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Lecture 13

ENGLISH 3K06 Lecture 13: English 3K06 - Lectures 13-15 - Richard III

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Melinda Gough

Friday October 24 Overall Topics/Themes • Inner versus Outer Identities • Machiavellian versus Divine Kingship • Free Will versus Determinism • The Anti-Hero o “View of humanity as tortured and lost stranger to the idea of redemption” o Hamlet represents anti-hero o Richard III might or might not fit this category • The Supernatural o What comes after chaos? o What does it take to make God intercede and restore order? • Shakespeare as “Apologist” for the Tudor Regime? o Earl of Richmond is the Tudor in the play o Henry Tudor was the father of Elizabeth I Situating This Play Historically • Place in Shakespeare’s Career o Shakespeare is a nobody who comes to London o Makes waves with his history plays o Company he was writing for got a lot of cash from popular history plays o Richard III is one of 4 plays centered on Henry 6 and his family o Tetralogy • Historical Backdrop to the Play’s Events o The War of the Roses o Three plays about Henry 6 and then Richard III o Henry 5 comes first o King of France – a boy who can’t do very much o French don’t want to be ruled by the English o Even though Henry 6 is the rightful king, kingdom is being ruled by his father’s uncles o Henry 6 is not a very liked king – weak, marries a foreigner o As part of the dowry, he gives territory back to France that England has been losing lives trying to gain o This is the Margaret we see that scolds Richard • Henry VI o Crowned king when he was only 9 months old o Two months later, when his maternal grandfather dies, he becomes king of France o Fighting continues in France – the war is not over and the French still oppose English occupation (Joan of Arc) o Two of Henry 6’s surviving brothers assume control of England o Wife delivers a child – Prince Edward o Rumors that the father was not fathered by Henry 6 (age) o Margaret assumes royal command – highly unpopular because she is French and supposedly an adulteress o Husband never consolidated his powers o York side of the family decides that it should be the kings of England o York is in Ireland – wage war against Lancaster (including Margaret and Edward) th o A series of civil wars in the later half of the 15 century in England o Go on for about 32 years o Economic, emotional devastation o England weakened in relation to France o Edward 4 of York takes the crown through military force o Reports say Henry 6 is insane by this time but is kept alive o Efforts by Margaret to lead French troops against the Yorks to try to retake the throne o Lancasters lose – son killed at age of 18 o Henry 6 dies shortly after in the Tower of London o Shakespeare relies on Richard III’s narrative written by Sir Thomas Moore o Richard III killed Henry 6 – historians dispute this claim • Brief Historical Summary o Henry VI’s early reign (as a minor) = fractured o Mental health issues in his later years lead to increased instability o The Yorks, as Henry VI’s kin, forcefully seize control of the kingdom, declaring Henry VI unfit o Margaret, Henry’s queen consort and her son Edward resist, but ultimately fail to retake the throne o This play picks up in the events following Edward’s and Henry VI’s deaths o Play is set in a temporal distance – has been over 100 years since these events concluded o However still very relevant – heir of the opponent of Richard was Henry 8 who was the father of Elizabeth I (allegedly an illegitimate child) • Debates Regarding the Historical Personage of Richard III o Who was Richard III? o Suffered from scoliosis (curving of the spine from side to side) o He was a great warrior, despite his condition o Excellent horseman and won many battles o As we’ll see, Sir Thomas More (a historian during the reign of Henry VIII) wrote a book that demonizes Richard o Describes him as “evil-featured of limbs, crook backed, the left shoulder much higher than the right” o Shakespeare plays up Richard’s physical deformity to demonstrate his inner corruption o The Richard III Society attempts to defend Richard against what they see as a smear campaign Opening Soliloquy 1.1 (Lines 1-31) • The Purposes/Functions o Show Richard’s character • Rhetorical Strategies o How does he persuade • Interpretations of Richard’s Character/Motivations o Manipulative • Time o Times are changing o The play constantly juxtaposes the past with the present o War turns to peace, marches to dances • What Does This Opening of the Play Accomplish? o Edward wants the past to be put to rest – it’s done and over with o Richard equates peach with weakness – either you are a hardened soldier or you are a fop, catering to women o Sexual pun: Richard suggests Edward has gone from riding horses to riding women (disdain) o Gives further evidence that Edward IV was a playboy; numerous mistresses (including Elizabeth “Jane” Shore) o Paints himself as an outsider, but also (perhaps_ evokes some sympathy o We must asks ourselves, however if this self portrait he paints for us is true or not? • Interior Versus Exterior o Exterior becomes a “fashion” that you can change like clothes o Richard claims he can’t disguise or change his exterior, yet we see him do it time and time again • Animals o Richard will be linked to various animals throughout the play o Here, Richard describes himself as being separate from and rejected by both people and animals alike • Love o Claims he cannot be a lover, but subsequently we see him assume this role effortlessly (brotherly love with Clarence, romantic love with Anna) o Does Richard just underestimate himself or is he deliberately misleading/seducing us? • Determined o Ambiguous use of the word “determined” o Does he mean that he is resolved to be a villain (from choice)? o Or that his villainy is predetermined (destined by fate)? o “Scourge” – tainted by the rottenness • Vice Figure o Fashions himself in the image of the “vice” (standard villain from medieval and Tudor morality plays) o Vice – an allegorical representation of sin who is sent by the devil to tempt humanity o One dimensional stereotype o Is Richard as vice? Is so, why is it called a tragedy? o Tragedy = Richard is more multi-dimensional • Summary o Thus far, Richard is very social with us o He is an outsider (rejected from the fabric of Edward’s court) o That, in turn, positions him closer to us (as we are also outsiders who gaze in) o Paints himself in sympathetic terms – gives audience direct access “I” o By confiding in us, however, he also makes us complicit in his actions – we become his accomplices o If Henry’s tactic was to displace blame, Richard’s approach is to make everyone equally accountable • The Supernatural Emerges o 1.1 also introduces us to the supernatural undertones found throughout the play o Richard tells us he is going to be a villain and we get immediate proof of that (Clarence) o His plot to bring about Clarence’s downfall, however, has supernatural implications o Any theories as to why the supernatural plays such a prominent role in the play’s events? • 1.1.52-61 o Clarence o In a world where conscience lacks morality, does the unconscious find ways to compensate? Can we ever fully escape moral compunctions, even if we attempt to suppress them? • Some Purposes of 1.1 o It shows us how in control Richard is o He begins on stage alone, talking directly to us o Richard becomes a kind of director who controls events and who gives people their entrance and exit cues o We wouldn’t get an inside view of Richard’s troubling character and thoughts o Richard’s self reflection and his opinion of the world o Demonstrates his deceitful nature  pity himself to plotting maliciously o Establishes his skill as a shape shifter o Richard’s actions as words o Sharp contrast between his intentions and his utter opposite shift in personality when he tries to manipulates others o Makes you pity Clarence more o Protean shape shifting o Act I also introduces us to the central conflicts of the play o Richard  against his brother, the Queen and her followers, and everyone else (culminating in the fight with Henry Tudor) o The Queen, Rivers, Grey  against Richard o Margaret  against everyone Act 1.2 • The First Wooing Scene o Further clash between past and present as Anne accompanies Henry VI’s coffin (her former brother in law) o Anne is a spokesperson for the past and its claims on the present and future o Anne is arguably the stage director for mourning – not letting go of past wrongs o A spokesperson for the past – Richard doesn’t want the past/war to go away o Through her cursing, she puts a claim on the present and the future “this will happen” o She begins strong (cursing, angry, defiant) – her words, though, perhaps provide us with reason for her subsequent capitulation • 1.2.5-26 o Anne’s speech o See quote on avenue o If you curse someone else, you never know what you could bring upon yourself o Invoking powers that are bigger than you o Rhetorical device “anaphora” o First words of
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