Heroes and Bastards How does Richard III compare to Othello, Hamlet, King Lear, Henry V and MacBeth?
Othello • Othello lets his emotions run his life, much like Richard III in the later stages of his reign. • Yet for all the dangers and encounters Othello is involved in, he is still naive of the corruptness of other individuals. • He has a trusting nature in which ends up bringing him down, and allows himself to be manipulated and fooled into thinking his wife was unfaithful; unlike Richard III, who manipulates every character that surrounds him into believing his piety.
King Lear i • King Lear cuts of the daughter who won’t support him, much as King Richard kills those who won’t follow him or do as he says. • Has a passionate nature that leads him into trouble. • Where Richard is not king but looking to become one, Lear is already king but know he won’t be for long as he is growing old. • Like Richard he was vain, egotistic and proud. • Lear values appearances above reality in that he wants to be treated as a king but doesn’t want to fulfil a king’s obligations. Richard will do anything to become king and be treated as king but nothing is said about how he rule as king or fulfil the responsibilities of governing for the good of his subjects
King Lear ii • Unlike Richard, Lear’s values do change over the course of the play. As he realises his weakness and insignificance in comparison to the awesome forces of the natural world, he becomes a humble and caring individual. The closest Richard comes to this is a brief questioning of himself after the visit from the ghosts, but he is soon back to his old ways. • Compassion appears in King Lear: the only place in King Richard is when Queen Elizabeth, the Duchess and the children mourn together. • Where Lear is willing to believe in empty flattery, Richard receives no flattery and knows others feel he doesn’t deserve it.
Henry V - Differences • Henry is brilliant, focused, fearless, and committed to the responsibilities of kingship. These responsibilities often force him to place his personal feelings second to the needs of the crown whereas Richard places himself above all else. • Brave, likeable, fair, modest and humble. • The young King Henry was full of high, good thoughts. He was devout in going to church, tried to make good Bishops, gave freely to the poor, and was so kindly, and hearty, and merry in all his words and ways, that everyone loved him – a complete opposite to Richard III • “We few, we happy few, we band of brothers.” Act 4, scene 3, line 60.This quote is an example of Henry V being an encouraging, optimistic king- a contrast to RIII and his evil soliloquies in his attempts to attain power) • The ruling monarch, who is presented in the play as the ideal Christian king. The main purpose of the play is to convey the idea that Henry V represents in all aspects the model of the ideal ruler.
Henry V - Similarities • Henry V’s most remarkable quality is his resolve: once he has set his mind to accomplishing a goal, he uses every resource at his disposal to see that it is accomplished. . This tactic may seem morally questionable, but it is a valuable psychological weapon that Henry uses to pressure his enemies into doing what he wants. Again and again, Henry acts in a manner that would be deplorable for a common citizen but that makes him an exemplary king. • Once Henry has resolved to conquer France, he pursues his goal relentlessly to the end. • Henry is betrayed by his friend (Scrope / Buckingham) • Henry has a very special quality for a king: the ability to present himself honestly while still manipulating his audience
Hamlet • Only one directly in line for the throne • Only one who’s not interested in the throne • Content to leave power and prestige to others • Revenge, not ambition and greed, prompt him to kill • Like Macbeth and Richard III, he views murder as an act which must be well thought over before being committed • Equal to Richard in cold-blooded restraint and stony resolve • Shows no regret for killing the wrong person • Happily kills two school friends to spare his own life • Hot temper and propensity to violence • Difference from Richard: the people sympathise with him: we understand the reason behind his wicked acts • Hamlet fears moral sin, where Richard III fears nothing and is determined to prove he has no conscience
MacBeth i • MacBeth revisits the issue of the villain-hero that Shakespeare first addressed in Richard III. “Richard Plantagenet is alone with Macbeth as the Shakespearian version of the thoroughly bad man in the role of monarch and hero” • MacBeth’s path to the throne steeper: not even related to King • Not naturally wanting to commit murder (unlike Richard III) rather coaxed into it by the prophesy of the weird sisters and his wife • Murder and intimidation get him the throne • Like Hamlet, MacBeth begins with a supernatural encounter, whereas Richard III’s supernatural encounter occurs at the ‘beginning of the end’. • Unlike Richard III, MacBeth recognises he is doing something bad as he does it, but reason that he must to fulfil the prophesy • If Richard is ‘determined to prove a villain’, where is the tragedy when he does so? Is MacBeth is already going to do the things the witches tell him he will, again where is the tragedy?
MacBeth ii • After Duncan’s murder he grows more and more like Richard III: cold-bloodedly ambitious. • Like Richard III, he feels that ‘sin will pluck on sin’, and grows to have a ‘may as well be killed for a sheep as a lamb’ mentality. • As Macbeth goes into battle, he is aware of his own demise, whereas Richard III is always confidant he will win. • He prefers to die than to live as less than the true king • Again with the fearingness: MacBeth fears the supernatural. • Richard knows from the start the he is ‘determined to prove a villain’ • Richard: “I am in / So far in blood that sin will pluck on sin” (4.2.64-5) / MacBeth: “I am in blood / Stepped in so far, that should I wade no more, / Returning were as tedious as go o'er” (3.4.135-7). • Another device that works similarly in both plays is child murder. Both protagonists recognise that they have crossed a moral line when they first decide to move against the young
MacBeth iii • After the children are killed, both plays raise doubts about divine concern for innocents. Macduff's anguished question at the deaths of his family, “did heaven look on, / And would not take their part?” (4.3.223-4), recalls Elizabeth's protests to God over her own slaughtered children, “When didst thou sleep when such a deed was done”" (4.4-24) • Both suffer from lack of sleep after their evil deeds • When they do sleep, MacBeth and Richard are both troubled by ghosts in their dreams • In the end, both tyrant-heroes are alone. Just as Blunt observes that Richard “hath no friends but what are friends for fear, / Which in his dearest need will fly from him” (5.2.20-1). Malcolm describes MacBeth as deserted: “none serve with him but constrainéd things / Whose hearts are absent too” (5.4.13-14)