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Richard III

Richard III was the last Plantagenet king. His death on the battlefield brought an end to the Plantagenets, and an end to the War of the Roses. Richard III was succeeded by Henry VII, the first Tudor monarch. When Shakespeare flourished, Elizabeth was on the throne, destined to be the final Tudor monarch. To make Elizabeth look good, Richard III must look bad. Whatever the crimes of Richard III, surely they were enhanced and improved by Shakespeare, given this context.

Shakespeare's "Tragedy of King Richard the Third" was first printed in 1597. The textual problems connected with Richard the Third are of a complicated nature, owing to the many differences between the Quarto version and that of the Folio. To name only afew, the Folio contains nearly 200 lines which are not found in the Quarto, and it often modifies certain terms of phrase and use of words which had evidently become obsolete, eg "which" is changed to "that"; "betwixt" to "between", etc.

Whatever may be the history of the First Quarto it certainly goes back to the author's MS, probably abridged for acting purposes; but on the whole it is a careless piece of printing. Whatever may be the history of the First Folio version, one can certainly trace in it the touch of a hand other than Shakespeare's. Authorities are agreed in assigning Richard III to 1594 or thereabouts.

Sir Thomas More's Life of Richard the Third, incorporated by Hall & Holinshed in their histories, is the ultimate source of the play. Shakespeare evidently used the second edition of Holinshed, copying a mistake which occurs only in that edition. The wooing of Queen Anne, as well as Queen Margaret's part, are, however, purely imaginary. The Enveloping Action is a favourite element in Shakespeare's plots. The War of the Roses forms an Enveloping Action to Richard III, and its connection with the other actions is close enough for it to catch the common feature of Nemesis.

Above all, historical dramas were numerous, such as disasters of the War of the Roses or the usurpation and crimes of Richard III. Nothing less surprising; the enthusiastic admiration for the country's past and present, which was one of the characteristics of the period, could not fail to influence the theater. These dramas, in which truth was so clumsily told that they often seemed another sort of old wives' tales, enchanted the public by their subject. They deal with our ancestors and with us, thought the hearers; let us listen.

Ian Richardson starred in the original House of Cards for the BBC in 1990. The series was adapted from a book by Michael Dobson. Richardsons character talks directly to the audience. Some of Shakespeare's characters "break the fourth wall", talking to the audience, indicated in Shakespeare's plays with the reference "Aside".

Kevin Spacey's depiction of a treacherous politician also features the direct address to the audience, as does Shakespeare's "Richard III". Spacey played Richard III, both in London and at BAM in Brooklyn, NY). In the theatrical production of "Richard III", Spacey as the deformed and deadly Richard moves about the stage like a wounded animal a crouched-over, malevolent force of darkness and rage that will not be denied. And yet, Spacey also manages to evoke sympathy for the character. Frank, like Richard III, is a likable villain.

Richard III, king of England, was born in 1450, the youngest son of Richard Duke of York. The last English king to die in battle, Richard was killed at Bosworth Field in 1485, at the end of the bloody Wars of the Roses. His enemies surnamed Crookback, because, owing to a withered arm, one of his shoulders happened to rise a little higher than the other.

This man, upon whose memory unmeasured vials of abuse and wrath have been poured out by dramatist and historian, seems after all to have been no worse than his neighbours. He lies under the sore disadvantage of having had his portrait drawn by those who hated his line and triumphed in his fall. It may be better to soften a little the dark shades, which represent him as the worst scoundrel that England ever bore. For two years and a half he shone in the full blaze of "that fierce light which beats upon a throne," and then he perished bravely in the field of war.

On the accession of his brother, Edward IV, he was created Duke of Gloucester, and, during the early part of Edward's reign, served him with great courage and fidelity. He partook of the ferocity which was ever a dark feature in the character of the Plantagenets; and is said to have personally aided in the murder of Edward Prince of Wales, after the battle of Tewksbury, and to have been the author, if not the perpetrator, of the murder of Henry VI in the Tower.

This bloody disposition was, however, united in him with deep policy and dissimulation, which rendered him still more dangerous. He married, in 1473, Anne, who had been betrothed to the murdered prince of Wales, joint heiress of the earl of Warwick, whose other daughter was united to the duke of Clarence. Quarrels arose between the brothers on the division of the inheritance of their wives; and Richard, who found his elder brother an obstacle to his views of aggrandizement, combined in the accusations against that weak and versatile prince, which brought him to destruction.

On the death of Edward, in 1483, the Duke of Gloucester was appointed protector of the kingdom; and he immediately caused his nephew, the young Edward V, to be declared king, and took an oath of fealty to him. The two ascendant factions, that of the queen's relatives, headed by her brother, Earl Rivers, and that of the more ancient nobility, who were led by the Duke of Buckingham and lord Hastings, courted the favor of the protector, who dissembled with each, while he was secretly pursuing the schemes of his own dark ambition.

His first object was to get rid of those who were connected with the young king by blood; and, after spending a convivial evening with Rivers, Grey, and Sir Thomas Vaughan, he had them arrested the next morning, and conveyed to Pomfret, where they were soon after executed without trial. Alarmed at the arrest of her relatives, the queen dowager took refuge in the sanctuary at Westminster, with her younger son, the duke of York, and her daughter. As it was necessary, for the protector's purposes, to get both his nephews into his hands, he persuaded two prelates to urge the queen to deliver the Duke of York into his hands, upon the most solemn assurances of safety.

Lord Hastings, although opposed to the queen's relatives, being the steady friend of her children, was next arrested, while sitting in council, and led to immediate execution. After this bold and bloody commencement, he proceeded in an attempt to establish the illegitimacy of Edward's children, on the pretence of a previous marriage with the lady Eleanor Talbot, daughter of the Earl of Shrewsbury, and scrupled not to countenance an attack on the character of his own mother, who was affirmed to have given other fathers to Edward and Clarence, and to have been true to her husband only in the birth of Richard.

All these pleas were dwelt upon in a sermon preached at St. Paul's cross. The Duke of Buckingham afterwards, in a speech before the corporation and citizens of London, enlarged upon the title and virtues of the protector, and then ventured to ask them whether they chose the Duke of Gloucester for king. On their silence, he repeated the question, and a few prepared voices exclaimed, "God save king Richard!" This was then accepted as the public voice, and Buckingham, with the lord mayor, repaired to the protector with a tender of the crown. He at first affected alarm and suspicion, and then pretended loyalty to his nephew, and unwillingness to take such a burden upon himself, but finally acceded.

He was proclaimed king on 27 June 1483, the mock election being secured by bodies of armed men, brought to the metropolis by himself and Buckingham. The deposed king and his brother were never more heard of, and, according to general belief, they were smothered in the Tower of London, by order of their uncle.

The new reign commenced with rewards to those who had been instrumental to the change, and with endeavors to obtain popularity. Richard, with a splendid retinue, made a progress through several provincial towns, and was crowned a second time at York, on which occasion he created his only son prince of Wales. But hatred and abhorrence of Richard soon became the general sentiment of the nation, and all men's eyes were turned towards Henry, Earl of Richmond, maternally descended from the Somerset branch of the house of Lancaster.

Buckingham, not thinking himself adequately rewarded, entered into a conspiracy against Richard III, with other malcontents in the south and west of England, but was suddenly deserted by his followers, betrayed into the hands of authority, and executed without trial. About the same time, the Earl of Richmond, who had embarked with a fleet from St. Malo, encountered a violent storm, and was obliged to return. The death of his son, the prince of Wales, was a severe stroke to Richard; and such was the odium attached to his character, that the death of bis wife, which followed soon after, was, without the least evidence, attributed to poison. He immediately determined to marry his niece Elizabeth, the daughter of his brother Edward, and legitimate heiress of the crown, in order to prevent her union with Richmond.

In August, 1485, Richmond landed with a small army at Milford haven. Richard, not knowing in what quarter to expect him, was thrown into much perplexity, which was aggravated by his suspicion of the fidelity of his nobles, and especially the Stanleys, the chief of whom had become the second husband of Margaret, the earl of Richmond's mother. When informed of the advance of his rival, he, however, took the field with great expedition, and met him with an army of 15,000 men at Bosworth, in Leicestershire. Richmond had only 6000 men, but relied on the secret assurances of aid from Stanley, who commanded a separate force of 7000. The battle was fought on 23 August 1485; and, in the midst of it, Stanley, by falling on the flank of the royal army, secured the victory to Richmond.

Richard fell fighting to hold onto his crown against the invading forces of Henry Tudor, later King Henry VII. William Shakespeare famously depicted him going down fighting shouting: "A horse! A horse! My kingdom for a horse!"

Finding his situation desperate, Richard rushed against his competitor, slew his standard-bearer, and was on the point of encountering Richmond himself, when he sunk under the number of his assailants. The body of Richard was found in the field stripped naked, in which condition it was carried across a horse to Leicester, and interred in the Grey Friars' churchyard.

Thus fell this odious prince, in his thirty-fifth year, after possessing the crown, which he had acquired by so many crimes, for two years and two months. Richard possessed courage, capacity, eloquence, and most of the talents which would have adorned a lawful throne. Many of his bad qualities have probably been exaggerated, but undeniable facts prove his cruelty, dissimulation, treachery, and relentless ambition. Gibbon has answered the Historic Doubts of Walpole concerning the reign and character of Richard.

Richard III has been represented as of small stature, deformed, and of a forbidding aspect; but there is some testimony to prove that his personal, like his mental, defects, have been magnified by the general detestation of his character.

After his death his body was taken to the Grey Friars Church in the nearby city of Leicester and buried in a hastily dug grave which was too small to house his body. The location of his grave became a mystery until 2012 when it was found under a municipal car park in a discovery which stunned archaeologists and captivated the Richard's remains were re-interred at Leicester cathedral on 23 March 2015 in a ceremony led by Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, spiritual head of the Anglican Church, and members of the royal family.



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Page last modified: 06-03-2016 19:37:17 ZULU