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.
This is a preview of the whole essay
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 again of the fact that Richard cannot be trusted. However, in contrast, as the Buckingham we have seen earlier in the play has been loyal towards the King and his family and a very honest, up-front friend of the family, we are lead to believe in him when he offers his compassion. This is very interesting, as at this point we are still in the dark about the fact that the allegiance between Richard and Buckingham has already been finalised. Shakespeare has deliberately not told us this yet so as to view the scene as described above. However, at the very end of this scene when Richard and Buckingham are left alone together on stage, it becomes clear that they have already begun that fatal friendship as it is obvious that they have been discussing their plans and plotting prior to their entrance half way through the scene. With hindsight it is obvious that Richard and Buckingham have been working as a kind of double-act throughout the scene and Shakespeare makes it clear to us that Richard has taken him into his confidence (and even jokes that he is in charge) by his speech on lines 150-153:
"My other self, my counsel's consistory,
My oracle, my prophet, my dear cousin,
I, as a child, will go by thy direction.
Toward Ludlow then, for we'll not stay behind."
In this ending conversation between the two friends, it is also made known to us why they became acquaintances in the first place: They both share a common hatred of Queen Elizabeth's family and so rejoice together at the knowledge of their planned imprisonment of the Queen's brother's (Rivers, Vaughn and Grey) in Pomfret Castle.
ACT 3, SCENE 1 is quite an important scene in the examination of the relationship between Richard and Buckingham. They appear in each other's company in public quite frequently now and they always enter and leave together. In this scene they are supposed to be meeting the little princes to take the elder, Edward home to London for his coronation. It is obvious that the friendship has been continuing for quite some time as Buckingham is now growing amazingly in confidence. He feels powerful enough to be derogatory towards other people, he is able to work fairly independently while still following Richard's orders and he now feels he has the authority to make orders of his own and tell other people what to do. Shakespeare uses a form of irony here again when Buckingham lets slip his fondness for the little princes. The smallest prince (Richard) makes a grave mistake when he absent-mindedly makes a joke referring to Richard's deformed shoulders:
"I think that you should bear me on your shoulders".
Buckingham comes immediately to the prince's rescue and then, seeing his mistake, covers it over by cleverly hinting that it could have been the princes' mother, Queen Elizabeth's fault:
"Think you, my lord, this little prating York
Was not incensed by his subtle mother
To taunt and scorn you thus opprobriously?"
At the beginning of the play Richard describes both Buckingham and Hastings as "simple gulls". However, by this point Shakespeare has shown us that in Richard's mind there is now a clear distinction between Hastings who is just a fool who can be manipulated and Buckingham for whom I think Richard now has a certain level of respect for his ability to work on his own initiative. It is also clear that Richard trusts and respects Buckingham's intelligence enough to confide in him all his deepest secrets and plans. Now, the question is: what does Buckingham think of Richard? I think that at this point Buckingham is actually using Richard for his own objectives. He knows Richard's aims to be king and thinks that he can raise his ambitions and position in society by association with Richard. Shakespeare uses Buckingham in this part of the play in place of all the soliloquies Richard had at the start of the play. Instead, he now confides in his confidant- Buckingham - who then conveys the information to the audience. Nevertheless, I think that it is at this point that the two really begin to enjoy this friendship together.
ACT 3, SCENE 2 is a relatively small scene where the only relevant part is when Hastings talks to Buckingham about staying for dinner at the Tower of London and Buckingham uses a knowing 'Aside', saying:
"And supper too, although thou knowest it not!"
He knows what Hastings' fate is and this comment was to show the audience that he is very definitely close to Richard and knows about his most secret plans.
This scene (ACT 3, SCENE 4) is where the double-act begins to become clearer. It is the meeting with all the influential politicians and noblemen including the Bishop of Ely which is to end with the declaration of Hastings' death! In this scene we see the deliberate plotting behind the speeches by both Richard and Buckingham. For example, when at the very beginning of the scene Buckingham denies the fact that he knows Richard well and suggests that Hastings is closer, knowing that Hastings will fall into the trap, it is obvious that he and Richard have planned the best and most effective way to trap Hastings. The speech is as follows:
"We know each other's faces; for our hearts,
He knows no more of mine than I of yours;
Or I of his, than you of mine.
Lord Hastings you and he are near in love."
Buckingham and Richard show just how capable and clever they are when they work together. They both influence Hastings in falling into the trap and now even appear to be able to read each other's minds; they do not plan or rehearse their speeches with each other beforehand and yet their timing and eloquence match each other perfectly. Both Richard and Buckingham are instrumental in Hastings' downfall and when they re-enter the room with Richard ranting and raving about witchcraft and bewitching, it is obvious how well they have plotted Hastings' death as he is powerless in the situation - whatever he had said in answer to the accusations would have condemned him. It is also clear that they both seem to get a satisfaction out of plotting, confiding and working together.
ACT 3, SCENE 5 is when Richard and Buckingham's friendship is at its height. Their double-act is working very slickly, almost like clockwork. They both seem to know exactly what they are doing as, at the beginning of this scene they begin planning what they are going to do only a few minutes before their parts have to be played and yet everything still manages to work out just right. Their plan is that in order to avoid suspicion about Hastings' death, they have to try and convince everyone that they are frightened for their own lives and that there is a conspiracy directed at them:
"Come, cousin, canst thou quake and change thy colour,
Murder thy breath in middle of a word,
And then again begin, and stop again,
As if thou wert distraught and mad with terror?"
It is remarkable how quickly Buckingham falls in with what Richard wants- they share lines and know exactly what each other wants and needs to do. They are working on completely the same wavelength and Buckingham even begins to speak like Richard in this scene! Buckingham then begins to talk about "we" whenever he refers to Richard and himself that definitely shows that he recognises them as at least 'partners in crime'. I think that at this point in the play both Richard and Buckingham temporarily receive genuine enjoyment out of their friendship as Buckingham is getting what he wants which is to increase his social status and Richard has a partner who is equally as clever and determined to achieve his ultimate aim (or so he thinks…). Richard obviously regards Buckingham as someone close to him and whom he can trust as he is extremely reliant on him by this time- he is resting everything on Buckingham's task. They also both appear to enjoy each other's company.
In this scene (ACT 3, SCENE 7) we, the audience, witness the last real scene where the friendship is still genuine. Richard and Buckingham act as co-conspirators and there seems to be a certain level of equality between them. This is the most important stage in Richard's plan - his campaign to become King and the fact that he relies on Buckingham to organise it all and make sure it all runs smoothly, shows that he trusts Buckingham with his life. Buckingham takes the initiative to ensure that supporters for Richard are in attendance and then when everything seems to be going wrong, he takes charge and actually begins to give orders to Richard:
"And look you get a prayer-book in your hand,
And stand between two churchmen, good my lord;
Play the maid's part: still answer nay, and take it."
Later in the scene Richard does as he is told and the plan works- Richard becomes King. This shows that Richard and Buckingham must have a unique relationship as there is no one else in the play with whom Richard would confide his deepest darkest secrets except Buckingham; and no other character from whom Richard would take orders.
ACT 4, SCENE 2 is that last scene in which Richard and Buckingham appear together. Richard is now King and takes the trouble to acknowledge Buckingham's part in his path to the throne to everyone, but very quickly becomes serious again. He immediately moves on to what is obviously his next intention or stage in his plan: the murder of the princes as Richard sees them as a very real threat:
"O bitter consequence:
That Edward still should live-true noble prince!
Cousin, thou wast not wont to be so dull.
Shall I be plain? I wish the bastards dead!
And I would have it suddenly perform'd."
However, unfortunately for Buckingham he fails to realise what Richard is asking him soon enough and so when it finally dawns on him, he has not prepared an answer. As we discovered earlier in the play, Buckingham has a very great affection for the little princes and great loyalty towards the former King's family and therefore is not willing to coopperate with Richard about this. Sadly, he gets caught out. He tries to back off and procrastinate but this is such a change from the former Buckingham who would follow his orders without questioning them, that Richard notices and, being very clever and sharp-minded, guesses the truth. This is the moment when the audience realises that theirs was not a genuine friendship - Richard was only trying to use and manipulate Buckingham. Richard becomes critical of Buckingham and then ignores him completely - talking to Lord Stanley about some trivial domestic matter at the same time as Buckingham is trying to ask for his long - promised rewards. This makes it pointedly obvious to the audience that Buckingham is now on dangerous ground and that he has angered Richard. Buckingham suddenly realises the parallel between himself and Hastings and escapes as soon as possible. Unfortunately, he later gets captured by Richard's army and shares the same fate as was promised him by Margaret's curse and his own oath. Richard returns to working alone without consulting or plotting with any other character. Shakespeare returns to using soliloquies to inform the audience of Richard's personal thoughts, feelings and plans.
Finally, having examined the course of the relationship between Richard and Buckingham thoroughly, I believe that theirs was not a genuine friendship. Richard began consulting and confiding in him at the beginning because he thought that he could be easily manipulated so as to be useful to Richard's ultimate aim and Buckingham merely wanted to raise his social position through association with Richard. The end of the relationship was very unemotional to Richard and Buckingham was just dropped as soon as there was any hint of a problem with the orders he was to follow. However, I also believe that, around the point when they conspired together to bring about the downfall of Hastings and the scene afterwards (ACT 3, SCENE 5) where they distract suspicion away from themselves by play acting being terrified for their lives, were points when temporary enjoyment was had from the relationship by both parties. I believe that there was a very short time when Buckingham and Richard enjoyed each other's company and friendship but overall, it was not a genuine friendship because they were both using each other for their own purposes.