Richard III- (1452-1485)
Plot of this play is driven by the evil of Richard.
He came to power through three (3) distinct events:
(1) killing Henry VI (1471)
(2) the death of Edward IV (1483)
(3) murders of Prince Edward (shortly King Ed V) and the young Duke of York (1483)
It is the last of the four (4) plays in the minor tetralogy of English history, and is a dramatization of actual historical events that concluded in the year 1485-- when the Tudor monarchy replaced the Plantagenets.
Richard III bring to a close Shakespeare's exhaustive dramatization of the Wars of the Roses, or the battle between the York and Lancaster families for the throne of England. A saga that seemed to come to an end with the triumph of Henry V and his diplomatic marriage, unraveled with the early death of Henry VI and the licentious absentmindedness of Edward IV. By the time of the death of Edward IV, conditions were rife for tragedy.
And so enters Richard, Duke of Gloucester, onto the stage of history. His physical deformities mirrored a lack of conscience, an unabated greed, and a shameless charm that carried him through numerous obstacles to the throne of England. His bloody path, however, churned up so much antipathy that his rule was doomed to be brief. It is his psychological unraveling that makes Richard III timeless (Dover Thrift Edition, 1995).
The play is loaded with Political Intrigue, Family Relationships and Personal Vendettas.
Complete Script(s) and descriptions
Richard III, Richard of Gloucester (1452-1485)
Character in Parts 2 and 3 of Henry VI and title character of Richard III.
Known simply as Richard or Gloucester until he is crowned in Act 4.2, his ambition never ceases to drive him towards that moment. Richard is more than simply a villain; his dazzlingly evil nature, combining viciousness and wit, makes him as important and valuable to the drama, especially in Richard III, as any hero. He was Shakespeare's first great creation, making a tremendous advance over earlier, more ordinary characters.
He murders his way to the throne, killing his brother, his young nephews, his wife, and a number of political opponents. He is still a spectacular villain, with a fondness for commenting humorously on his atrocities before committing them. Once he becomes king, however, his wit and resourcefulness desert him; he clumsily alienates his allies, and quite simply panics when he first learns of the approach of Richmond.
The personality of Richard is formed in part by his physical deformity--a hunched back--referred to many times in the play, often by Richard himself. He rationalizes his rejection of human loyalties by theorizing that his physical nature has placed him beyond ordinary relationships.
However, the fascination with Richard derives largely from the disturbing reality that he has undeniably attractive qualities as well. He has charisma and self-confidence, and he is plainly quite intelligent. He has a great energy combined with immense self-control, and, probably most tellingly, he is extremely witty. Richard wins admiration even as he repels because he plays to the audience directly. Through monologues and asides, he brings the listener into almost conspiratorial intimacy with him.
With the collapse of his fortunes, Richard's personality changes. He loses resilience and subtlety, panicking and being disorganized in the face of crisis. At this low ebb, he seems almost deranged, recognizing his terrible isolation from humanity and despairs, crying out that his death will neither receive nor deserve pity from anyone.
Shakespeare's rendering lacks historical validity in many facets, but it was a theater success nonetheless.
Lady Anne (Anne Neville, 1456-1485)
The wife of King Richard III, after becoming a widow to the late Prince of Wales, who was killed by Richard himself.
A minor character that is set as a contrast with the second courtship of Richard to marry Young Elizabeth, daughter of the Queen.
She gives an early look into the feelings of all those surrounding Richard, as she is not afraid to let her feelings be known about him and his wretched deeds.
King Edward IV (1442-1483)
King of England and character in Henry VI parts 2 and 3 and Richard III.
Receives his crown as a result of the machinations of his ambitious father, the Duke of York, and his heirs are murdered later by his brother, who succeeds him as Richard III.
Edward demonstrates a selfish disregard for the responsibilities of kingship in the precluding plays, and appears only in the first scene of the second act (2.1), on his deathbed. He learns of the death of Clarence, and his dismay, it is implied, leads to his own rapid demise.
It is suggested that an over-indulgence of wine and women may have resulted in his early death.
George York, Duke of Clarence (1449-1478)
The victimized brother of Richard III.
Clarence's death scene is an emotional highlight of the play. It has tremendous impact, shocking the audience, for Richard's villainy, which has been seductively entertaining to this point, is now seen to have serious consequences. Clarence's account of his dream reveals a soul in torment; he speaks in passionate verse, the most lyrical in the play. His spiritual suffering--his heavy-hearted loss of hope and fear of death--is intense.
Richard’s flunkie among the nobility. He is a useful underling who Richard uses as a messenger, and he lacks a distinct personality. Historically, he served as a lawyer and estate manager to Lord Hastings. He was captured and executed after the Battle of Bosworth field.
Richard’s flunkie among the nobility. He is a minor underling, distinctive chiefly for his efficient executions of Rivers, Grey and Vaughan in 3.3 and Hastings in 3.4. He died, historically, at the Battle of Bosworth field.
A supporter of Richard III. Lovell is willing to undertake Richard's dirty work; he assists Ratcliffe in the execution of Hastings, bringing the lord's severed head to Richard in 3.5.
The historical Lovell was Richard's Lord Chamberlain. He escaped capture after Bosworth field and died two years later, fighting in an uprising against Richmond (Henry VII).
Friend of Queen Elizabeth. Urges Elizabeth to seek sanctuary, and he offers her assistance, even to the illegal extent of giving her the Great Seal of England, with which he has been entrusted. He was imprisoned for opposing Richard's ascension in history, and held the secular post of Chancellor of England.
Though she plays a very minor role in the play’s plot, mostly prowling around the castle cursing to herself, Margaret is nevertheless one of the most important and memorable characters in Richard III. The impotent, overpowering rage that she directs at Richard and his family stands for the helpless, righteous anger of all Richard’s victims. The curses she levels at the royals in Act I, which are among the most startling and memorable in all of Shakespeare, foreshadow and essentially determine future events of the play. Her lesson to Elizabeth and the duchess about how to curse paints a striking picture of the psychology of victimization and the use of language as a means of alleviating anguish. As the wife of the dead and vanquished King Henry VI, Margaret also represents the plight of women under the patriarchal power structure of Renaissance England. Without a husband to grant her status and security, she is reduced to depending on the charity of her family’s murderers to survive—a dire situation that she later wishes on Elizabeth. Margaret is a one-dimensional character, representing rage and pain, but she is vital to the play for the sheer focus of torment she brings to the world surrounding Richard’s irresistible evil.
Duchess of York
Widowed mother of Richard, Clarence, and King Edward IV.
The duchess of York is Elizabeth’s mother-in-law, and she is very protective of Elizabeth and her children, who are the duchess’s grandchildren. She is angry with, and eventually curses, Richard for his heinous actions. This is her symbolic role, to lament Richard's evil nature.
The historical person was a Constable of the Tower, but not at the time of Clarence's death.
He is killed in the battle of Bosworth field, as reported in 5.5.14.
Brother of Queen Elizabeth and one of Richard III's victims. He is a pawn in a political game, being executed for no other offense than being the queen's brother and so a presumptive defender of her son, the Prince of Wales, who stands in the way of Richard's climb to power.As he is led to his death, Rivers functions as sort of a Chorus, referring to Pomfret Castle, scene of many such events, and recollecting the curses of Queen Margaret, who had foretold his end in 1.3.
Kinsman to Queen Elizabeth and a victim of Richard III. Grey is another pawn in Richard 's game of power politics. He is exectued in 3.3 solely because he is the Queen's relative. As he goes to his death, he recollects the curses of Queen Margaret, who anticipated the event.
Shakespeare is apparently confused about Grey's relationship with Elizabeth, although his habitual carelessness about minor matters suggests that he probably did not concern himself about it. Historically, Grey was Elizabeth's son by her first marriage, but in the play he is implied to be her brother. However, in recalling Margaret's curse, he speaks as though he were Dorset, unquestionably a son of Elizabeth.
Son of Queen Elizabeth by her first marriage. Dorest appears with his mother several times in the early scenes of the play. In 2.2 he offers her the rather cold comfort, on the occasion of the death of King Edward IV, that God had simply taken back the gift of royalty that He had given. In 4.1, when the Queen receives word that Richard III has seized the crown, Dorset is sent abroad to join Richmond. Dorset is left in France by Richmond as a hostage to ensure the cooperation of his mother's party.
Prince of Wales
Son and heir to King Edward IV whom Richard III murders. The prince appears only once, when he arrives in London after the death of his father. Although technically king, he is never crowned and is known as prince throughout the play.Being taken to the Tower of London and his eventual death, the prince, 12 years old, impresses the reader with his serious concern for history. He also provides the reader with an ironic commentary on the way the story of his own death has been transmitted, officially unrecorded but nonetheless known: "But say, my lord, it were not register'd / Methinks the truth should not live from age to age..." (3.1.75-76). The murder and Richard's instigation of the Prince and his younger brother, the Duke of York, is clearly reported in 4.3 and mourned thereafter.
It is clearly intended to be taken as the most heinous of Ricahrd's crimes.
Shakespeare had no doubt as to Richard's guilt, and posterity, greatly influenced by Shakespeare, has agreed.
Young Duke of York
The murdered nephew of Richard III. The younger brother of the Prince of Wales and his successor to the throne.
York is a flippant youngster, given to ill-considered jokes about Richard's deformity.
He appears with his mother and grandmother in 2.4, and with his brother and others in 3.1.
In 3.1, he jests with Richard about his dagger, in an ominous foreshadowing of his fate. At the end of the scene, he and the Prince of Wales are escorted to the tower, from which they will never emerge.
Sir James Tyrrel
A murderer whom Richard hires to kill his young cousins, the princes in the Tower of London.
He is an unscrupulous and ambitious nobleman who agrees to arrange the murder, but is not the unknown minor aristocrat depicted in the play. He had been knighted in battle at Tewkesbury, and at the time the Princes were imprisoned, was Ricahrd's Master of Horses. He was exectued in 1502 on unrelated charges. In an account from Thomas More, Tyrell allegedly admitted to the arranging of the murders at the time of his execution.
Lord Mayor of London
A gullible and suggestible fellow whom Richard and Buckingham use as a pawn in their ploy to make Richard king.
He provides cover of legality for Richard's actions, approving an execution and acclaiming Richard as king when he moves to seize the throne.
The stepfather of Richmond. Lord Stanley, earl of Derby, secretly helps Richmond, although he cannot escape Richard’s watchful gaze.
As a nobleman who will betray Richard, and Richard beginning to suspect defection to the Earl of Richmond demands Stanley's son as a hostage. Stanley allies himself with Richmond; at the battle of Bosworth field, he refuses to march with his forces, to Richmond's advantage, but Richard's order to kill his hostage son is not carried out.
Shakespeare's Stanley is a judicious, if not a very bold, politician. The career of the historical Stanley was rather less honorable, as he chose to fight for both sides during the War of the Roses.
Minor character and commander of the forces of Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth Field.
A quiet follower of orders, Norfolk bring Richard a note warning of the treachery in the forthcoming battle.He dies in the fighting, as noted in 5.5.13. His son is the second in command, the Earl of Surrey.
Norfolk was a grandson of Thomas Mowbray, who appeared in the play Richard II.
Henry Tudor, Earl of Richmond
Mistress Jane Shore
Questions to be analyzed:
(1) Why is Richard so profoundly evil?
The answer to this question is provided in the opening soliloquy: He is evil by his very nature.
Richard's thought process:
"He is a misshapen hunchback, so since he cannot be a lover he will be a villain." (I.i.30)
Richard is like Macbeth in AMBITION and DEED
*However, there is no redeeming quality in Richard, no Banquo or Lady Macbeth to betray or share time with.
Evil and deceit are innate in Richard III, since he is able to come to grips with his utter evil at the end upon seeing the ghosts of all the people he has slaughtered.
(2) How can Richard expect to win Lady Anne's consent to marry?
In Act I, scene ii, having killed both her father and her husband, Richard announces his intentions to become Lady Anne's husband.
--She curses him roundly, but is silent on the question of whether she can become Richard's queen.
--Richard's rhetorical questions: "Was ever woman in this humor woo'd? Was ever woman in this humor won?"
+These questions are met with a resounding 'NO'.
The explanation for Richard's eventual triumph in his suit for Lady Anne's hand is that he is a Super-Human villain, a melodramatic character akin to Dracula.
--His very evil exerts a hypnotic effect on those around him; indeed, it is the sheer depth of his villainy that imparts an irresistible charisma to Richard.
(3) What is Richard's worst crime?
Richard's career before and after he becomes England's king is marked by a long succession of heinous crimes that serve as milestones to his rise to power.
+But, of all the evil he does, it is the murder of the young Prince of Wales (named Edward, and 12 years old) and his younger brother the Duke of York (named Richard and 7-8 years old) that stands out.
To build to moment of this heinous deed, Richard:
1. Plants a rumor that the two boys are illegitimate,
2. Urges Buckingham, in Act IV, "Shall I be plain? I wish the bastards dead," and when he demurs at the thought of slaughtering two children, Richard enlists Tyrell.
The deed is NEVER PERFORMED on Shakespeare's stage...called by Tyrell "The most arch deed of piteous massacre That ever this land was guilty of," (IV.iii.1-3), due to the emotional charge of the incident still clamored more than a century after the deed.
(4) What impact does the procession of Ghosts have on Richard?
Eve of Battle of Bosworth field, Richard is visited by the ghosts of those he has killed or had killed by others.
--He does not try, as Brutus did in Julius Caesar, if the effigies of the people are real or not. Also, unlike Macbeth, Richard expresses NO GUILT or REMORSE for his bloody crimes, only the fear of his impending death.
+In response, he does what comes most naturally to him...acts to prevent the curses from coming true by acting on weaknesses of others by spying on his own men to see who will desert him.
+Only impact of the ghosts on Richard is to provoke primal, animal-like fear.
CRITICAL DISCUSSION AND THEMES
MAIN THEME: Good v. Evil: Moves the play forward through Richard's psychopathology, and mad, self-destructive behavior. Through much of the dialogue in the play, Richard appears to be one-dimensionally evil.
OTHER THEMES: Ambition, Quest for Power, and Ability to Mask Evil
The play has structural similarities with Greek and Neo-Senecan tragedy:
*Ghosts: invoking forces of nemesis and revenge
*Richmond: agent of divine retribution
Psychoanalytic theory- focused primarily on Richard's physical deformities and deviant behavior, disclosed in previous play (Henry VI, part 3).
Vocabulary (to be assigned with sentences by teacher)
Mitigate Obsequious Penitent Prate Reprehensible Reprove Rue Sluggard
STUDY GUIDE QUESTIONS
1. How is imagery, including metaphor, symbol and simile, used to foreshadow Richard's downfall in his conversations with Queen Margaret?
2. Why do you think England has never had a King Richard IV?
3. Explain the decrease in Richard's patience over the course of the play, with regard to the way he treats his subordinates and greets news, both good and bad.
4. Discuss the use of nature and animals as symbols for characters, including the sun, the boar, and the hell-hound.
5. What is Richard's attitude towards women, especially Lady Anne, Queen Margaret, Queen Elizabeth and the Duchess of York? What do you think is the source of this attitude?
6. How are the concepts of providence and divine sovereignty incorporated into the plot and outcome of this play?
7. In what ways does Shakespeare insinuate the intellectual and ethical inferiority of the noble class?
Should Understand By the End of the Reading
*The importance of Ethics and Conscience in political leaders
*The motif of the boar and the hell-hound in this story as an image of representing the visceral nature of ambition and envy.
*Illustrate and explain the use of characterization to foreshadow impending tragedy in regard to the following characters: Richard III, the crown Prince of Wales, and Henry Richmond.
*The struggle between outrage and personal ambition in the motivations of those characters mesmerized by Richard's promises.
*The ways sublimated guilt can lead to conscious paranoia and subconscious terror.
*The use of oxymoron, paradox and irony to demonstrate contradictory impulses and desires within a person.
*The use of events in the lives of others foreshadow the possible future for Richard, including the following:
+Richard's initial declaration of self-loathing
+The Crown Prince's worried arrival at the Tower of London.
+Richard's early betrayal of his brother, Lord Clarence.
+Richard's magnanimous promises to his supporters, including Lord Buckingham.
+The visits of the ghosts of Richard's victims to Richard and Henry Richmond before the battle.
*The interplay of metaphor, simile and personification to create a wealth of images reflective of the story's themes and ideas.
*The irony of the title of the play.
*The ways in which temptations and possibilities of politics in Shakespeare's time are analogous to the current political system in America.
***(Ideas from Prestwick House materials, 2003)
THE MODERN MORALITY PLAY
An English Dramatic Form--primarily characterized by use of allegory to convey a moral lesson.
Characters- were abstractions: Good Counsel; Hypocrisy; False Dissimulation; Vice
*Vice- hates goodness because he is a villain; man's main enemy, an instrument of the devil, if not the devil himself. The ancestry with Vice may account for the difficulty in explaining the motives of Shakespeare's villains.
The most popular plot in the morality play was psychomania--in which characters battled for the possession of the representative man.
He stated that violent or immoral acts can be justified in the pursuit of a unified or self-sufficient state.
*Distinguished line between: SUCCESSFUL PRINCE and IDEAL CHRISTIAN RULER
+he implied that spiritual and ethical values had NO PLACE in the political sphere
-Emphasized the need to take risks and to accept one's dependence upon chance.
-He was condemned by Moralists in England and France as DEMONIC and an INCITEMENT TO TYRANNY.
Freud argued that Richard III displayed/exemplified the pathology of 'exceptional' persons who flaunt their physical limitations to excuse their anti-social desires, which serve as compensation.
Richard's inner motives: discussed in terms of various sexual pathologies (i.e. Lady Anne, Elizabeth).
**Scholarship has investigated:
1. Richard's Machivellian dynamics of power
2. Dramatic origins of Richard's theatrical flamboyance in the morality play Vice.
3. Play's encoding of contemporary political debate over royal authority.
E.M.W. Tillyard (1944)
Stated, "Richard III was a culmination of national commedia."
He (Richard III) was God's final scourge for the wrongful deposition of Richard II, which led to the War of the Roses... the only thing that restores this (the rightful line) was Richmond's victory.