William Shakespeare: Richard III
William Shakespeare (1564-1616):
William Shakespeare was born probably on 23rd April 1564 in a small town of central England called Stratford upon Avon. He was one of eight children of a successful tradesman John Shakespeare. Because his father was rich William could get a good education. He attended the local Grammar School in Stratford where he studied Latin, Greek and Philosophy. He left school and his native town very soon at the age of 16. He went to London where he spent most of his life. He became a member of a theatrical company. Starting his career as an actor. Later he became the director of the well known theatre in London the Globe. He used his experiences as an actor by writing his dramas. Six years before his death he returned back to his native town to spent the rest of his life there. He died in 1616 and he is buried in local church in Stratford. Main characters:
Richard III - feels sorry for himself: “I, that am curtailed of this fair proportion, cheated of feature by dissembling Nature, deformed, unfinished, sent before my time into this breathing world, scarce half made up...” (William Shakespeare: Richard III, page 55). As he is unhappy he hates everybody including his own brothers. He lays plots against people around him “Plots have I laid, inductions dangerous, by drunken prophecies, libels, and dreams, to set my brother Clarence and the King in deadly hate the one against the other...” (page 56)
King Edward IV – he believed to Richard’s lies and realized the love of his brother, Clarence, only after Clarence’s death. Edward, Prince of Wales, afterwards King Edward V – the young Prince shows himself to be wise beyond his years and so after the meeting with Richard, the later says: “So wise so young, they say, do never live long.” (page 117)
George, Duke of Clarence – brother of King Edward IV and Richard III. He is well-spoken. He loves his brothers, but he is mistaken when he thinks that Richard loves him, too. When one of his murders told him, that they were sent by Richard he does not want to believe him: “O, no, he loves me and he holds me dear!”
Third-person narration – author neither makes any explicit comments on the qualities of his characters, nor does he enter into their innermost thoughts and feelings. (J.
Grmela: Theory of literature for students of English, page 112).
Richard III is the last of the four plays in Shakespeare’s minor tetralogy of English history: it concludes a dramatic chronicle started by Henry VI (Part I) and then moving through Henry VI (Part II) and Henry VI (Part III.). The entire four-play saga was composed early in Shakespeare’s career. Culminating with the defeat of the evil King Richard III at the battle of Bosworth field in the play’s final act, Richard III is a dramatization of actual historical events that concluded in the year 1485, when the rule of the Plantagenet family over England was replaced by the Tudor monarchy. A full century after these events, Shakespeare’s Elizabethan audiences were certainly familiar with them and they were particularly fascinated with the character of Richard III Shakespeare’s audiences could readily identify the various political factions and complex family relationships described in the play as they proceed from the three parts of Henry VI. The popularity of Richard III dates back to Shakespeare’s own lifetime. Whether or not the story about Richard III is true the play had become part of popular mythology. History:
Richard Plantagenet was born on 2nd October 1452 at Fotheringhay Castle in Northamptonshire, the youngest son of Richard, Duke of York and his wife, the former Cecily Neville. York, a cousin to the reigning King Henry VI, held senior government positions but was unpopular with the Lancastrian regime. York’s disputes led to his early death at the Battle of Wakefield on 30th December 1460. His eldest son, Edward, seized the throne of England in March the following year and defeated the Lancastrians at Towton. The young king Edward IV had to take care of his younger siblings. So George was created Duke of Clarence and Richard Duke of Gloucester. King Edward married a Lancastrian widow in 1464 and began to alienate Warwick. Over the next five years the relationship between king and ’over-mighty’ earl led to civil war in 1469 and the following year Edward was driven into exile. One of the causes of their dispute was the marriage of Warwick’s elder daughter to Clarence without the king’s permission. Richard accompanied Edward to the continent and on their return to England in 1471 the teenager was given command of the vanguards at the Battle of Barnet and Tewkesbury. These battles were resounding Yorkist victories and both Warwick and the Lancastrian heir, Prince Edward, were killed. The former king, Henry VI, died a few days later in London. Richard now assumed the responsibilities of his position. He had been admiral of England since 1461 and he was now appointed constable.
King Edward granted Richard many of Warwick’s forfeited estates and the following year the duke married Warwick’s younger daughter Anne, who was the widow of Prince Edward, who was killed at Tewkesbury. In 1476, Duchess Anne gave birth to their only child, who became known as Edward of Middleham. On 9th April 1483 King Edward died. There had been no time to prepare for a transition of power and the heir, another Edward, was only twelve years old. At the time of his father’s death, the new king was at Ludlow under the tutelage of his uncle, Earl Rivers. The queen sent for them to come to London and for the king to be crowned without delay. Lord Hastings possibly informed Richard of his brother’s death and urged that he come immediately to London. Richard was joined on his journey by the duke of Buckingham, a distant cousin. At Northampton, Richard and his followers met Earl Rivers, who was arrested. Richard then moved onto Stony Stratford where the king was resting, made three further arrests and escorted his nephew to London. The queen when hearing of these events, withdrew to sanctuary in Westminster Abbey with her family. Edward V arrived in London but Richard announced that a plot against him had been discovered and accused Lord Hastings of being the instigator. The later was immediately executed and Archbishop John Rotherham, John Morton and Thomas, Lord Stanley were arrested. The young king’s brother, Richard, Duke of York left Westminster Abbey and joined his brother in the royal apartments at the Tower. On 22nd June Dr Edward Shaa, declared to the citizens of London, that King Edward IV’s marriage to Elizabeth Woodville was illegal. This was because of a precontract of marriage between Edward IV and Lady Eleanor Butler. The children of the marriage were illegitimate, and therefore, barred from the throne of England. Within four days Richard was acclaimed king of England. King Richard III was crowned, together with his wife Anne, on 6th July at Westminster Abbey. Shortly afterwards the couple began a progress around the country which ended in York with the investiture of their son Edward as prince of Wales. In the autumn of 1483, however, King Richard suffered a serious set-back. His former supporter, the duke of Buckingham, became involved in a rebellion, based primarily in the west country and Kent. Although swiftly repressed, the effect were far-reaching and King Richard now began to rely more on his northern supporters, placing them in the offices left vacant by the rebels. The rebellion had been supported by the exiled Henry Tudor.
On Christmas Day 1484 in Rennes Cathedral, Henry Tudor declared his intention of marrying King Edward IV’s eldest daughter, the Lady Elizabeth, when he became king of England. He then spent the next eighteen months planning his invasion. King Richard’s reign was overshadowed by the threat of Tudor’s invasion and by personal loss. Near the anniversary of the death of his brother, Kind Edward, Richard’s son died and the king and queen shut themselves in their apartments at Nottingham Castle to mourn their loss. Richard’s queen died less than a year later. The long-awaited invasion came on the 7th August 1485 when Tudor landed at Milford Haven in Wales. King Richard mobilised his forces and on 22 August king and invader joined battle at Bosworth Field in Leicestershire. Despite Richard’s superior army the battle was lost when king was slain by the forces of Sir William Stanley, who turned traitor in favour of his step-nephew, Henry Tudor. Richard Plantagenet was the last king of England to die on the battlefield. King Richard’s reputation:
Richard III, his actions and behaviour were the subject of attention for many years after his death. He was considered to be wicked and unscrupulous tyrant. However, during his own lifetime, Richard’s reputation was high. He was a loyal brother of Edward IV, who administered the north and defended the country against the Scots. The premature death of Edward IV led to a national crisis in which Richard emerged as king.
The declaration of the illegality of Edward IV’s marriage to Elizabeth Woodville has been interpreted as a useful excuse for Richard to turn down his nephew’s succession. But in fact, when his nephews were bastardised, the young princes were no longer a danger to Richard. However, their murder led to the greatest controversy about Richard – did he or did he not kill his nephews?
The death of Richard’s wife came under suspicion, too. There were rumours of Richard murdering his wife with poison, as well as of murdering her former husband after the battle of Tewkesbury, of murdering King Henry VI and even of murdering his own brother Clarence. But in fact, it was mostly Shakespeare who presented his anti-hero Richard as murderous and deformed tyrant. The Great Debate, as the study of Richard’s reputation became known, truly began in the 17th century when Horace Walpole wrote his Historic Doubts. That debate is not over, yet. Some of the British academics presented Richard as a tyrant and on the other hand the others as a talented administrator, who couldn’t be responsible for the deaths of Henry VI and his son.
But what they have to agree on is the fact that there is no clear evidence that Richard was guilty or innocent of his so-called “crimes”. Richard’s Deformity:
Many people’s image of Richard III is influenced by Shakespeare’s portrait of a “limping hunchback” with a withered arm. Shakespeare’s sources were the Tudor chronicles, hostile to Richard III. Perhaps Shakespeare also wanted to present an evil soul in ugly body. But we have to remember that there were REAL people who REALLY met and saw Richard. There were also earlier portraits, for example those belonging to the Society of Antiquaries, which were not painted in his lifetime but they are based on originals that could have been done from his lifetime and they do not show any kind of deformity. Later portraits, probably painted to fit in with the myth, show uneven shoulders and a villainous countenance. The raised shoulder of the Windsor portrait can be shown under X-ray to be a later addition to a painting with a normal shoulder line. Those who were writing in the 1480s such as the Crowland Chronicler, Philippe de Commymes and the Italian monk Dominic Mancini, did not mention any deformity of Richard, although they must have either met Richard themselves or spoke to those who had. A knight from Silesia, Nicholas von Poppelau, who visited the English court in 1484, recorded in his travel diary that “Richard was three fingers taller than himself but a little thinner and not so thickset, also much more lean; he had delicate arms and legs, also a great heart.”
Sir Winston Churchill wrote in his History of the English Speaking Peoples: “No –one in his lifetime seems to have remarked on these deformities, but they are now very familiar to us through Shakespeare’s play.”
The play is opened by Richard, who feels very sorry for himself. But on the other hand is pleased about laying the plots between his brothers King Edward and Clarence. Then, when Clarence enters with armed guard, Richard looks very surprised and pretends that he didn’t know about his arrest. But actually it was Richard who has incited King Edward to arrest the innocent Clarence, by pouring “drunken prophecies, libels, and dreams” (page 56) into the King’s ear. Richard shows sympathy with Clarence, blaming King Edward's wife (Queen Elizabeth born the Lady Grey) for Clearance’s situation. He even says that he will talk to King about Clarence in order to help him, but when is Clarence led away Richard says to himself: “Go tread the path that thou shalt ne’er return.
Simple plain Clarence, I do love thee so that I will shortly send thy soul to heaven....” (page 58) Another thing he thinks about is marrying Warwick’s youngest daughter, Lady Anne, whose husband (Edward, Prince of Wales) and father he helped to kill, but not because he loves her but “for another secret close intent by marrying her which I must reach unto.” (page 60)
In another London street he meets Lady Anne attending the funeral of Henry VI, her father-in-law. Lady Anne calls him a “black magician” and a “hedgehog”. However, Richard admits involvement in the deaths of her husband and father-in-law, but only because he loves her. Then he gave her a ring and she accepted it. After Lady Anne leaves, Richard says: “I’ll have her, but I will not keep her long.” (page 70)
In the Royal Palace in London Queen Elizabeth speaks with her relatives and expresses her fear that if King Edward dies, Richard of Gloucester will be named protector over his two sons. This meant that Richard himself would take the throne. When Richard enters he blames the Queen and her family for Clarence’s and Hastings’s imprisonment. Queen Margaret, the wife of the deceased Henry VI enters and she too expresses her hate towards Richard, warning Richard’s ally Buckingham against him. After everybody’s leave Richard meets two murders, who are supposed to murder Clarence in the Tower. Another scene takes place in Clarence’s prison cell in the Tower of London. Clarence tells his keeper that he has had horrible dreams that his real enemy is not the Queen, but his own brother, Richard. Richard’s two murders appear. They showed their commission to Brakenbury and so they are let to visit Clarence. Against Richard’s instructions, they speak with Clarence and disclose that Richard, in fact, hates Clarence. He tries to persuade them not to kill him and one of them starts to have an uneasy conscience when suddenly the second murder stabs Clarence to death. The action continues back in the royal palace where King Edward IV wants everybody to make peace. Asks them to shake their hands and so they do: Hastings and Rivers, Buckingham and Elizabeth and so on.. Richard enters and announces that Clarence is dead. King is devastated. Only now he realizes how deeply devoted was Clarence to him. Richard feigns complete innocence. In another room of the palace are the two young children of the murdered Clarence and their grandmother (the old Duchess of York, Richard’s own mother). She denies that Clarence is dead but the boy says that his father has been killed at the order of King and that he knows this because his good uncle, Richard of Gloucester told him so. Queen Elizabeth arrives with her hair about her ears crying because her husband – King has died.
Plans are made to bring one of the dead king’s two young sons, the Prince of Wales, to London for the coronation as the new monarch.
When Lord Rivers, Lord Grey and Sir Thomas Vaughan are sent to Pomfret as prisoners, Queen and her younger boy flee London, fearing Richard’s plans to put them out of the away.
The young Prince of Wales finally arrives and meets with his uncle Richard and Buckingham. Richard tells the young prince that he and his brother will go to the Tower of London until the ceremony takes place. But the young Prince of Wales says that he does not like the Tower. He shows himself to be wise beyond his years. Richard does not like this and he says aside: “So wise so young, they say, do never live long.” (page 117) The Prince’s younger brother arrives and so they are sent to the Tower of London. Richard sends Catesby to Lord Hastings to find out if he would be willing to support Richard becoming king. Unfortunately Hastings refuses to join Richard’s side, supporting the Prince of Wales. So Richard takes his chance when Hastings is defeating Queen’s honour, calls Hastings a traitor and commands that Hastings’s head will be cut off. Richard is told by Buckingham that the Mayor of London has been persuaded to speak to the people on behalf of making him King of England, bypassing the illegitimate Prince of Wales. But the citizens refused to join in on the cry “God save Richard, England’s royal King”. Richard must meet the Mayor of London and citizens and pretend that he is an unwilling candidate for the throne. So at first he shows an unwillingness to become king but at the end he announces that he will take the crown for England’s sake, naming tomorrow as his coronation day. Anne, who has became Richard’s wife, realizes that Richard is a villain, but she must be crowned as his new queen. Queen and the Duchess of York make plans for escape. At the royal palace, King Richard III speaks with Buckingham and tells him that he wants the two princes dead. Buckingham, however, does not look very happy about it. Richard calls a man called Tyrell, to murder the princes. He also orders to start a rumour that his wife, Lady Anne, is deathly ill: in fact, he plans to do away with her as well and then marry the daughter of Queen Elizabeth: “I must be married to my brother’s daughter, or else my kingdom stands on brittle glass. Murder her brothers, and then marry her...” (page 154)
Richard wants to kill the Earl of Richmond, who is a suitor to the daughter of Queen Elizabeth. News then comes that Richmond is assembling a force to depose Richard and that he has been joined by Buckingham. Fearing that Lord Stanley will go over to the other side, Richard orders Stanley’s son to be taken into custody. More messages arrive from the front: Richmond’s invasion force has been scattered by a storm and Buckingham has been captured.
Richard is elated by these events and plans to lead his own army against the remaining rebels. On Bosworth field is Richard and his remaining loyal allies in one tent and Richmond and his rebels in another tent. Lord Stanley goes to Richmond’s tent, promising that he will try to sabotage Richard’s battle plans by delaying the arrival of forces under his command. Between the two tents a succession of ghosts appear – Prince Edward, son to Henry VI; Henry VI; Clarence; Rivers; Grey; Vaugham; Lord Hastings; two young Princes; Lady Anne and Buckingham. Each of whom accuses the sleeping Richard of the foul deeds committed against them and curses him and then blesses the sleeping Richmond. Richard awakes and acknowledges his guilt; Richmond awakes ready for the battle.
Richard orders the execution of Stanley’s son, but delays action until the battle of Bosworth Field has been won.
When Richard’s horse has been slain Richard cries out: “A horse! a horse! My kingdom for a horse!” (page 199)
In the plays final scene, Richard and Richmond come together in hand-to-hand combat and Richard is slain. Stanley arrives and learns that no harm has come to his son. The crown of England is offered to Richmond. He, in turn, says that he will now marry the daughter of Queen Elizabeth, uniting the families of York and Lancaster, and thereby bringing England’s civil wars to an end: “Now civil wounds are stopped, peace lives again; That she may long live here, God say amen!” (page 200).