Monday, October 22, 2012

The Fate of Richard III

In the reading questions for act 1 of Richard III, Professor Mulready posted an interactive video of Ian McKellan explaining his interpretation of Richard’s famous introductory speech at the beginning of the play. One of the things that struck me as I listened was his explanation of how Richard feels during this time. McKellan states that Richard feels as if things have changed, but that they are not better. Though “the clouds that loured upon [his] house [are] in the deep bosom of the ocean buried” (3-4) his own clouds are still over head. First of all, he is the third brother, which means he is nothing of importance in a family whose first son inherits the throne. Second, he is physically deformed and claims that he is not “fashionable” and that he is in fact “lamely” (22). He feels less important because of this but more than that, he feels left out because he is not attractive to women or even “dogs” who “bark” at him as he walks by (23). Overall, he feels that although everyone else is happy, that he is still not, and this upsets him more than anything. Because of this Richard decides to plot his way to happiness by making others unhappy with each other, as he is unhappy with everyone else for how he has been left by the wayside.

After discovering this feeling and plan of Richards through the video of Ian McKellan, I began to wonder if his plan would actually work. Will Richard III really be happy after he “prove[s] a villain” (30)? Personally, I believe that he will not. Not only do I believe this because this is The Tragedy of King Richard the Third but because of one of the major themes in the play:  the power of language.

Richard III is a Master of manipulation. I mean, He uses language to seduce Lady Anne in front of the corpse of her husband, who he himself murdered! He plans on using this skill with language to create believable versions of “prophesies, libels and dreams” in order to move himself higher in society (33).

Though through our introduction to Richards’s skill, we see that it is almost unmatchable, we do find that his brother George is a match for his talent. Richard even says so himself. He states that “Clarence is well spoken” when talking to the murderers he sends to kill George and that he “may move [their] hearts to pity”, just as he has moved Anne’s heart to love (346, 347). When Clarence is confronted by these murderers and he is not in control, when he needs his language to save him most, it does not. The murderers loyalty to Richard is stronger than George’s skill and he is in the end defeated.

Because it is plain that there is a connection between Richard’s skill with language and that of his brother George, I think that it is probable that there is also a connection between the fate of George and the fate of Richard himself. It seems that George’s failure to use language to get himself out of trouble when he did not have the upper hand, will foreshadow  Richard’s fall, when he does not have the upper hand psychologically or physically, as he often has in this first act.  Therefore, going back to my original question, I predict that Richard’s plots, driven by his skill with language, will ultimately fail in making him happy.


What does everyone else think?

1 comment:

Hannah Hoffman said...

I think that the interactive video shows us a great interpretation of Richard's character. Sir Ian McKellen is a great actor and plays the part of Richard very well. I love watching movies with McKellen in them because you can see how much devotion and expression he gives when playing these characters. I have seen him in The Lord of the Rings Trilogy where he is a very serious actor. This interactive site was very useful.
The clip we listened to in class of Kenneth Branagh, as Richard, sounded more like Richard was insane and not a serious. It is great seeing the different acting styles for Richard, because it gives different perspectives of the character.
I agree that Richard is a master of Manipulation. This is where Richard and Iago in Othello relate. I love reading the plays and seeing which stories has characters that relate. I like how Shakespeare gives these characters those sinister manipulating traits in these tragedies.
I feel pity for Lady Anne, because she falls into Richard's trap and his skillful way of using language to manipulate everyone.
I cannot wait to read what other manipulating strategies Richard has to offer in this play.