This essay is to assess how much sympathy the naï¿½ve and harmless Hastings deserves after being fooled by the cunning Richard III and falling into his trap of trusting him. In Act I Scene I, Richard plays the loving, faithful and devoted brother when Clarence arrives at the tower, and sympathises greatly with Hastings. He pretends to be worried by the news of Edward’s poor health, suggesting not simply his family loyalty, but also his concern for the nation. In his conversations with both Clarence and Hastings, Richard slanders Queen Elizabeth and her relatives, blaming them for all of the ills that have befallen both Clarence and Hastings, claiming that is was she that convinced the king to have them sent to the tower in the first place.
Throughout the conversation with Hastings, Richard flatters his victim, telling him what he wants to hear and as Hastings does not like Queen Elizabeth due to previous events, he is taken in by what Richard has been telling him. ‘More pity that eagles should be mew’d While kites and buzzards prey at liberty’ (1.1.line132-3). In this quotation, Hastings is using a metaphor describing his opinion on the matter of being sent to the tower by claiming that the eagles are he and Clarence who are trapped, whilst the kites and buzzards are the followers of the Queen’s court, who are allowed to do as they please.
The shared dislike of Queen Elizabeth between Hastings and Richard kindles a friendship between them, and as the audience, we aren’t taken in by his false concern and so know that this technique Richard has used to intrigue Hastings is extremely effective, and Hastings has fallen into the trap of trusting Richard. In this scene, some empathy is directed towards Hastings because in only the first scene we have seen Richard cast Hastings under his spell and Hastings becomes captivated, oblivious to the apparent corrupt and depraved qualities of Richard. As the audience, from the outside looking in, we know a lot more about the sinister Richard than the character of Hastings due to the revelations in the opening soliloquy delivered powerfully by Richard, confessing his plans and motives to become king of England.
In Act I Scene III, Old Queen Margaret, widow to the murdered King Henry and mother to the murdered Prince Edward enters a courtroom where persons such as Richard, Hastings, Buckingham and Queen Elizabeth are already present. She opens by reminding those attending of Richards earlier crimes interrupting the dispute to threaten and blame the assembled company that for overthrowing her husband, Henry IV. She is then accused of playing a part in the death of Richard’s brother, Rutland. Although attacked with allegations, Margaret is not deterred from her aim and proceeds to curse each of the characters in turn and prophesies their destruction.
After cursing most of those surrounding her, when she reaches Hastings, she predicts ‘And so wast thou, Lord Hastings, when my son Was stabb’d with bloody daggers. God, I pray him, That none of you may live his natural age, But by some unlooked accident cut off’ (1.3.line 210-213). By saying this, she foresees that Hastings will not live his life to a natural age and will be beheaded. This curse comes true and Hastings happens to remember her prophecy in his last speech before his death. Margaret warns the company against Richard, ‘Thou elvish-mark’d, abortive, rooting hog, Thou that was seal’d in thy nativity The slave of nature and son of hell’ (1.3.line 227-229). Margaret continues to argue with Richard, cursing him continually and then leaves. Rivers and Buckingham seem disturbed by her heavy-handed words but by way of contrast, Richard remains calm and pretends to repent the wrongs that he did Margaret.
At the time when Hastings is cursed he seems displaced by Margaret’s words as he doesn’t reply, but later shakes it off by remarking ‘False-boding woman, end thy frantic curse, Lest to thy harm thou move our patience.’ (1.3.line 246-7) and seemingly does so to prove to the others that he is not worried about the denunciation by overtly putting on a bravado. In this scene, not much sympathy is inflicted towards Hastings, as although he seems to be deterred by the curse, he puts it to the back of his mind, attempting to impress those surrounding him, especially Richard after striking up a friendship, and therefore appears arrogant.
Act II Scene I begins with the ailing Kind Edward attempting to make peace between all of his friends and family, endeavouring to tie up all ends before he soon dies. He asks Hastings, Rivers, Dorset and Buckingham to profess their loyalty to each other and for sake of one of the last of wishes of a dying man, they pretend to do so. King Edward, on his deathbed, is attempting to reunite his friends and family, trying to make sure that he can die in peace, knowing that his family is content.