EN3535 Fall/Winter 2011/2012 Elizabeth Pentland Lecture 5 Part 2 Richard III oct 18



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Shakespeare

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.

Last Week…



  • 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…’ (1.1.36-37).

  • ‘Thus, like the formal Vice, iniquity, I moralize two meanings in one word’ (3.1.82-83).

  • 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 soliloquy).

  • 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’ (1.1.78-80).

  • Again, in 1.3, speaking publicly) to Elizabeth he says:

    • ‘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. (1.3.78-82).

  • 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 on your high desert.’ (1.3.95-97).

  • In 3.4, Richard accuses Elizabeth of witchcraft:

    • ‘Look how I am bewitched. Behold, mine arm / Is like a blasted sapling, withered up; / And this is Edward’s wife, that monstrous witch, / Consorted with that harlot, strumpet Shore / That by their witchcraft thus have marked me.’ (3.4.68-72).

  • In 4.4, he appeals to Elizabeth’s ambition when he offers to marry her daughter, Elizabeth of York: ‘I intend more good to you and yours / Than ever you or yours by me were height of fortune / The high imperial type of this earth’s glory.’ (4.4.242, 244-245).

  • Thinking he had won her to his side, he calls her a ‘relenting fool, and shallow, changing woman!’ (4.4.431).

Signs of Tyranny



  • A ruled who puts own interests before the interests of the state or the people.

  • Power concentrated in the hands of a single ruler; people disenfranchised.

  • Weak, selfish ruler-violent, lacking self-discipline.

  • Rules irrationally, led by emotions, desires, lust, and anger rather than by reason; unpredictable, volatile.

  • Cruelty or indifference towards his or her own people (including those closest to him or her).

  • Justice/laws ignored.

  • Excess, decadence.

  • Men dominated or ruled by their wives, mistresses, or mothers.

Is Edward IV a tyrant?



  • What are the implications if Richard is right about his older brother?

  • Dow we (should we) believe him?

  • Should Richard be king?

‘Medieval’ History?



  • Prophecy: the meaning of ‘G’ (1.1.38-40).

  • Dream visions and ghosts? Are dreams prophetic or just signs of a guilty conscience? (Clarence’s dream (1.4.9-63); Stanley’s dream (3.2.10-14, 25-33); Richard’s nightmares before Bosworth (5.3.119-207)).

  • Bleeding corpse of Henry IV?

  • Margaret’s cursing 1.3.188-272 (Does it work? Grey and Rivers: 3.3.15-23; Hastings: 3.4.80-93).

  • Witchcraft? (3.4.59-79)

The Workings of Providence?



  • Why does Richard’s Machiavellianism fail?

  • Is Richard III undone by Margaret’s curses, or is there some sort of divine justice at work in the play? Are Richard’s end and Richmond’s rise ordained by God?

  • Richard’s tyranny punished, his regime defeated by Henry Tudor, Earl or Richmond, whose reign will put an end to England’s civil wars, unite warring factions, and establish the Tudor dynasty.

  • The reign of his granddaughter, Elizabeth I, from 1558-1603 seen as a time of unprecedented stability and prosperity of England.

The ‘Tudor Myth’



  • The Tudor myth presented a scheme fundamentally religious, by which events evolve under a law of justice and under the ruling of God’s providence, and of which Elizabeth’s England was the acknowledged outcome’. (E.M.W. Tillyard).

Henry VII (r. 1485-1509)



  • Henry Tudor, Earl of Richmond.

  • Lancastrian

  • Defeat of Richard III at Bosworth brings to a close the Wars of the Roses.

  • Marriage to Elizabeth of York, daughter of Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville (1483), unites rival families.

  • Founds the Tudor dynasty (father of Henry VII, grandfather of Elizabeth I).

Elizabeth of York (1466-1503)



  • Wife to Henry VII.

  • Mother of Henry VII and grandmother to Elizabeth I.

  • Had a stronger claim to the English throne than her husband (Which is why Richard also wanted to marry her).

The Tudor Rose



  • Combines the white rose of the Yorkists with the red rose of the Lancastrians.

  • Symbol of unity following a long period of civil war in England.

Elizabeth I (r. 1558-1603)



  • The Tudor dynasty as the solution to all of England’s problems?


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