EN3535 – Fall/Winter 2011/2012 – Elizabeth Pentland
Lecture 4 – Richard III – Part 1 – Oct 04
Timeline of History Plays
- First Tetralogy:
o 1589 Henry IV, Part I (1422-1461).
o 1590 Henry IV, Part II & III
o 1592 Richard III (1483-1485)
- Second Tetralogy:
o 1595 Richard II (1377-1399)
o 1596 Henry IV, Part I (1399-1413)
o 1596 Henry IV, Part II
o 1599 Henry V (1413-1422)
- Tetralogy – group of four plays.
Wars of the Roses
- Backdrop to this play is a period of civil war in England (roughly 1455-1487).
- The ‘War of the Roses’, named for the emblems used by the warring factions,
each with a claim to the English throne.
- The Yorkists represented by a white rose and the Lancastrians by a red rose.
- Henry IV, Henry V, and Henry VI (married to Margaret of Anjou) all belonged to
the House of Lancaster.
- Henry VI’s kinship challenged by Richard, Duke of York (not Shakespeare’s
- Edward IV is York’s eldest son; Richard, Duke of Gloucester (later Richard III) is
his younger brother.
Sources of Richard III Story
- Polydore Vergil’s Anglica Historia (ordered by Henry VII and published in 1555).
- Edward Hall’s Union (written under Henry VIII, it celebrates the reconciliation of
England under the Tudors).
- Thomas More’s history of King Richard III (posthumously publiushed in 1543;
likely main source).
- More described Richard as ‘little of stature, ill-featured of limb, crook-backed…
hard-favoured of visage’ – his physical appearance produced a character that is
deceptive and cruel.
- Holinshed’s Chronicles (1577).
Shakespeare’s Cultural Power and the Tudor Myth
- Shakespeare’s Richard III – deformed, monstrous, tyrannical, Machiavellian,
ruthless, unworthy to rule.
- Historical Richard of Gloucester … not a hunchback, did not have a withered
arm, was not born with a full set of teeth, was not in his mother’s womb for 2
years. - Which Richard II do people know?
- What’s the purpose of Shakespeare’s Richard III?
The Tudor Myth – Rewriting History?
- Constructing Richard III as monster allows Richard (Elizabeth I’s grandfather,
later Henry VIII) to save England – justification for the usurpation, it becomes an
honourable ‘legitimate’ act.
- Purpose of Elizabeth’s time: san ction Elizabeth’s reign, allay her subjects and
- This is important because her reign was threatened on multiple occasions, i.e.
famous plot to put Mary, Queen of Scots (Elizabeth’s cousin) on the throne after
she was dethroned in Scotland and escaped to England in 1568.
- Richard III society – founded in 1924 in England.
- Friends of Richard III, incorporated – American counterpart.
- Famous members: Helen Hayes (actress), Tallulah Bankhead (actress) and
- Importance of Richard’s soliloquies – his hypocrisy is revealed and we have an
avenue into his thoughts.
- His two voices: public and private.
- Opening soliloquy: themes of sun and shadow, war and love, virtue and villainy,
proportion and deformity, men and women, body and character that is present in
the acts that follow.
- Long speech – 40 lines – but it is only 5 sentences.
o Structured into 3 sections: ‘Now’ (line 1); ‘But’ (line 14); ‘And therefore’
o Speech culminates in the conclusion that since he cannot ‘prove a lover’ –
he is ‘determined to prove a villain’.
- Double meaning of first sentence ‘now’ as in former ‘winter of discontent’ when
Henry VI was in power; but also ‘now’ as in present: Richard is discontent even
though or perhaps because his brother Edward is on the throne.
- 3 part structure of speech:
o ‘Now…’ from war to dance.
o ‘But I…’ not made for love.
o ‘And therefore…’ villainy.
- Edward, House of York in the sun – he resides in the shadows.
- Richard uses the soliloquy to darkly charm the audience; opening scene opens
and closes with his address to the audience.
Wooing for Anne
- Richard proves a lover?
- Stichomythia – A rhetorical pattern, verbal duel: ‘Lady’ – ‘Villain’; ‘Vouchsafe,
divine perfection’ – ‘Vouchsafe, diffused infection’ – strong parallels in opposition. - Why does she consent?
o Possible reasons for Anne’s consent:
Lone woman needs a protector.
Succumbed to the passion and flattery. i.e. her beauty provoked
him to kill her husband.
Allure of the bad boy – she can be the good girl who redeems him.
- ‘Mad, bad and dangerous to know’ (Byron on Richard III).
- Soliloquy at end of 1.2: return to the images of mirror and shadow.
- ‘I’ll be at charges for a looking-glass…’ (255).
- ‘Shine out, fair sun, till I have bought a glass / That I may see my shadow as I
- Mirror – symbol of instruction and order; functions as a positive example.
- Books for conduct and statecraft: Mirror of the world (1481) and a mirror for
- Richard as ‘one false mirror’ – a distorted reflection of his father, Richard of York
whereas his brothers are true mirrors.
- Sun – symbol of King of England; Shakespeare likes to pun on sun/son.
- Shadow in the sun – Richard’s desire to overshadow his brother, Edward IV.
- Fails to ‘woo’ Queen Elizabeth in 4.4 but does not realize it; instead is
contemptuous of her: ‘Relenting fool, and shallow, changing woman’ (431).
Contrasting outcomes of the twinned wooing scenes highlight his position – in 4.4
we see that his fortune is declining.
- History plays explore the nature of monarchy: what does it mean to be king?
What are the qualities of a good king?
- The plays depict the connection between monarchy and performance – kingship
is a performance.
- Doubling effect of performing kingship on the stage.
- Staging politics and monarchy:
o 2.1 – Edward IV tries to reconcile warring factions within his own court, i.e.
‘Hastings and Rivers, take each other’s hand / Dissemble not your hatred;
swear your love’ (8-9); stage of enemies.
o 1.3 – Richard makes a dramatic entrance and presents himself as the one
who needs to be appeased, i.e. ‘They do me wrong, and I will not endure
o 3.5 – Richard trains Buckingham for his role as orator, i.e. ‘Come, cousin,
canst though quake and change thy colour?’.