The seductive play of power in Richard III - Essay Example

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In Richard III, Shakespeare creates an all time entertaining villain. Richard's character is overtly Marlovian, a master of persuasive language rather than a profound psychologist or a criminal visionary. His action, throughout the play is animated by his obsession with the English crown which he considers to be "the high imperial type of this earth's glory" (Act IV scene iv)…
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The seductive play of power in Richard III
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"The seductive play of power in Richard III"

Download file to see previous pages The Middle Ages in England was characterized by power politics.
Buckingham is as seduced by power as Richard is. In fact even before Richard explicitly reveals his intention of seizing the crown, Buckingham is seen hatching plots so cunningly, that Richard is delightfully tempted to say: "My other self, my counsel's consistory,/My oracle, my prophet! My dear cousin,/
I, like a child, will go by thy direction./ Towards Ludlow then, for we'll not stay behind." It is interesting to note that the women characters are not fleshed out in the play and are only allowed declamations. This is reasoned by Miner and Irene G. Dash who refers to the women in the play as "ciphers" or "nonpersons" because they are widows and their sole source of power and of social identity-their husbands-is gone.
However, it is Richard's play. No other role matters much. He is a grand parodist - of himself, of stage conventions and of other characters. That is the secret of his outrageous charm. His great power over the audience and the other figures in his drama is a compound of terror and charm. Richard's zest, his antic glee in his own diabolism, is infectious. The sadomasochistic seduction of Lady Anne by Richard is by far the most fascinating episode in the play. She is seduced by the power of his rhetoric and his forceful emotional argument when he bares his chest and hands her his sword asking her to either kill him or take him up: "for I did kill King Henry-/But 'twas thy beauty that provoked me./ Nay, now dispatch; 'twas I that stabb'd young Edward-/But 'twas thy heavenly face that set me on." (Act I scene ii) Harold F. Brooks calls this Richard's "breathtaking impudence".
Another instance where Richard seduces through the power of his language is in Act IV, scene iv. In order to consolidate his power, he falsely swears to Queen Elizabeth that he is in love with her daughter, and to gain credibility he wishes upon himself a curse that should take effect if his vow proves false:
"God and fortune, bar me happy hours!/ Day, yield me not thy light, nor, night, thy rest!" His most triumphant parody occurs in Act III scene vii when he dupes the citizens of London into petitioning him to be their king. By imitating a holy man and appearing reluctant to accept the crown, Richard succeeds in getting the power he craves: "Would you enforce me to a world of care/ Well, call them again. I am not made of stone,/ But penetrable to your. kind entreats,/ Albeit against my conscience and my soul."
Shakespeare's greatest originality in Richard III which redeems what some critics call an otherwise cumbersome and overwritten drama, is the hero-villain's startlingly intimate relationship with the audience. From the first line of the play, Richard woos the audience through the seductive power of his soliloquy: "Now is the winter of our discontent/ Made glorious summer by this sun of York;" Enthralled, the audience is on unnervingly confidential terms with him. They are unable to resist Richard's outrageous charm, making Machiavels out of them all. They are entertained by the suffering of others. Richard co-opts them as fellow-torturers, making them share guilty pleasures with the added frisson ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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