The Dramatic Significance of Act 3.4 of Richard III Essay
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Dramatic significance is used in several instances in the given extract from Act 3 Scene 4, for various purposes such as to reveal to us the true nature of Richard, foreshadow deaths and ill-fortunes in the upcoming scenes as well as develop themes that have appeared in previous scenes such as the theme of curses and prophesies.
The use of diction in the first few lines contributes to the creation of dramatic significance to develop the theme of evil and the role of the supernatural in the play.
Words which connote supernatural and evil powers such as “devilish”, “damned” and “witchcraft” are used by Richard as he accuses people of having cursed him and hence caused harm to his body, such as his arm which he describes as a “blasted sapling withered up”. Dramatic significance is also used to show irony here as Richard is portraying himself as a victim of their evil forces. However, in actual fact, Richard is the one who is evil and conspires against everyone, attempting to deceive and overthrow them.
He is also the one who has most often been associated with hell and the devil by many characters in the previous acts of the play. For example, in Act 1 Scene 3 Margaret refers to Richard as “The slave of nature and the son of hell!”. The hard alliteration of the ‘d’ sounds in “damned”, “death” and “devilish” also make him sound evil and cruel. As such, we are able to see through his false front and also realise how absurd his argument is as he is born with the deformities that he is accusing others inflicting upon him. In Act 1, he himself used the phrase “rudely stamped” to describe himself, which shows that he was born with deformities.
Punctuation and diction in Hastings responses to Richard also has dramatic significance as it reveals to us his true feelings towards Richard and establishes the hidden conflict present between them. For example, when Hastings says “The tender love I bear your grace, my lord”, he exaggerates by the using of the word “tender” to describe his love and the fact that he places “my lord” at the end of the sentence, causing a pause in the line, suggests the lack of sincerity in his words. Also, the use of “If” in his next response to Richard gives us a clear hint of the split between them as it is evident that he doubts Richard’s words.
Dramatic significance is also used to foreshadow the evil that is to come. For example, when Hastings says that whoever offends Richard “deserved death”, he is digging his own grave as he is unknowingly granting ‘permission’ for Richard to have him executed. He is unaware that Richard would soon throw accusations on him and have him killed. Hence, Hastings’s death is foreshadowed. Another instance where death is foreshadowed is at the end of the extract when Hastings says that England will experience “fearful’st time to thee/That ever wretched age hath looked upon” and that his executioners Lovell and Ratcliffe “shortly shall be dead”. This also highlights the theme of curses and prophesies as these curses and prophesies actually come to pass towards the end of the play when Richard and his allies get defeated.
In many other cases, curses have been fulfilled but the receivers of the curses or bad omens are ignorant of them and hence are not cautious of the danger that they will face and are unable to avoid them. For example, when Hastings was ordered to be executed, he was angry with himself for having brushed away all the warnings that he got, and not having taken Margaret’s curses seriously. This is shown through the repetition of Margaret’s name when Hastings says “O Margaret, Margaret” and the despaired tone that is conveyed through the use of exclamation marks, commas and diction such as “scorn”, “loathe” and “wretched”.
We see Hastings regretfully state the several warnings that he had received, such as the stumbling of his horse upon approaching the tower where traitors were taken to for execution, Stanley’s dream of a boar attacking them, in Act 3 Scene 2, which he disregarded, as well as Margaret’s curse in Act 1 Scene 3 saying “That none of you may live your natural age, /But by some unlook’d accident cut off!”. This is also dramatically significant as well as it creates a sense of pathos for Hastings and his unfortunate predicament. We feel sorry for him and understand his pain and anger as he could have avoided this misfortune from happening as he says, “For I, too fond, might have prevented this!”.
Lastly the stage directions in the extract are relevant in creating dramatic significance to show Richard’s forceful nature and power to control the behaviour of the noblemen and rope in their support. Firstly, he shows how easily he can call for an execution of someone by saying “Off with his head. Now by Saint Paul I/Swear…look that it be done”, making it sound all religious and official.
After which, he says, “The rest that love me, rise and follow me” almost as if he were threatening those who stay behind with the same ending as what he had just caused for Hastings. As a result, the stage directions in response to Richard’s ending line is “Exeunt [all but] LOVELLE and RATCLIFFE, with the LORD HASTINGS”, showing us that the rest do fear Richard, his power, and that they understand the danger of losing their lives. This is also felt by Hastings as he describes him as “O bloody Richard!”.
Hence, dramatic significance has been used effectively in the given extract to help us readers better understand the play and the message and ideas that Shakespeare is trying to convey.