Coghlan, early nineteenth century The play spans only the last two years of Richard's life, from to The first Act begins with King Richard sitting majestically on his throne in full state, having been requested to arbitrate a dispute between Thomas Mowbray and Richard's cousin, Henry Bolingbroke, later Henry IVwho has accused Mowbray of squandering money given to him by Richard for the king's soldiers and of murdering Bolingbroke's uncle, the Duke of Gloucester. Bolingbroke's father, John of Gaunt1st Duke of Lancaster, meanwhile, believes it was Richard himself who was responsible for his brother's murder.
Sources[ edit ] The source for most of the English history plays, as well as for Macbeth and King Lear, is the well known Raphael Holinshed 's Chronicle of English history.
Shakespeare's history plays focus on only a small part of the characters' lives, and also frequently omit significant events for dramatic purposes. Politics in the English history plays[ edit ] Shakespeare was living in the reign of Elizabeth Ithe last monarch of the house of Tudorand his history plays are often regarded as Tudor propaganda because they show the dangers of civil war and celebrate the founders of the Tudor dynasty.
A comparison of the plays richard iii and lear ii particular, Richard III depicts the last member of the rival house of York as an evil monster "that bottled spider, that foul bunchback'd toad"a depiction disputed by many modern historians, while portraying his successor, Henry VII in glowing terms.
However, Shakespeare's celebration of Tudor order is less important in these plays than his presentation of the spectacular decline of the medieval world.
Some of Shakespeare's histories — notably Richard III — point out that this medieval world came to its end when opportunism and Machiavellianism infiltrated its politics. By nostalgically evoking the late Middle Ages, these plays described the political and social evolution that had led to the actual methods of Tudor rule, so that it is possible to consider the English history plays as a biased criticism of their own country.
The 'Tudor myth' formulated by the historians and poets recognised Henry VI as a lawful king, condemned the York brothers for killing him and Prince Edward, and stressed the hand of divine providence in the Yorkist fall and in the rise of Henry Tudor, whose uniting of the houses of Lancaster and York had been prophesied by the 'saintly' Henry VI.
Henry Tudor's deposing of Richard III "was justified on the principles of contemporary political theory, for Henry was not merely rebelling against a tyrant but putting down a tyrannous usurper, which The Mirror for Magistrates allowed". Consequently, though Hall in his Union of the Two Noble and Illustre Families of Lancastre and Yorke saw God's curse laid upon England for the deposing and murder of Richard II, God finally relenting and sending peace in the person and dynasty of Henry Tudor, and though Holinshed's final judgement was that Richard Duke of York and his line were divinely punished for violating his oath to let Henry VI live out his reign, the chroniclers tended to incorporate elements of all three myths in their treatment of the period from Richard II to Henry VII.
Interpretations[ edit ] Shakespeare's double tetralogy[ edit ] H. According to Kelly, Shakespeare's great contribution, writing as a historiographer-dramatist, was to eliminate the supposedly objective providential judgements of his sources, and to distribute them to appropriate spokesmen in the plays, presenting them as mere opinion.
Thus the sentiments of the Lancaster myth are spoken by Lancastrians, the opposing myth is voiced by Yorkists, and the Tudor myth is embodied in Henry Tudor. Shakespeare "thereby allows each play to create its own ethos and mythos and to offer its own hypotheses concerning the springs of action".
Richard Duke of York, for example, in his speech to Parliament about his claim, placed great stress, according to the chronicles, on providential justice; Shakespeare's failure to make use of this theme in the parliament scene at the start of 3 Henry VI, Kelly argues, "would seem to amount to an outright rejection of it".
As for suggestions of a benevolent Providence, Shakespeare does appear to adopt the chronicles' view that Talbot's victories were due to divine aid,  where Joan of Arc's were down to devilish influence, but in reality he lets the audience see that "she has simply outfoxed [Talbot] by superior military strategy".
Warren,after J. Kelly  Accordingly, Shakespeare's moral characterisation and political bias, Kelly argues, change from play to play, "which indicates that he is not concerned with the absolute fixing of praise or blame", though he does achieve general consistency within each play: Many of his changes in characterisation must be blamed upon the inconsistencies of the chroniclers before him.
For this reason, the moral conflicts of each play must be taken in terms of that play, and not supplemented from the other plays. As for Lancastrian bias, York is presented as unrighteous and hypocritical in 2 Henry VI,  and while Part 2 ends with Yorkist victories and the capture of Henry, Henry still appears "the upholder of right in the play".
The Duchess of York's lament that her family "make war upon themselves, brother to brother, blood to blood, self against self"  derives from Vergil and Hall's judgment that the York brothers paid the penalty for murdering King Henry and Prince Edward. In the later tetralogy Shakespeare clearly inclines towards the Lancaster myth.
The plan in Henry IV to divide the kingdom in three undermines Mortimer's credibility.
The omission of Mortimer from Henry V was again quite deliberate: Shakespeare's Henry V has no doubt about his own claim. Shakespearean history in the wider sense[ edit ] John F. He implies that rebellion against a legitimate and pious king is wrong, and that only a monster such as Richard of Gloucester would have attempted it.
In these plays he adopts the official Tudor ideology, by which rebellion, even against a wrongful usurper, is never justifiable.
Hotspur and Hal are joint heirs, one medieval, the other modern, of a split Faulconbridge. Danby argues, however, that when Hal rejects Falstaff he is not reforming, as is the common view,  but merely turning from one social level to another, from Appetite to Authority, both of which are equally part of the corrupt society of the time.
Of the two, Danby argues, Falstaff is the preferable, being, in every sense, the bigger man. In Hamlet king-killing becomes a matter of private rather than public morality — the individual's struggles with his own conscience and fallibility take centre stage.
Hamlet, like Edgar in King Lear later, has to become a "machiavel of goodness".
Macbeth is clearly aware of the great frame of Nature he is violating. The older medieval society, with its doting king, falls into error, and is threatened by the new Machiavellianism; it is regenerated and saved by a vision of a new order, embodied in the king's rejected daughter.
By the time he reaches Edmund, Shakespeare no longer pretends that the Hal-type Machiavellian prince is admirable; and in Lear he condemns the society we think historically inevitable.
Against this he holds up the ideal of a transcendent community and reminds us of the "true needs" of a humanity to which the operations of a Commodity-driven society perpetually do violence.
This "new" thing that Shakespeare discovers is embodied in Cordelia. Cordelia, in the allegorical scheme, is threefold: Until that decent society is achieved, we are meant to take as role-model Edgar, the Machiavel of patience, of courage and of "ripeness".
History theatrical genre Dates and themes[ edit ] Chronicle plays — history-plays based on the chronicles of Polydore VergilEdward HallRaphael Holinshed and others — enjoyed great popularity from the late s to c.From the Director of the Folger Shakespeare Library Textual Introduction Synopsis Characters in the Play ACT 1 Scene 1 Scene 2 Scene 3 Scene 4 ACT 2 Scene 1 two of King Lear, Henry V, Romeo and Juliet, and others.
Editors choose which version to use as their base text, and As Richard III opens, Richard is Duke of Gloucester and his brother.
A play history cycle, which began with the newly attributed Edward III, the anonymous Thomas of Woodstock, and then the eight plays from Richard II to Richard III, was performed by Pacific Repertory Theatre under the title, Royal Blood, a phrase used throughout the works.
Representations of Kingship and Power in Shakespeare's Second Tetralogy as found in the chronicles and in the plays. Overall, the Richard II found in Shakespeare's play differs little from the Richard in the histories of Holinshed and Froissart.
The historical events of Richard's reign are kept in sequence and no significant changes are. Unlike most editing & proofreading services, we edit for everything: grammar, spelling, punctuation, idea flow, sentence structure, & more.
Get started now! The so-called window scenes in Richard III—the conversation of the common people in Act II, scene iii; Buckingham’s speech to the masses and Richard’s acceptance of the crown in Act III; and the scene of the Scrivener in Act III, scene iv—provide a glimpse of how the drama in the royal palace affects the lives of the common people outside its walls.
This fictional state of England, set in the era of the real Nazi Germany, draws similarities from the latter. Ian McKellen, who plays Richard III, is made to look like Hitler: the slicked down hair, the thin moustache, and the Nazi military uniform, minus the swastika.