Analyse and comment upon, the extent to which Richard III is a successful politician. (With close reference to the 1996 film adaptation starring Ian McKellan, directed by Richard Loncraine) Shakespeare’s Richard III is set in England after the War of the Roses. Richard, the megalomanic eponymous character, is desperate for the throne of England. He tells us that he seeks the crown to compensate for his deformity (he was a hunchback from birth). Richard has his own brother killed and later has former allies and those who still stood in his way killed also.
When Richard eventually gains the throne he finds his conscience and begins to feel insecure, he has the two Princes he has locked away killed. Nobles are horrified by his actions and establish a rebel force lead by Richmond. During the Battle of Bosworth Field Richard is defeated and killed in hand to hand combat with Richmond, who then takes the throne and becomes King of England. The word ‘political’ can have more than one meaning. The Oxford English Dictionary has a few definitions of political and politician: 1. Of, relating to, or dealing with the structure or affairs of government, politics, or the state.
2. Relating to, involving, or characteristic of politics or politicians: 3. Interested or active in politics. 4. Having or influenced by partisan interests: The court should never become a political institution. 5. Based on or motivated by partisan or self-serving objectives: a purely political decision. 1. One who is actively involved in politics, especially party politics. 2. One who seeks personal or partisan gain, often by scheming and by manoeuvring Richard has shown several of these characteristics and so can be described as a political character.
The audience of Richard III experiences a complex, ambiguous, and highly changeable relationship with the main character. Richard is clearly a villain-he declares outright in his very first speech that he intends to stop at nothing to achieve his immoral desires. “I am determined to prove a villain,” But despite his open allegiance to evil, he is such a charismatic and fascinating figure that we are likely to sympathize with him, or at least to be impressed with him. A successful politician needs to be attractive to others and it can be said that Richard is, as shown throughout the whole play although not so much toward the end.
Even characters such as Lady Anne, who have an explicit knowledge of his wickedness, allow themselves to be seduced by his brilliant wordplay, his skilful argumentation, and his relentless pursuit of his selfish desires. This is a sign of a successful politician, he can twist the truth and make out that he is the victim, in Act I, scene I for example Richard woefully claims that his hatred toward others stems from the fact that he is unloved, and that he is unloved because of his physical deformity. This claim casts the other characters of the play as villains for punishing Richard for his appearance shows Richard’s impunity.
Richard marries Anne as a political move; Richard knows that by marrying a royal he would have more of a direct route to the throne and so managed to persuade her to marry him. Anne was grieving at the time, for both her husband and father and so Richard had to use his excellent ‘people skills’. Richard knows how to manipulate people, a sign of a successful politician, and has extensive knowledge of human nature even though he appears to be alienated. You notice in the 1996 film adaptation, that Richard is somewhat separate from the others.
At the beginning of the film all of the characters are dancing or talking in suits and dresses yet when Richard enters, he is in full military uniform and stands out from everyone else as different. Richard flattered Anne and complimented her late father and husband knowing that this would draw her toward him. During his conversation with Anne, Richard uses several different language techniques, employed by politicians today, to persuade and convert her to his way of thinking. It is during Act I Scene II that Richard shows that he is a master of rhetoric.
By using different rhetoric devices Richard is able to persuade Anne to marry him. Stichomythia is present during the scene, “Anne. And thou unfit for anyplace but hell. Rich. Yes, one place else, if you will hear me name it. Anne. Some dungeon? Rich. Your bed-chamber. ” Richard and Anne answer each other quickly with only short sentences. On stage they will most likely be speaking quite quickly one after the other, it can be said that Anne and Richard are reposting to each other. Stichomythia is well suited to dramatic dialogue especially when two characters are disputing.
Richard manipulates Anne by feigning gentleness and persistently praising her beauty, a technique that he subtly twists later in the scene in order to play upon Anne’s sense of guilt and obligation. Richard implies that he killed Anne’s husband, Edward, because Anne’s beauty had caused Richard to love her-and that, therefore, Edward’s death is partially Anne’s fault. This tactic culminates in the manipulative, and risky gesture of Richard’s, offering her his sword and presenting his chest to her, saying she may kill him if she can. However, interrupted by Richard’s speeches, Anne finds herself unable to kill him.
“Though I wish thy death, / I will not be thy executioner,” she says-just what Richard is counting on. Like a politician Richard seems to know what Anne will do before she does, similar to procatalepsis, and so can plan. Shakespeare had his characters using many rhetorics; he had a writing style similar to that of Seneca. Seneca was an old playwright (4 BC) who was extremely popular with a Renaissance audience. Shakespeare took many ideas from Seneca’s works. In Richard III Richard is similar to a narrator, using his soliloquies as a way of informing us of what is going on, this is comparable with the use of the chorus in Seneca’s plays.
Prophesies were also used by Shakespeare and Seneca, in the case of Richard III Clarence has dreams which prophesize his future. Richard has an ultimate objective, as do all modern politicians, which is to gain the throne, which he was fourth in line for, and is prepared to do almost anything to reach it, even murder. The tagline for the 1996 film shows this “What Is Worth Dying For… Is Worth Killing For. ” Although Richard never killed anyone except under the guise of war, he still hired assassins to “remove” the people who got in his way. Up until the end of the play Richard does not appeared bothered about the killings.