Analysis of Richard III
Licenciatura en Lengua Inglesa
Universidad Nacional de San Martín
1) Richard III: hero or villain.
2) Analyze women in the play.
3) Analyze the use of dramatic irony in the play.
4) Analyze the opening soliloquy in Richard III.
5) Which is Richard's hamartia? When does it occur?
6) Where do you find the climax of the play?
7) Where do you find the catharsis and where the anagnorisis?
1) Richard III: hero or villain.
In order to analyze if Richard III is a hero or a villain, it is necessary to first comprehend both words. On one hand, a hero or heroine, according to the Dictionary of Literary Terms is the principal male and female characters in a work of literature. In criticism the terms carry no connotations of virtuousness or honor. On the other hand, a villain is described as “the wicked character in a story and, in an important and special sense, the evil machinator or plotter in a play”. We must know that these two definitions are not restrictive of each other. We must also bear in mind Aristotle’s own interpretation of tragic hero: • “Good or fine”: Aristotle relates this quality to moral purpose and says it is relative to class: “Even a woman may be good, and also a slave, though the woman may be said to be an inferior being, and the slave quite worthless.” • “Fitness of character” (true to type): courage is appropriate for a warrior but not for a woman. • “Consistency” (true to themselves): Once a character's personality and motivations are established, these should continue throughout the play. • “Necessary or probable”: Characters must be logically constructed according to “the law of probability or necessity” that governs the actions of the play. • “True to life and yet more beautiful” (idealized, ennobled).
In the case of this play, Richard does not fulfill the first characteristic cited above. This can be observed at the very beginning of the play in his opening soliloquy where he claims that his malice toward others stems from the fact that he is unloved because of his physical deformity. It can also be justified by the following crimes: murdering King Henry VI and murdering Edward of Lancaster, contriving the death of his brother Clarence, killing William Lord Hastings and disposing of his two nephews in the Tower of London, poisoning his wife in order to marry his niece.
As regards the second characteristic, Richard is a warrior and goes to war at the beginning and the end of the play. Also Richard’s consistency is clearly portrayed in his continuous struggle to become king and stay in power by all means. In the case of Richard, it is not his beauty but his ugliness idealized or magnified.
Finally, we must add the following characteristics to consider Richard a “tragic hero”: • He should be renowned and prosperous, so his change of fortune can be from good to bad. This change “should come about as the result, not of vice, but of some great error or frailty”. • He must undergo an error of judgment (hammartia).
• He must suffer a reversal of fortune brought about by his own tragic flaw. • His actions shall result in an increase of self- awareness and self-knowledge (anagnorisis) • The audience must feel pity and fear for this character.
The examples that appear in Richard III for all the characteristics described above will be deeply analyzed throughout this assignment.
To conclude, we consider that Richard’s character is both a tragic hero and a villain. It is a tragic hero because it fulfills all the characteristics cited above. Except for being good or noble, this is a rupture in the Aristotelian analysis. However, he is a villain due to the fact that he murders and betrays with reckless abandon to achieve his goals. Besides, a true villain must be highly intelligent and Richard undoubtedly is and it is proved in the way he speaks, manipulates,...
Bibliography: ARISTOTLE. Poetics.
DICTIONARY OF LITERARY TERMS AND LITERARY THEORY. England, Penguin, 1999.
HALIO J. L. Understanding the Merchant of Venice: A Student Casebook to Issues, Sources, and Historical Documents. London, The Greenwood Press, 2000.
SHAKESPEARE, W. Richard III. New York, Simon & Schuster, Inc., 1996.
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