Friday, February 25, 2011

Richard III - Busy Bee

Richard. God take King Edward to his mercy,
And leave the world for me to bustle in!

(Richard III, 1.1.159-160)

No one could ever accuse Richard III of being anything less than tremendously energetic. I love this line, as the picture that it paints of Richard bustling about everywhere highlights his busy, restless nature. "Plots have I laid, inductions dangerous" (1.1.33) - Richard just can't keep still. 

This week, watching Al Pacino's documentary about the character, Looking for Richard (a kind of strange but interesting little film, but I digress), I particulary noted a point made by one of the scholars interviewed - that Richard had previously lived in a world of incessant war (as is so tragically shown in the three Henry VI plays), and now that the peace has come, he simply doesn't know what to do with himself.

 I think this insight into Richard's character is totally right. A few weeks ago, when we were reading and watching Henry VI Part 3, I was struck by how effective Richard is as a warrior - he's charismatic, brave, inspiring, a tremendous orator, and fully committed to his father's cause. War seems to be an arena where he can excel, despite his self-conciousness about his disability.

But, when the peace comes, what will Richard do with all the ambition and energy that had been channelled into war?

Now are our brows bound with victorious wreaths;
Our bruised arms hung up for monuments;
Our stern alarums changed to merry meetings,
Our dreadful marches to delightful measures.


Richard hates it all! He feels cut off from everything, no longer useful or important. So of course he turns to what he'd been trained up to, what he'd seen his father do his whole life: plotting to win what had always been seen as the greatest prize for the Yorks - the crown. And of course, just like what happened with his father, there's a lot of family blood shed in the process. Richard's mother touches on all of this - the father's example, the impossibility of lasting peace, the tragedy of brother against brother - in a speech where she laments her griefs and losses:

Duchess of York. Accursed and unquiet wrangling days,
How many of you have mine eyes beheld!
My husband lost his life to get the crown;
And often up and down my sons were toss'd,
For me to joy and weep their gain and loss:
And being seated, and domestic broils
Clean over-blown, themselves, the conquerors.
Make war upon themselves; blood against blood,
Self against self...


Richard doesn't let the cease of "domestic broils" or the ties of family stop him. He bustles.

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