Analyse and comment upon, the extent to which Richard III is a successful politician.

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Analyse and comment upon, the extent to which Richard III is a successful politician. (With close reference to the 1996 film adaptation starring Ian McKellan, directed by Richard Loncraine)

Shakespeare’s Richard III is set in England after the War of the Roses. Richard, the megalomanic eponymous character, is desperate for the throne of England. He tells us that he seeks the crown to compensate for his deformity (he was a hunchback from birth). Richard has his own brother killed and later has former allies and those who still stood in his way killed also. When Richard eventually gains the throne he finds his conscience and begins to feel insecure, he has the two Princes he has locked away killed. Nobles are horrified by his actions and establish a rebel force lead by Richmond. During the Battle of Bosworth Field Richard is defeated and killed in hand to hand combat with Richmond, who then takes the throne and becomes King of England.

The word ‘political’ can have more than one meaning. The Oxford English Dictionary has a few definitions of political and politician:

  1. Of, relating to, or dealing with the structure or affairs of government, politics, or the state.
  2. Relating to, involving, or characteristic of politics or politicians:    
  3. Interested or active in politics.
  4. Having or influenced by partisan interests: The court should never become a political institution.
  5. Based on or motivated by partisan or self-serving objectives: a purely political decision.

  1.  One who is actively involved in politics, especially party politics.            

  2.  One who seeks personal or partisan gain, often by scheming and by manoeuvring

Richard has shown several of these characteristics and so can be described as a political character.

The audience of Richard III experiences a complex, ambiguous, and highly changeable relationship with the main character. Richard is clearly a villain—he declares outright in his very first speech that he intends to stop at nothing to achieve his immoral desires. “I am determined to prove a villain,” But despite his open allegiance to evil, he is such a charismatic and fascinating figure that we are likely to sympathize with him, or at least to be impressed with him. A successful politician needs to be attractive to others and it can be said that Richard is, as shown throughout the whole play although not so much toward the end. Even characters such as Lady , who have an explicit knowledge of his wickedness, allow themselves to be seduced by his brilliant wordplay, his skilful argumentation, and his relentless pursuit of his selfish desires. This is a sign of a successful politician, he can twist the truth and make out that he is the victim, in Act I, scene I for example Richard woefully claims that his hatred toward others stems from the fact that he is unloved, and that he is unloved because of his physical deformity. This claim casts the other characters of the play as villains for punishing Richard for his appearance shows Richard’s impunity.

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Richard marries Anne as a political move; Richard knows that by marrying a royal he would have more of a direct route to the throne and so managed to persuade her to marry him. Anne was grieving at the time, for both her husband and father and so Richard had to use his excellent ‘people skills’. Richard knows how to manipulate people, a sign of a successful politician, and has extensive knowledge of human nature even though he appears to be alienated. You notice in the 1996 film adaptation, that Richard is somewhat separate from the others. At the beginning ...

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