Power and Leadership in Shakespeare’s Histories
Throughout William Shakespeare’s histories, he explores the concepts of leadership and power, and how the nobility utilize the concepts for political ascendancy and maintaining power as a monarch. In Shakespeare’s plays, Henry IV Part I and Richard III, the contrasting characters of Prince Hal and King Richard demonstrate striking similarities in their pursuit and use of power and leadership. Although Prince Hal is destined to be a good king, and Richard a bad king, the two approach power and leadership quite linearly. Hal and Richard both take similar approaches in rising to power, using leadership roles to deceive, and instilling effective leadership in battle, but each have different motivations that ultimately lead to a good king, Hal, and a bad king, Richard. The two kings pursue power and leadership in similar ways, but Shakespeare implies that their ultimate fate rests in their motivations, Hal driven by glory and fun, Richard by greed and paranoia.
The first similarities between Hal and Richard are apparent in the way each pursues political ascendancy. Initially, Hal and Richard reject the idea of being king because of the implied “work” and “care” the job would entail. As Hal contemplates being king, he states, “If all the year were playing holidays, / To sport would be tedious as work;” (1.2.197-198). Hal does not want the responsibilities of being king because he doesn’t want his noble status to turn into work, which would result in less fun in his life. Similarly, as Richard discusses the offering of the throne, he states: Alas, why would you heap this care on me?
I am unfit for state and majesty.
I do beseech you take it not amiss,
I cannot nor will not yield to you. (3.7.204-207)
Richard pretends that he doesn’t want to be king because of the implied “care” the job takes, and that he is unfit. Richard desires to appear honorable in denying the throne, but is actually acting upon his...
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