Richard Iii Hero Or Villain Essay
The Character of King Richard III in William Shakespeare's Play
680 Words3 Pages
The Character of King Richard III in William Shakespeare's Play
In my opinion Richard is definitely not a hero, he is nothing more than an immoral villain. He is a cunning, callous and carefree murderer. However, for much of the play the audience view him as a hero. Throughout my essay I aim to argue why Richard is an immoral villain whilst contrasting why many may perceive him as a hero.
For much of the play Richard may be seen as a hero. One reason for this is his dramatic language. Shakespeare’s use of long, fascinating monologues in which Richard outlines his evil plans and thoughts are central to the audiences experiences and impressions of Richard. Thus, enabling his manipulative…show more content…
For example, ‘I am determined to prove a villain’ and ‘About a prophecy which says that ”G” of Edward’s heirs the murderer shall be. Dive, thoughts, down to my soul. Here Clarence comes.’ the audience will still view him as a hero, because of the way he hides his cunning and deceitful plans from others. By doing so we could question whether Shakespeare is genuine, as he is wrongfully leads us to like Richard, therefore allowing Richard to undeservedly become our hero for most of the play. The fact that Shakespeare doesn’t introduce the other characters also aids in him becoming the hero. Moreover, because we are unaware of the other characters and know nothing about them we have little concern regarding whether they are been tricked or not.
Furthermore, Richard could be seen as a hero through his wooing of Anne. For example he tries to explain his killing of Edward ‘ Your beauty was the cause of that effect’ (1, 2, 125), whilst at the same time complementing Anne. He also mentions to Anne ‘ Vouchsafe to wear this ring’ (1, 2, 205), which also suggests he wishes to marry her and Anne accepts the ring. Shakespeare is here demonstrating Richard’s skills linguistically, as he tactically blames her for his sins but he does so by paying her a
To the headline writers, he's become "the king in the car park". To Shakespeare, he was the "bottled spider". But 527 years after he died on Bosworth Field, he has become part of the national conversation again. Somewhere between a Mondeo monarch and a pantomime villain lies the figure of Richard III, one of the most disputed kings in British history.
A thrilling palimpsest of folklore, drama, archaeology and Tudor propaganda means that we will probably never begin to approach the truth about the reign and character of the man Shakespeare painted as "rudely stamp'd… deformed, unfinish'd". A monster of sadism, duplicity and cunning, much worse than bad king John, more cruel than Henry VIII and less fit than Charles I for the English throne, Richard III is by far the most reviled entry in a catalogue of sovereigns not exactly renowned for their grace, distinction, or humanity.
Shakespeare has a line for that, too, from Mark Anthony's celebrated eulogy for the assassinated Julius Caesar: "The evil that men do lives after them, The good is oft interred with their bones." The sensational find of the Grey Friars skeleton in Leicester last week, grippingly replete with evidence of severe scoliosis (curvature of the spine), has reanimated an old English argument about the last of the Plantagenets. Various commentators, rallying to the royal standard like trusty housecarls, have focused on the DNA angle. Conclusively identify the remains, goes the argument, and a process of regal restoration and rehabilitation can finally begin. For these inky royalists, the Queen's intervention in this saga cannot come soon enough.
It must be a long shot. Even the most casual enumeration of the competing plot lines, braided into the breaking news of the Leicester bones, throws up several archetypal tales that condemn Richard to a kind of narrative hell. The DNA evidence would have to link the notorious hunchback to Joseph of Arimathea to reverse the negative momentum of these stories.
First, and most sobering, there's the historical record: the chilling tale of a deposed tyrant. It's part of Richard's enduring appeal that he is not unambiguously corrupt. The Richard III Society, which sponsored the excavations in Leicester, points to the king's record as a wise educator and a brave soldier. Nevertheless, his brief reign (1483-1485) was terminated by a spectacular military rebellion conducted by a Welshman, leading a motley force of Scottish, French and exiled English soldiers. Losing that war became the first step to losing his historical reputation. Here, too, his story is archetypal. In the best English tradition, by all accounts, Richard seems to have snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. When Richard's army met the forces of Henry Tudor at Bosworth field on 22 August 1485, the king's men seriously outnumbered the enemy. Richard rode to battle in some pomp, but the king's confidence betrayed him. He charged with his cavalry deep into enemy lines, overpowered the Tudor standard bearer and was about to kill Henry when he was surrounded, cut off, and slaughtered in the thick of fierce fighting.
Shakespeare has him, on foot, calling "A horse, a horse, my kingdom for a horse." What seems to have happened, from conflicting eyewitness accounts, was that his white charger became mired in heavy ground. Richard, immobilised at bay, was felled by a Welshman's poleaxe. His naked body was thrown across a horse and publicly displayed for three days so that the English people could see that the hated tyrant was dead.
Later, he was buried in the choir of the church of the Grey Friars, the site of the recent archaeology. Henry Tudor, meanwhile, was crowned on the battlefield. According to legend, his crown was rescued from the hawthorn where it had fallen.
Richard was the last English king to fight and die on the battlefield. The end of both the Wars of the Roses and the Plantagenet dynasty was a turning point in English history. For these reasons alone, Richard III has a special place in the national myth. What follows, however, was sheer propaganda. Contrary to popular opinion, this came not from Shakespeare but from the pen of the saintly Thomas More.
The History of King Richard III was a hatchet job designed to explore the nature of power, leading to tyranny, and the sin that made such despotism possible. In More's account, Richard is accursed and unnatural, a parricide who broke all ties of kinship, like the figure of Vice in a morality play. An avuncular protector who was not a protector, a plotter and a killer, More's Richard contrives the murder of his nephews (Edward V and Richard of York), the princes in the tower. More, a loyal Tudor servant, had no interest in an impartial history. He wanted to present a narrative of evil with the hunchback king as a secular Satan.
It was More's Richard that caught Shakespeare's eye, the version he put on stage in his stunningly theatrical characterisation of the "poisonous hunchbacked toad". The young Shakespeare revelled in his dramatic powers. An ordinary chronicle play, routine propaganda, became a star vehicle for a great actor, initially Richard Burbage. It was also Shakespeare's genius to transform the king into a sinister comic performer, a character audiences will love and loathe. But there's no mistaking the playwright's loyalties. This is the victor's history, a version of events calculated to legitimise the reign of the founding Tudor, Henry VII.
Scene after scene accumulates into a complex, unforgettable portrait of villainy, in which even the hero participates. "Oh no, alas," says the king in act five, during a rare moment of remorse, "I rather hate myself/ For hateful deeds committed by myself. I am a villain." Then, even Shakespeare recoils from that line. "Yet I lie," Richard continues, "I am not [a villain]."
More's history is forgotten now. Shakespeare's devastating script lives on in a succession of great performances, from Garrick and Kean to Olivier and McKellen, and now Mark Rylance's brilliant interpretation at the Globe. Our rhetorical landscape is deeply coloured by the language of the play: "Now is the winter of our discontent"; "Was ever woman in this humour wooed?"; "The king's name is a tower of strength"; and "Seem a saint when I most play the devil". No wonder Hollywood returns again and again to this seam of theatrical gold.
The next archetypal narrative colouring Richard's reputation might be summarised as "the lovely bones", a subject of special interest to nerds and anoraks. Not only do we have the bones of Leicester for DNA testing, but we can also return to two skeletons buried in Westminster Abbey. These are not innocent remains, but thought to be the "princes in the tower".
So far, the Queen has resisted granting permission for the scientific scrutiny of these relics. But now that the Leicester bones are on their way to the laboratory, she may want to rescind this prohibition. There is the very real prospect that two royal mysteries – the identity of the little princes and the identity of their vicious uncle – will be cleared up simultaneously. From here, perhaps, it's a short step to the most promising pro-Richard narrative line: the rehabilitation of Crookback Dick.
The classic statement of this revisionist account – which must still concede the old accusations of infamy – is Josephine Tey's novel The Daughter of Time. The author of the Alan Grant mysteries (A Shilling For Candles; The Singing Sands) puts her hero in hospital and has him cross-examining the documentary record to uncover "the historical truth" about Richard, stripping away the accumulation of lies and misrepresentation to the point where he can be declared innocent of the deaths in the tower.
So this, perhaps, is the redemptive, archetypal version that might be available to the British public soon: "The Return of the King" – his bones triumphantly verified and acknowledged, a new tomb, probably in Leicester, and another royal shrine for the British tourist trade. As in the best dramas, we're now held in suspense, awaiting the closing act. The DNA testing will take about 12 weeks, apparently. Some time before Christmas, science will deliver its verdict. The king's bones may yet become a secular relic, an object of national veneration. Shakespeare, for one, would relish the irony.