EN3535 – Fall/Winter 2011/2012 – Elizabeth Pentland
Lecture 5 Part 2 – Richard III – Oct 18
Richard Burbage (1568-1619)
- One of the most famous actors in Shakespeare’s time.
- Shareholder in Shakespeare’s theatre.
- Played the lead role in Richard III.
- Background to the play: Shakespeare’s sources for the story of Richard III.
- Wars of the Roses (period of civil war in England; Lancastrians and Yorkists).
- Women’s roles in the play, the power of cursing.
- ‘Tudor Myth’ vs. the historical Richard III.
- Richard as tyrant, and as Machiavel.
Richard as ‘Machiavel’
- Figure of the Machiavel associated with the work of the Italian political theorist
Nicolo Machiavelli, especially his treatise The Prince (1513; published 1532).
- ‘I am determined to prove a villain’ (1.1.30)
- ‘Plots have I laid…’ (1.1.32)
- ‘And if King Edward be as true and just/ As I am subtle, false, and treacherous…’
- ‘Thus, like the formal Vice, iniquity, I moralize two meanings in one word’ (3.1.82-
- References to his misshapen body (cf. opening soliloquy); outward appearance
corresponds to the state of his soul?
- Like Aaron and lago, Richard uses the prejudices of his peers to his advantage,
exploiting misogynist discourse in his campaigns against Elizabeth Woodville,
and his older brother Edward IV.
- Works to discredit his rivals (or has them killed).
- Exploiting the ‘theatricality of power’: acting the parts of loyal brother and
confidant, love-sick wooer, victim of slander and witchcraft, religious man,
reluctant heir to the crown.
- Manufacturing evidence, post-facto justifications (e.g. indictment of Hastings).
- Do the ‘ends justify the means’?
Edward IV (r. 1461-1470; 1471-1483)
- First Yorkist King of England.
- Famously had many mistresses, including Jane Shore.
- Secretly married Elizabeth Woodville in 1464.
- Died suddenly in 1470.
Richard on Edward IV - Richard presents himself a ‘masculine’, disciplined alternative to the ‘soft’ and
‘effeminate’ governing style of his older brother, Edward IV (cf. opening
- Edward ‘ruled by women’ (suggested to Clarence in 1.1.62); their brother more
interested in lovemaking than governing?
- Edward’s illness as the product of an ‘evil diet’ i.e. a dissolute life (1.1.139-142);
repeated references to Mistress Shore.
- Calling into question the legitimacy of Edward’s children/heirs; Edward’s violent
reaction to a citizen’s doubts.
Elizabeth Woodville (1437-1492)
- Queen consort of Edward IV.
- Mother of the ‘Princes in the Tower’ and of Elizabeth of York.
- Her first husband fought on the side of the Lancastrians in the wars of the Roses
(Edward IV belonged to the House of York).
Richard on Elizabeth Woodville
- Speaking to Clarence in 1.1, he implies that Elizabeth rules Edward, her
husband: ‘this it is, when men are ruled by women’ (1.1.62); ‘I think it is our way/
if we will keep in favour with the king. / to be her men and wear her lively’ (1.1.78-
- Again, in 1.3, speaking publicly) to Elizabeth he says:
o ‘Our brother is imprisoned by your means, myself disgraced, and the
nobility / Held in contempt, while great promotions / Are daily given to
ennoble those / That scarce, some two days since, were worth a noble.
- Later in the scene, he accuses her of nepotism: ‘She may help you to many fair
preferments / And then deny her aiding hand therein / And lay those honours o