How Genuine was the Relationship Between Richard and Buckingham?

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Alice Ashby 10Z                 20/01/02


How Genuine was the Relationship Between

Richard and Buckingham?

The 'friendship' between Richard and Buckingham is an important storyline in this play 'Richard III' and could be used to demonstrate how Richard sees all his 'friends' or associates. Looked at simply, Richard seems to be merely using Buckingham in exchange for help in achieving his goals without any hint of real affection. However, examined more closely, is there a point in the play where Richard feels genuine enjoyment with his relationship with Buckingham? In this essay I am going to be exploring the nature of this relationship chronologically throughout the course of the play.

We first meet Buckingham in ACT 1, SCENE 3 when he is party to the hostile gathering in which old Queen Margaret curses almost everyone in the room. He is an able politician as well as a powerful nobleman and is discreet and apparently non-committal in this first scene. He is clearly well known and respected by those present in the room and so is put in a very awkward position when Margaret - by refraining from cursing him and instead offering the hand of friendship as "Thy garments are not spotted with our blood" - forces Buckingham to choose sides. The problem is this: if he sides with Margaret, he escapes from her curse; however, since everyone else in the room have already been cursed and are therefore firmly against Margaret, he would lose their valuable friendship. Throughout the Scene Buckingham has been very quiet and respectful towards everyone - trying to agree with everyone's point of view. He shows here that his true character is obviously not as a troublemaker and so is loath to make a decision that will upset anyone. However, the speech that Shakespeare gives him definitely reveals his final decision- his allegiance with Richard and the Yorks against Margaret: he mocks her, answering Richard's: "What doth she say, my lord of Buckingham?" with "Nothing that I respect my gracious lord.". At the end of the scene when Richard has a soliloquy, he states:

"I do beweep many simple gulls;

Namely, to Derby, Hastings and Buckingham…"

This shows Richard's opinion of Buckingham before the 'friendship' is as a "simple gull" which clearly tells the audience that Richard is only interested in the usefulness of Buckingham to aid him in becoming King: he has no respect for him.

        The second scene in which Buckingham appears is ACT 2, SCENE 1 where King Edward has gathered his family and friends around him with the intention for them to make peace with each other as he knows that he is dying. Buckingham once again is very loyal towards the York family (of which Richard is a member), but especially the King, by agreeing to reconcile matters with the Queen - there has obviously been past animosity between them as there seems to be a certain amount of tension. Shakespeare uses a large amount of irony in Buckingham's main speech in this scene:

        "God punish me

        With hate in those where I expect most love!

        When I have most need to employ a friend

And most assured that he is a friend,

Deep, hollow, treacherous and full of guile,

Be he unto me!"

This statement is very ironic as he is effectively cursing himself and sealing his own fate. This speech states that, if Buckingham ever does any wrong towards the Queen or her family, then he should be punished by being deceived in a false friendship-which is exactly what happens later in the play.

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        In this scene (ACT 2, SCENE 2) we hear the news that King Edward has died and witness the different responses by Richard and Buckingham. Since we have already been told by Richard that his intentions are to "prove a villain", Shakespeare ensures that we do not really believe him when he offers his condolences to the distraught Queen Elizabeth by his speech:

        "Sister, have comfort. All of us have cause

        To wail the dimming of our shining star;

(Aside) And make me die a good old man!"

He delivers it falsely and patronisingly which reminds us once ...

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