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'His honour rooted in dishonour stood, And faith unfaithful kept him falsely true' (Tennyson, Lancelot and Elaine). Richard III

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Introduction

'His honour rooted in dishonour stood, And faith unfaithful kept him falsely true' (Tennyson, Lancelot and Elaine). From the very opening of the play Richard III, Richard establishes himself as a synonym for villainy. And that is the general impression we assume when considering the disposition of Richard III, a ruthless, villainous tyrant who felt the only means in which to achieve ones ends was to use hostility, force and injustice. It would be so easy to condemn Richard for his tyrannical, Machiavellian ways, for after all, all the history we know of Richard is malevolent. Yet the portrayal of this mis-understood protagonist in the text Richard III has been edited to make the audience averse towards Richard III, by the playwright, William Shakespeare. Richard III manipulates the Court of York the same way that William Shakespeare manipulates history. Shakespeare vilifies Richard III in order to glorify Richmond, founder of the Tudor dynasty. Shakespeare re-writes history to, takes events out of chronological sequences to make Richard's transgressions seem more iniquitous. Although technically a history, Richard III is considered a tragedy, as it consists of a tragic structure, showing the ride and fall of a single protagonist. In his opening soliloquy, Richard says he is 'determin�d to prove a villain' (I.I.30), and the play develops this ambiguous statement into an exploration of determinism and choice appropriate to both socio-history and tragedy, portraying on the most misconstrued characters in history...King Richard III. Out of all Shakespearean plays, Richard III is the sole play that is opened by the protagonist. And from the offset, Richard establishes himself as a synonym for evil. He explains of the victory of the York family, and how the war is now ended: 'Now is the winter of our discontent, Made glorious summer by this son of York, And all the cloud that loured upon our house In the deep bosom of the ocean buried.' ...read more.

Middle

What stands out in Richard III is the fact that Richard is still a seductive character, even after all the atrocities he commits. Shakespeare creates in Richard a singular character, a new character that has never been seen on stage before. And the audience finds that, much the way Lady Anne is seduced by Richard, so to is it seduced to find him at times likable, funny, and fascinating. From the very first word of the play, Richard woos the audience as he woos Anne, with the strength of his personality; his wit, his confidence, his bustle. Richard is an excellent actor, making full use of his duplicitous capabilities. With Richard, it is all a series of volt faces, change of direction. He manipulates people with his verbal stratagem, his 'honey words'. With Clarence, one moment he is normal, vindictive self, and once Clarence appears: 'Dive, thoughts, down to my soul, here Clarence comes,' (I.I.41). It's as if Richard literally changes persona, and he manipulates Clarence with this false, friendly, forthcoming persona, so convincingly that Clarence is utterly convinced Richard has not done one wrong against him: "O do not slander him, for he is kind (1.4.229). He continues, "It cannot be, for he bewept my fortune / And hugged me in his arms, and swore with sobs / That he would labour my delivery (1.4.232-34). When Richard converses with other members in the play, his words and phrases often contain hidden meanings, meanings that are in fact the exact intention, such as shown when Richard says to Clarence: 'Well, your imprisonment shall not be long. I will deliver you or else lie for you,' (I.I.114-115). Here Richard is in effect speaking to both the audience and to Clarence. Towards Clarence, he is showing a more compassionate feeling, whilst the audience becomes aware of the double meaning, knowing that he intends to have Clarence killed. ...read more.

Conclusion

Richard had done, as he is a intrinsically evil man and God would want for him to be taken off the throne. And as the battle continues, we see Richmond fighting nobly in battle, and we see a pathetic, impotent Richard: 'A horse, a horse, my kingdom for a horse!' (V.IV.7). Here we see Richard the once-powerful, cool, conscientious leader, totally impotent and helpless...and we see him not worthy of Richmond. Shakespeare intended for this all as both justification of the usurpation of the throne by Richmond, and also as a way of honouring the Queen of the time, by seeing how valiant her Grandfather was, when compared to Richard III. In all fairness I believe that Shakespeare depiction of Richard III is highly unjust and yet it has shaped the general consensus of Richard up till present day. Yet, Shakespeare is aware of this, and involves slight subtleties such as: Thy prime of manhood, daring, bold, and venturous,' (IV.IV.170). These qualities of daring, boldness, and venturous are qualities of a great leader, of a hero. Is that not what it is to be a hero? Richard had the potential to be a great, great king, and yet he let his tyrannical side dominate and thus took a turning that he could never undo. Although he was the committer of exceedingly heinous crimes, the man deserves praise for some of his qualities. His boldness, his cunning, and his intelligence. Very few men could woo a woman in such impossible circumstances, very few men could indirectly murder such high assorted nobility and remain innocuous. In my opinion Richard should not be condemned as a heartless tyrant with no redeeming features, as he had the potential to be one of the greatest kings ever. Both Shakespeare and Richard are guilty of manipulation, yet both should not be condemned. 'My conscience hath a thousand several tongues, And every tongue brings in a several tale, And every tale condemns me for a villain'. OCR English Coursework Vishnu Parameshwaran ...read more.

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