. Now he can share his pleasure at this twist of Fate that has brought revenge on those very enemies who had been responsible for that imprisonment. The passing parade continues as Shakespeare presses the point of Hastings' naivete even further. To the next passerby, a priest, Hastings makes a vow to meet with him "come the next Sabbath." A day of rest? For Hastings that rest will be eternal. Buckingham arrives during this conversation and assures Hastings that he needs no priest. Rather, he tells him, they could have used one at Pomfret. As they walk along toward the Council meeting at the Tower, Hastings remarks that he will probably be there long enough to have a midday meal. Buckingham adds in an aside that he will undoubtedly be there at suppertime, too. ^^^^^^^^^^RICHARD III: LINES 1-25 For all the talk of their execution, Rivers, Grey and Vaughan are not dead. They are now being led to the block by Ratcliffe, one of Richard's henchmen. This brief scene takes place at Pomfret Castle, where Richard II was, according to tradition, "hacked to death" in 1400. This set off the struggle for kingly power that has led to the present chaos, usurpations, revenge, and political crimes. Grey recalls Margaret's curses. But Rivers points out that she has cursed Richard and Buckingham as well. In his final moments, he prays that God will remember those particular names. ^^^^^^^^^^RICHARD III: LINES 1-57 This scene takes place within the Tower at the Council meeting. To establish that, it would probably be preceded by the formal placement of a table and seats. Then the members of the Council would enter in orderly fashion and take their places, according to their ranks. Ritual underscored the importance of order on the surface while disruption seethed below. The ironic setting of the Tower, too, would not be lost on the Elizabethan audience. The Council has gathered to set a date for the coronation of the young King Edward V. Everyone is there except Richard. Without him, the Protector, they cannot confirm the proposal made by the Bishop of Ely to have the coronation the next day. Now watch how Buckingham starts to maneuver the victim. He asks if anyone knows how Richard might feel about the proposed coronation date. Hastings is singled out as the closest to Richard, giving that foolish man an opportunity to save himself by the tiniest display of humility. But Hastings, confident of Richard's approval, announces he will take the responsibility for voting as his proxy. Just then Richard enters the meeting, apologizing for having overslept. This is the first we've heard of Richard's nocturnal rest and should be noted. When told that Hastings was about to answer for him, he seems to find nothing wrong with that. With his well-known moodiness, Richard has no trouble in suddenly distracting them from the business before the Council. On the pretext of having seen some strawberries he desired in the Bishop's garden, he sends that councilor off to bring him some. He then steps aside for a private meeting with Buckingham. Quickly discussing Hastings' refusal to go along with them, they leave the meeting room to conspire further. ^^^^^^^^^^RICHARD III: LINES 58-106 Well-rehearsed, they return to the meeting, in which no agreement has been reached about the coronation date. Richard is now in a lather. He is suffering, his crippled body is in pain. He accuses someone of using witchcraft to torment him. Hastings shouts that anyone who did so surely deserves death. Displaying his withered arm, Richard accuses both Queen Elizabeth and Mistress Shore. The trap is set. Will Hastings take the bait? How will it be sprung? Hastings gasps, "If they have done this deed." "If!" The word strikes like a thunderbolt. Upon that wavering of an instant and that single word, Richard pounces and condemns Hastings as a guilty accessory. What was it Hastings had said the guilty party deserved? Richard pronounces the sentence: "Off with his head." Swearing that he will not be able to eat until the sentence is carried out, he storms out, leaving Ratcliffe and Lovel to deal with the condemned man. NOTE: Lovel and Ratcliffe, along with Catesby, were to become three of the historic Richard's closest allies. When he became King, Richard granted them lavish promotions and allowed them to exercise great power. It was widely felt that they abused this power. So well known was this threesome and their relationship to the king (whose symbol was a boar), that a dissident posted a notice on a cathedral door in 1484: The Cat, the Rat, and Lovel our dog Ruleth all England under a Hog. Their notoriety became famous by that couplet, which is still studied by some English schoolchildren as part of their history lessons. Now Hastings grieves over his own stupidity. He recalls all the warnings he has ignored, particularly Margaret's curse. In his agony you may hear the echo of Clarence's vision of the hazardous journey to death. In his last words, he prophesies troubled times ahead for his poor country, and for his executioners. The truth of his words will soon be known. Meanwhile, you've just heard another recapitulation of Margaret's curses and a demand for vengeance. ^^^^^^^^^^RICHARD III: LINES 1-70 The empty stage is soon filled by the arrival of the two conspirators, Richard and Buckingham, described by Shakespeare as wearing "rotten armour, marvellous ill-favoured." Whatever happened to that Richard who was going to buy new clothes and dress up? It is a severe contrast with preceding stage pictures and another surprise from Richard, the master of deceit. In a hurried discussion, Richard and Buckingham compare their skills as actors when Catesby enters with the Lord Mayor. The two battered dukes pretend to be frightened by the threat that surrounds them. They seem to see enemies everywhere, adding to the notion of civil unrest. NOTE: The Lord Mayor, who has appeared briefly before, now emerges as a fully developed comic figure. In each of Shakespeare's plays there is generally such a character, a carryover from the touring companies which had such stock characters in all their plays. The wide-eyed, easily duped, pompous fool was a great favorite with audiences. Ratcliffe and Lovel arrive next with Hastings' head, the blood dripping from their hands. What does Richard do? How does he greet this evidence of an execution he had just ordered? Crocodile tears. Sobbing, he tells how much he had loved this man. Never had he suspected Hastings' sinister side or his dealings with that witch, Mistress Shore. Buckingham elaborates on Hastings' guilt, telling the Lord Mayor that the two dukes were even threatened with murder by the Lord Chamberlain. But though the Lord Mayor is taken aback, he hesitates. Angrily, Richard protests that they are law-abiding people. Would anything less than the country's security have driven them to have Hastings executed? It is imperative that there be no suspicion, no blot on Richard's record when he is ready to claim the crown. The official report must show that Hastings was judged according to the law. Buckingham finally convinces the Lord Mayor, who willingly agrees that their story must be true. ^^^^^^^^^^RICHARD III: LINES 71-109 Now Richard takes charge of the situation. He no longer needs a "stage manager" to do the job Buckingham has performed. But he still needs an ally. He becomes the master of the proceedings, the chief puppeteer. Buckingham is directed to follow the Lord Mayor to the public forum at Guildhall and spread the story that Richard would have everyone believe. He is to suggest, namely, that Edward IV's children are illegitimate, due to a technicality in a rumored previous marriage, and that the late king himself may have been of unsure birth. The latter point is to be handled delicately, adds Richard, "because, my lord, you know my mother lives." Is this a concern for her reputation? Or perhaps a fear that some stigma may attach to his own birth? Or is it a cunning awareness that an outraged Duchess of York could be a dangerous enemy? Knowing what you now know of Richard, how would you explain his action? Richard's next move is to have Lovel and Catesby bring two prominent clergymen to him at his residence where he will await word from Buckingham. When they depart, once more he shares his secret plans to clear the path to the throne. Clarence's children will be easily pushed aside. Then he will isolate the main obstacle, Edward IV's sons. Since no one will be allowed to visit them in the Tower, he will be able to proceed with his next step. As he continues with his schemes, his energy knows no bounds. ^^^^^^^^^^RICHARD III: LINES 1-14 This short scene serves a number of purposes. For one thing, through the scrivener (notary), Shakespeare suggests that the "man in the street" may be onto Richard's tricks. It also relieves the breakneck speed of action and gives the audience a chance to consider Richard's boldness in his disposal of Hastings--the sheer illegality of the proceeding. From this ordinary man's point of view, it's indeed a fine world where such things may occur, a sentiment likely to be shared by the audience. Moreover, the scrivener admits that the atmosphere throughout the country is too dangerous for anyone to even speak up about such matters. In other words, there is a lack of order in this unlawful state. And there must be an upheaval to restore it. ^^^^^^^^^^RICHARD III: LINES 1-54 The truth of this warning about Richard's lack of popular support comes home soon. Buckingham has bad news to report. "The citizens are mum," he tells Richard when asked what happened at Guildhall. He repeats all the arguments he had used. The moment is carefully placed. Up until now you've heard nothing about Richard's actual accomplishments, which were in fact considerable. Now you're told about his "victories in Scotland... discipline in war, wisdom in peace" as well as his virtue and "fair humility." The historic Richard was the great peacemaker in the north of England and had maneuvered the ever-warring border factions into accepting a truce. Buckingham reminds you of this, just as Richard is at the threshold of his greatest villainy, but when it is most important for him to be cast as a worthy candidate for kingship. Closing his recital, Buckingham finally speaks the words that are music to Richard's ears: "God save Richard, England's royal king!" But even the repetition of these words by an official spokesman, allowing for no misunderstanding, had not moved the crowd. Once again, Buckingham takes charge of the situation, preparing for the next step. Richard seems to allow himself to be ordered into a passive role. Is it a form of preparation as Buckingham instructs Richard to assume a pious pose, to fake disdain, but ultimately accept what's offered? ^^^^^^^^^^RICHARD III: LINES 54-218 Richard departs as the Lord Mayor arrives, accompanied by several aldermen and a delegation from the City of London. NOTE: The Lord Mayor was an elected official whose chief function was ceremonial. However, he acted as spokesman for the Board of Aldermen, who represented the general population. In times of crisis, they could petition for relief from any danger they perceived. They did not actually choose a king, but within the framework of their authority was the chance to seek relief from peril through the succession of an eligible candidate such as Richard. Buckingham repeatedly calls for Richard to come forward. He reminds the delegation in his absence of his great qualifications, especially in comparison to the late King Edward IV, who is described as sexually promiscuous. Finally, Richard appears, surrounded by clergymen to strengthen the picture Buckingham has painted. The charade then begins in earnest. Buckingham begs Richard's pardon for disturbing him at his devotions. Richard then asks his pardon for not appearing sooner. But why do they seek him? Has he offended someone? Buckingham says that his only offense lies in the rejection of the crown that is "due at birth," rather than that "of a blemished stock" (namely, Edward IV's undoubtedly illegitimate children). He pleads with Richard to restore legitimacy by accepting this call to the throne. Again and again, Buckingham stresses that single note--the right of birth, the legitimate bloodline. Richard's reply is a masterpiece of cunning. His respect for these people is great. He would not insult them, but he must reject the merest suggestion of any interest in "the yoke of sovereignty." Besides, he reminds them, "the royal tree hath left us royal fruit." That issue must not be avoided. Before he can move an inch closer to the throne, those who beg him to do so must acknowledge that the claims of Edward IV's children are not valid. Commending him on his humility, Buckingham nevertheless raises the story of a previous, suspected marriage that had taken place between Edward IV and a "Lady Lucy." NOTE: There was historical substance behind this allegation of bigamy. Although proved untrue, there were several alleged betrothals or marriages claimed for Edward IV, with not only Elizabeth Lucy and Eleanor Butler in England, but with Lady Bona, the sister of the king of France. So Richard would be doing the nation a service by not allowing an unlawful heir to ascend the throne when a perfectly legitimate one was available--namely, Richard. Richard protests. Buckingham insists. Richard asks them not to "heap this care" on him, claiming that he is unfit and will not yield. In a final plea, Buckingham swears that even if Richard will not accept, Edward IV's children will never sit on the throne. With that final threat, he stalks out with the Lord Mayor and his delegation. ^^^^^^^^^^RICHARD III: LINES 219-246 What can Richard do? What do you think? He sends Catesby after them to avoid any appearance of running after the crown. When they return, he reluctantly gives in, against his better judgment and only "for the good of the country." But Richard makes a strong point, warning them that he is the servant of their wishes and that, "if black scandal or foul-faced reproach" follows, they must bear the burden of guilt. He goes so far as to call on the Almighty to witness how far he is "from desire of this." Could there be a greater example of his blasphemy? Buckingham offers the first recognition by hailing him with the royal title, "King Richard, England's worthy king!" And now, what about a coronation date? Contrast this discussion with the Council meeting on the same topic. They instantly decide to crown Richard the next day. ^^^^^^^^^^RICHARD III: LINES 1-27 How will the news of Richard's great fortune be received in other quarters? Shakespeare doesn't keep you in suspense long. In this scene, the focus of Richard's opposition has gathered. Making their way to the Tower to visit the young boys are Queen Elizabeth, her son Dorset, and the Duchess of York. Coming from another side are Lady Anne with Clarence's daughter. They are interrupted by Brakenbury, who tells them they are not permitted to enter, by order of the "king." Shakespeare teases by having Brakenbury correct himself to say "the Lord Protector." As the women demand entry, Stanley arrives to reveal that Lady Anne must go to Westminster to be crowned queen immediately. When she hears this news, Queen Elizabeth clearly sees the extent of the danger which threatens her family. She orders her son Dorset to leave for France, where he may join up with Stanley's stepson, Richmond. Richmond, the many-times-removed, but nonetheless chief Lancastrian heir, had fled to France to escape persecution by the Yorkists' regime. The first mention of his name would touch the Elizabethan audience, who knew him to be the grandfather of their own queen. It is now the old Duchess' moment to blame herself for having brought the evil Richard into this world. But Stanley rushes Anne to the coronation, though she would rather suffer a band of hot steel around her head than the crown. She recalls her earlier curses and her damnation of that pitiful woman who would marry Richard. And she sees that her curse has been fulfilled. The eighty-year-old Duchess now seems to shrink under the weight of her misery. She urges Elizabeth to return to the sanctuary as she declares her intention to await her own death. As these women cast a final glance at the Tower, you are reminded of the prisoners within. ^^^^^^^^^^RICHARD III: LINES 1-27 That mournful scene is followed by one of great ceremony. King Richard enters "in pomp," followed by the members of his court, including all his favorites. As the scene begins, it appears that Buckingham and Richard are still very intimate. Assisted by Buckingham, Richard moves up to the throne, a gesture he lavishly acknowledges. But what next, now that the great goal has been achieved? Is he secure? Richard sounds the first warning: But shall we wear these glories for a day? Or shall they last, and we rejoice in them? (lines 5-6) Is Richard, the great actor, really that casually concerned with such an important matter? What about those two boys in the Tower? He baits Buckingham about this obstacle to his peace of mind--and his claim of legitimacy. It is now his chief concern. Pressed on the subject, Buckingham is hesitant, even when Richard declares outright, "I wish the bastards dead." Buckingham asks for leave to consider the matter and steps outside, a move that will prove fatal to him. NOTE: If you can fix a mental image of Fortune's Wheel, you might be able to detect some movement here. Up to this point, everything has gone Richard's way. His victims have stepped right into his traps. His wishes have come true. This is the first flaw in his perfect world. And look at the way he responds. We see a different Richard, one you might not have imagined. Even Catesby observes, "The king is angry. See, he gnaws his lip." ^^^^^^^^^^RICHARD III: LINES 28-81 Richard hammers away at his wish to have the two prisoners in the Tower out of the way, even without the help of "High-reaching Buckingham." He sends for a man with fewer scruples, trusting a mere page's recommendation of someone named "Tyrrel." When the page goes off, Richard reveals that Buckingham will now be excluded from his inner circle. Meanwhile, Stanley arrives with the news of Dorset's flight to France. The moving Wheel picks up momentum. This stirs the old Richard into action. Cool and calculating, he formulates plans to strengthen his position. His wife, no longer needed, will be disposed of in due course. He will marry off Clarence's daughter and confine his dim-witted son. Then he reveals a shocking intention: he must marry his niece, Elizabeth, the daughter of Edward IV. Nothing is beyond his scheming. But the gusto seems to have disappeared as Richard moves into a defensive position. First, he must deal with the assassin, Tyrrel, who now enters. There is no mincing of words. The order is clearly given. The monarch dispatches the killer to do the job. ^^^^^^^^^^RICHARD III: LINES 82-121 When Buckingham returns, Richard is no longer interested in what he has to say. More important is the news of Dorset's flight to Richmond. Watch what happens now as Buckingham pleads for his reward. The episode demonstrates Shakespeare's skill at showing three things at once: Richard's concern with Stanley's loyalty, his rebuff of Buckingham, and his recollection of an old prophecy from the reign of Henry VI. It was predicted at that time that Richmond would someday be king. An agitated Richard whines that the prophet did not predict that he would be king, or that he would kill Richmond. To add to his fury, an Irish poet has independently forewarned of doom for Richard once he has seen Richmond. Keep in mind that Richmond has been in exile all this time. NOTE: What does Richard make of this? And why does Shakespeare introduce such a prophecy this late in the play? Is it possible that the Richard who has scoffed at Queen Margaret's curses is now becoming superstitious? Buckingham continues to interrupt, but Richard silences him in a chilling display of the royal will. King Richard announces that he is "not in the [giving] vein." What does this mean for Buckingham? He remembers Hastings and, fearing for his own head, he flees to his castle in Wales. ^^^^^^^^^^RICHARD III: LINES 1-35 NOTE: Do you think Clarence's murder was as cruel and gory an on-stage action as you could bear? So did Shakespeare. It's one thing to execute a grown man on stage, but putting the two youngsters to death would have been more than his audience could witness without horror. Still, he wanted to sustain the impact of the deed. What does he do? He uses tightly controlled verse to amplify the description. Imagine the effect of this scene on an audience trained in grasping vivid images. Tyrrel marches in to announce: The tyrannous and bloody act is done, The most arch deed of piteous massacre That ever yet this land was guilty of. (lines 1-3) Wait a minute: Though he had hired Dighton and Forrest to do the actual deed, isn't he guilty? Isn't Richard? Notice how Shakespeare deals with blame, reminding us that guilt is a larger matter. Tyrrel spares no pertinent details in his description of what took place. Even the hardened murderers wept like babies when they viewed the horror of their deed. When he finishes, Richard enters and asks Tyrrel if he has happy news for him. That single word "happy" links him in the most horrifying way to the bloody crime. To Richard's question of where the children are buried, Tyrrel gives an evasive reply. In fact, the bodies of the two boys were never found, leading to the age-old question of whether or not they were really killed. Centuries later, relics were found and identified as the bodies of children of that time, but whether or not they were Edward IV's sons has never been proved. Bidding Tyrrel to come to him later and re-create the details of the execution, Richard now turns to the audience and reviews his program for consolidating his power. ^^^^^^^^^^RICHARD III: LINES 36-57 NOTE: Again, Shakespeare is careful of history in the matter of Anne's death. Quite possibly, she had passed away from natural causes. There was no proof that Richard's bloody hand was involved. Of course, there were those who felt that he influenced it and therefore was guilty. But here, he merely says, "Anne my wife hath bid this world good night." Richard is now free to pursue a marriage to Edward's daughter, his own niece. The prospect excites him, drawing forth the old, exuberant Richard, the man who loves a challenge. But Ratcliffe enters with grim news. Richmond is gaining strength from desertions by Richard's allies. And Buckingham has raised a small army and is marching against Richard. The Richmond threat is the greater, says Richard. The military leader is now seen for the first time, assessing the situation and making command decisions. Does this surprise you? How does Shakespeare prepare you for understanding this side of Richard's character? ^^^^^^^^^^RICHARD III: LINES 1-135 Queen Margaret, the embodiment of Fortune's Wheel, enters and reminds us of the events that have borne out her prophecies. This is only the second time she appears on stage, but haven't you felt her presence throughout? Now she sees the once-ascendant Richard's fortune beginning to turn on the down side. Her need for revenge will be satisfied. But first, Queen Elizabeth and the Duchess of York, her counterparts in age and station, enter, mourning the deaths of the boys in the Tower. NOTE: The formal chorus of their lament is designed to heighten the effect of their sorrow. The rhythm might have been borrowed from the classics. It sounds to many like a church service, perhaps a requiem. Despite their differences and their ancient feud, these women are joined by a mutual hatred of Richard. They curse him fiercely, but it is Margaret who sees through their misfortune to a fulfillment of her vision. ^^^^^^^^^^RICHARD III: LINES 136-196 All they have is words to remind them of their calamity--words that try to soothe, but fail. Queen Elizabeth and the Duchess of York have exhausted their tears when a trumpet flourish announces the arrival of King Richard. Here, for the first time, is Richard in a new guise: the warrior king. Ironically, his first skirmish will not be with the enemy awaiting him outside the capitol. Do you remember how he looked earlier in "rotten" armor? Compare that with this image. See how Shakespeare gets full value from such small details. They stop him with questions regarding their losses, reminding us of his participation in so many deaths. Does he answer them as cleverly as he once did? What do you think of this picture of a king under attack by these women? Obviously having the upper hand, they prolong the confrontation. Now it is the Duchess of York who says that she will be calm in speaking to him. But she lingers over the loathsome repetition of the details of his birth and childhood. Her final words are a curse that he will be so wearied in battle that he will be unable to stand and will be defeated. ^^^^^^^^^^RICHARD III: LINES 197-430 But Richard will not be dissuaded from his purpose. When the Duchess of York departs, he stops Queen Elizabeth. Despite any opposition she may offer, he must attempt to woo her daughter through this proxy. Richard has announced a goal and he must succeed in it. Thus begins the second of the great courtship scenes of this play. Now, where is the virtuoso actor who could strike all the right poses, quickly and cleverly? This long, drawn-out duel seems labored, dominated by Elizabeth's mastery of the situation rather than Richard's. Who is on the defensive now? She vows that there is nothing she will not do to prevent such a match. She has an answer for every thrust he makes. He tries to threaten, claiming her daughter's only real safety is in marrying him. But she reminds him that her sons were entrusted to him, too. What does it take to win her daughter, he asks. She then calmly offers in vivid images a horrifying capsule of his villainy. Send to her by the man that slew her brothers A pair of bleeding hearts; thereon engrave "Edward" and "York." Then haply will she weep; Therefore present to her--as sometimes Margaret Did to thy father, steeped in Rutland's blood- A handkerchief, which, say to her, did drain The purple sap from her sweet brother's body, And bid her wipe her weeping eyes withal. (lines 271-278) Is there no end to the horror? In that heap of bloody deeds, do you hear the sound of despair, the whispered cry for revenge? And what effect does it have on Richard? He plods ahead. He uses every imaginable argument. Which of them do you think is the most impressive? Finally, he swears that the marriage must take place for England's sake. It is the only way to avoid "Death, desolation, ruin, and decay." The argument, presented with his inexhaustible energy, weakens her. She can barely lift her voice to remind him that he had slain her little boys. But the fiendish Richard knows that he has her. He gives her the sweetest reply he can muster. But in your daughter's womb I bury them, Where in that nest of spicery they will breed Selves of themselves, to your recomforture. (lines 423-425) Compare that extravagant language to the rest of his speech during their duel. Would he dare to use such fantastic images before the battle had been won? Her consent, however, is not enthusiastic and there is something uncertain in her promise to do as he has asked. But he takes this for victory and the minute she is gone he dismisses her with contempt. ^^^^^^^^^^RICHARD III: LINES 431-538 Ratcliffe and Catesby now enter with military news. Richmond has sailed from France and plans to join forces with Buckingham. This calls for a command decision from Richard. He starts to tell Catesby to go to the Duke of Norfolk with a message, but forgets that he has not provided its content. Has Richard ever hesitated before? Has he ever appeared confused? Recovering, he sends Catesby off with word to meet him at Salisbury. Now it's Stanley's turn to enter with bad news. He repeats the report that Richmond is en route by sea. Why, asks Richard, is Richmond on the move? When Stanley gives the obvious reply--to claim the crown--Richard is outraged. He screams that he is the only legitimate heir, the only true descendant of the Yorkist line. What right has anyone to claim his throne? Stanley becomes a pivotal figure. Even though he is Richmond's step-father, there has been no reason to question his loyalty. But Richard taunts him with his difficult position. Stanley must find a way out. He claims he must travel north to muster his substantial forces. Richard needs this added strength and can't disagree. But he is no fool. He will hold Stanley's son, George, as a hostage until his father's troops join in on Richard's side. One messenger after another arrives with bad news. First one group of nobles, then another, has gone over to the enemy. When a third messenger comes in, Richard automatically strikes him before he can speak up. For all the animosity and tension that have been evident, no blow has ever been struck in this play before. This loss of control in a king is a pointed indication of his declining power. But it is good news. Buckingham's forces have been defeated and that rebellious duke is in flight. Richard apologizes to the messenger and offers a reward to the man who captures Buckingham. Have you ever seen him show so many different facets of his personality so rapidly? What is Shakespeare's purpose in placing so much pressure on Richard now? A final burst of news arrives. A storm has destroyed Richmond's naval forces and their commander has sailed back to France. Richard is delighted and comments that this will give his troops a chance to move against the domestic opposition. But Catesby returns to reveal that Buckingham has been captured and that Richmond had indeed managed to land. One thing at a time, says Richard. They are bound for Salisbury and there they will go. As they march off, he calls for Buckingham to be brought to him there. In the breath of time before the next scene begins, consider all that has taken place and compare your impression of Richard with what you have heard of him as a military leader. How well do you think he will do when the real crunch comes? ^^^^^^^^^^RICHARD III: LINES 1-21 This brief scene is a welcome change of pace. Stanley is talking with a priest, through whom he sends a message to Richmond. He explains that George Stanley is being held hostage and that that is the reason he cannot yet ally himself openly with his stepson. Although the focus is on Stanley, this is another expression of Shakespeare's point of view regarding the clergy. How does this clergyman compare with others you've already met? More important at the moment is the revelation that Queen Elizabeth has agreed to a marriage of her daughter with Richmond. This is the first we have heard of this decision. What does it do to Richard's string of victories? Will he learn of it? And how will he react? See how his presence is maintained even when he is not on stage? ^^^^^^^^^^RICHARD III: LINES 1-24 The once proud Buckingham now appears in chains. He points out, ironically, that it is All Soul's Day, but also his very personal doomsday. Here is the last of Richard's victims displaying his recognition of the sources of his downfall--his broken vows to the late King Edward, along with his contempt for Margaret's curses and warnings. Yes, Richard has been the instrument, but where does the guilt lie? How do you feel about justice? Revenge? Retribution? Does Buckingham's execution make you question or change your opinions? ^^^^^^^^^^RICHARD III: LINES 1-24 At last Richmond arrives with his troops. Do you think it would have added to the drama if he had been involved earlier? Or was the anticipation more important? In his first words, Richmond sounds a note of sincerity, speaking to his "loving friends." Think back and try to recall hearing the word "love" at any time before. Was it used often? As he describes his opponent, Richmond touches on all the essential points. Equating Richard with his personal insignia, Richmond calls him "the wretched, bloody, and usurping boar." He links both the usurper and the murderer. Those are at the top of the list, but the evil of this enemy goes to the personal concern of every citizen in the land, to the fields and vines that provide them with food. Is this what a king should be? His comrades are convinced that even Richard's allies will see the light and desert him. Richmond's hopes and spirits are so high, he feels he can achieve anything--"Kings it makes gods, and meaner creatures kings." Does this combination of confidence and humility seem appropriate? ^^^^^^^^^^RICHARD III: LINES 1-19 Richard enters, followed by his troops. We are at Bosworth Field on the eve of battle. NOTE: The words "Bosworth Field" would have had much the same effect on Elizabethans as "Wounded Knee" or "Gettysburg" would have on Americans. This gives Shakespeare a choice. He could either dwell on the military details or on the participants to tell the story of this great event. He chose the latter. Would you have done the same? How does that satisfy all that has come before? Richard's tent is set up on one side of the stage. He reviews the military situation, pleased that he has three times the number of soldiers on his side. Moreover, he adds, "the king's name is a tower of strength" (V, iii, 12). Does that agree with the prediction of desertions just heard? And how does the word "tower" sound to you now? Does it call up favorable images? ^^^^^^^^^^RICHARD III: LINES 20-46 When Richard's group withdraws with him to go over plans, the action shifts to the other side of the stage. Richmond enters with his troops. For dramatic balance, his tent is pitched opposite Richard's with a clear, wide space between them. As Richmond begins to outline his battle plan, his military credentials are quickly established. Before withdrawing with his cabinet, he hears that Lord Stanley is nearby and sends him a message. ^^^^^^^^^^RICHARD III: LINES 47-79 Richard returns with a few of his followers. He, too, sends a message to Stanley reminding him of the peril of his hostage son, George. But what is Richard's real mood like now? His lack of zest for what he faces is apparent when he states, "I have not that alacrity of spirit." Is this the same Richard who once claimed that the proper occupation of a king was waging war? ^^^^^^^^^^RICHARD III: LINES 80-177 Stanley arrives at Richmond's tent, where he offers moral support. He must hold off coming out openly as long as George Stanley is in danger. When all have left, Richmond prays to God for help in crushing the "usurping helmets" of his adversaries. The theme of usurpation is being hammered home. NOTE: Throughout the play we have heard of the supernatural, but now we get to see a representation. So widespread was the Elizabethan belief in ghosts that this would require little in the way of special make-up or trick effects to be entirely believable. The ghost of Edward, son of Henry VI, rises from below and goes to the center of the stage between the two tents. As the first of Richard's victims, he will be followed by nine others, in order of their deaths. Each places a curse on Richard and a blessing on Richmond. Each ends by expressing a wish that Richard suffer in battle as well as die, and that Richmond not only survive, but flourish. ^^^^^^^^^^RICHARD III: LINES 178-223 When all the ghosts vanish, Richard is startled awake. In the same breath, he cries for mercy and a horse. Is this a symbol of escape? Where have you heard him mention a horse before? Now where is that swagger? Listen to him talk of conscience. Hear him acknowledge his sins. He freely admits his guilt as a liar and a common murderer. But Richard can only be true to his own nature. He recognizes this clearly. For all his earlier revelations, for all his play acting, has he ever shown himself more fully than here, in this dark hour when there is no one else to listen? He continues to balance the account. He acknowledges the curses heaped on him and where he stands. And he asks for no pity. Was there ever a clearer cry that he will face the consequences as he always has--alone? Ratcliffe enters to help him dress for battle. A flicker of his old spirit and roguish behavior surfaces as he invites Ratcliffe to join him in eavesdropping outside the tents. Does this commander suspect disloyalty from his troops? ^^^^^^^^^^RICHARD III: LINES 224-352 As they leave, Richmond is awakened in his tent. Contrary to Richard's dream, Richmond's dreams are sweet and full of favorable signs. With that in mind, he steps out to deliver a final word of encouragement to his troops. It is a warm and noble oration. "God and our good cause fight on our side," he tells them. The "prayers... of wronged souls" are with them as they fight this "bloody tyrant... and homicide." Emphasizing his point, Richmond closes with a reminder that they are the true representatives of all whom Richard has wronged. They are the embodiment of the true England. When they march off, Richard returns with his forces. Now it is time for his pep talk. NOTE: The perfect symmetry of the stage setting, the formal appearance of the ghosts, and now the balance of the two orations is designed deliberately to give a sense of order. It is almost a ritual that goes beyond the realistic action on the stage. Does it increase your anticipation of what you surely know by now will take place? Richard begins with a few words to his officers, whom he warns not to be bothered by foolish things such as conscience. What is that after all but a word? Their conscience will lie in their swords. He tells his troops that they are fighting to suppress "vagabonds, rascals, and runaways," a "scum of Britains and base lackey peasants." As they depart for battle, a messenger tells Richard that Lord Stanley has not moved. The still imperious Richard cries, "Off with his son George's head." But is that really of any use to him now? Calling on England's patron saint--St. George, ironically--Richard rushes off to fight. ^^^^^^^^^^RICHARD III: LINES 1-13 The battle rages. The floorboards of the stage would probably creak with the roaring of actors creating the mood of combat. Troops march across the stage to the sounds of horns and drums. In a momentary pause, Norfolk and Catesby enter. Catesby reports that Richard has been fighting with incredible strength and bravery, without regard to his personal safety. What does that tell you of his physical handicap? Richard now enters, calling for a new horse to replace his lost mount. When Catesby urges him to withdraw to safety, Richard refuses. He candidly declares his intention to fight to the finish: Slave, I have set my life upon a cast, And I will stand the hazard of the die. (lines 9-10) This is the Richard of old. This is Richard alone. He has already slain five men dressed as Richmond--they were decoys--but he will not rest until he meets the real one. Earlier you read about Richard's courage in battle, but it may have sounded like so much propaganda coming from Buckingham. How do you feel about that now? Can you credit him with heroism? Does this begin to explain why he has fascinated audiences and intrigued scholars for centuries? No matter what else, Richard will fight to the bitter end. His final words make it clear that for him, winning is still everything: A horse! A horse! My kingdom for a horse! (line 13) He will sacrifice everything for a chance to continue fighting. ^^^^^^^^^^RICHARD III: ACT V, SCENE V The battle intensifies as the sound of trumpets is heard. Richard and Richmond fight a bloody duel, and Richmond slays Richard. As Richard's body is dragged aside, Richmond comes forward with Stanley, who places the crown, taken from "usurped royalty," on Richmond's head. Assured that his half-brother, George Stanley, is safe, Richmond proceeds with the business of wrapping things up. Richard III is typical of most Shakespearean noncomedies in its ending. A strong man steps forward to take charge of the mess that has been made in the past. Richmond orders that the bodies of the slain be buried in accordance with their rank by birth. Order is to be restored. He then pardons those conquered enemies who will now pledge their loyalty to him. He speaks the words that were most cheering to his audience. As he had sworn, We will unite the White Rose and the Red. (line 19) His marriage to Elizabeth, daughter of Edward IV, will produce a union upon which heaven will truly smile. The battle has ended. All the virtues have triumphed, and England emerges victorious. The audience which saw Richard III slain in battle was witness to the last death of an English king on a battlefield. Never again was one to fall to a military foe. Richmond ends the play with a prayer for an everlasting peace, now that "civil wounds are stopped." ^^^^^^^^^^RICHARD III: ON RICHARD'S CHARACTER If Richard is something like the Renaissance will incarnate, he is equally, in his total, eager submission to it, evil incarnate. Whatever his lusty attractiveness, we cannot deny that he treats all men, even himself finally, as mere objects. Too late he discovers, to his amazement and confusion, that he too has feelings, is subjective and subjected, in more than will and conscious self-control. Herein lies his repulsiveness. His is a Dionysianism so passionately self-serving, so deliberate if not cold-blooded, that, corrosive rather than life-giving like the Dionysian at its best, it turns all not only to destruction but to cheapness, ignominy, pointlessness. -Theodore Weiss, The Breath of Clowns and Kings, 1974 The great stories of murder are about men who could not have done it but who did. They are not murderers, they are men. And their stories will be better still when they are excellent men; not merely brilliant and admirable, but also, in portions of themselves which we infer rather than see. Richard is never quite human enough. The spectacle over which he presides with his bent back and his forked tongue can take us by storm, and it does. It cannot move our innermost minds with the conviction that in such a hero's death the world has lost what once had been or might have been the most precious part of itself. Richard is never precious as a man. He is only stunning in his craft, a serpent whose movements we follow for their own sake, because in themselves they have strength and beauty. -Mark Van Doren, Shakespeare, 1939 ^^^^^^^^^^RICHARD III: ON RICHMOND'S FUNCTION The astonishing thing about this play is that until almost the end, there is no sign of a possible antagonist, no visible secular force that can bring the tyrant down. Richmond is not even mentioned until Act IV, and appears in only the last three scenes. He is little more than a deus ex machina let down from above to provide a resolution both for the immediate action of this play and for the long-continued drama of conflict between York and Lancaster. -George J. Becker, Shakespeare's Histories, 1977 ^^^^^^^^^^RICHARD III: RICHARD III AS TRAGEDY Thus Shakespeare pictured the dominating sins in the play as perjury and murder, sins against the moral order. He portrayed and analyzed the passion of ambition that caused Richard to sin and the passion of fear that at the same time punished him for his sins and forced him to wade still further in blood. He inserted non-historical scenes developing the Elizabethan philosophy of revenge. He used the supernatural to enhance the horror of the play and to contribute to the impression of a divine vengeance meting out punishment for sin. He showed God's revenge exacted through the agency of the evil Richard, who was nevertheless to be held to account for his evil-doing. He made use of the pathos of the death of the royal children. These are the common methods of Shakespearean tragedy, and they justify those who hold Richard III to be a tragedy. -Lily B. Campbell, Shakespeare's "Histories:" Mirrors of Elizabethan Policy, 1968. ^^^^^^^^^^RICHARD III: COMEDY IN RICHARD III Richard's sense of humor, his function as clown, his comic irreverences and sarcastic or sardonic appropriations of things to (at any rate) his occasions: all those act as underminers of our assumed naive and proper Tudor principles; and we are on his side much rather because he makes us (as the Second Murderer put it) "take the devil in [our] mind," than for any "historical-philosophical-Christian-retributional" sort of motive. In this respect a good third of the play is a kind of grisly comedy; in which we meet the fools to be taken in on Richard's terms, see them with his mind, and rejoice with him in their stultification (in which execution is the ultimate and unanswerable practical joke, the absolutely final laugh this side of the Day of Judgment). -A. P. Rossiter, "Angel With Horns: The Unity of Richard III," in Shakespeare, The Histories, ed. Eugene M. Waith, 1965 THE END