Richard III


From Ian McKellen’s film adaptation of Shakespeare’s Richard III: “Was ever woman in this humour woo’d? / Was ever woman in this humour won? / I’ll have her, but I will not keep her long.” (I. ii. 232-4)

On this date in 1485, Richard III, the last of the Plantagenet line, was killed in the Battle of Bosworth Field, which brought the first Tudor king, Henry VII, to the throne.

Frye in the Notebooks on Renaissance Literature:

In the H6 – R3 tetralogy [1, 2, 3 Henry VI; Richard III] it isn’t until R3 emerges from the final play that we feel any dramatic integrity of character standing out from the tapestry.  The reason is that he’s an actor, and a hypcrite or masked character, and he suggests a kind of real life, however reprehensible, which he & the audience at least know about. (CW 20, 240)

. . . R2 is isolated in the opposite way from R3.  The latter is pure de facto & hypocrite; R2 is pure de jure, and is an actor who throws himself into every role suggested to him, most notably that of the betrayed Christ . . . (CW , 241)

The other world exists in Shakespeare, as in Dante, mainly to confirm the social set-up of this one.  Jack Cade, according to Iden, goes to hell; Edward IV goes to heaven.  Hubert is “damned” if he kills the rightful heir Arthur, yet H4 seem to get away with dodging the responsibility for killing R2.  This principle of presenting a wish-fulfilment world as aristocratic is in the romances.  It’s a bugger to try to understand a writer who has no personal attitude.  The king de jure has a magical aura around him: the logic of such a superstition is that a king de facto who has any claim to the throne at all should exterminate everybody with a better one, & will thereby acquire that aura.  R3 thinks he’s done it; this I why I call the principle of legitimacy comic: {the hidden eiron gimmick we’ve forgotten about}. (CW 20, 242)

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