My apologies for not better addressing an introduction yesterday. With a cast of characters a mile long, and minor confusion about who is killing who, I just had to plow through and finish to stay on schedule.
That said: men usurping kingship! I went into this play thinking Richard would be a good guy. Oh, wait, no, he’s going to kill anyone who gets in his way for the throne. You can tell by his very introduction: soliloquies are a staple of tragedy, and this play starts off with one.
Before going any further, With Shakespeare’s historical plays, I like to do a brief look at what his king’s are historically known for–and what Shakespeare does with them in his plays–and what better way of doing that in the modern century than to look to…Wikipedia!
Richard III (2 October 1452 – 22 August 1485) was King of England for two years, from 1483 until his death in 1485 during the Battle of Bosworth Field. He was the last king of the House of York and the last of the Plantagenet dynasty. His defeat at the Battle of Bosworth Field was the decisive battle of the Wars of the Roses and is sometimes regarded as the end of the Middle Ages in England. He is the subject of an eponymous play by William Shakespeare.
When his brother Edward IV died in April 1483, Richard was named Lord Protector of the realm for Edward’s son and successor, the 12-year-old King Edward V. As the new king traveled to London from Ludlow, Richard met and escorted him to London, where he was lodged in the Tower of London. Edward V’s brother Richard later joined him there. Arrangements began to be made for Edward’s coronation on 22 June.
However, before the young king could be crowned, Edward IV’s marriage to the boys’ mother Elizabeth Woodville was publicly declared to be invalid, making their children illegitimate and ineligible for the throne. On 25 June an assembly of lords and commoners endorsed these claims. The following day, Richard III officially began his reign. He was crowned on 6 July. The two young princes were not seen in public after August and there arose subsequently a number of accusations that the boys had been murdered by Richard, giving rise to the legend of the Princes in the Tower.
Suffice to say that Shakespeare has so far painted a very nasty picture of ol’ King Dick, but we won’t be able to see exactly what he’s doing until the end.
The act opens up with sick King Edward reconciling grudges and hatred for love. This, of course, shifts when Richard scorns Queen Elizabeth for wanting Clarence to be there. After the woeful mourning over Clarence, King Edward meets his untimely demise as well–the only brother left is Richard. That’s a body count of two, and we’re only in the second act.
Scene three interests me the most, because it takes us into the lives of the common citizens that live under this family. While most of what the audience has witnessed so far, it’s solely been the falling a part of the royal family. What trickles down to the commoner is one thing: fear. Which, as an audience member, I certainly feel myself as well.
The act ends with the taking of young Prince Edward into the Tower of London. Mercy. So, everyone seems to know that Richard is despicable, it’s been in the ruminating conversation between all the women–so…why is it taking so long to see that he’s the actual traitor, belonging in the Tower? I’m just a little perplexed.