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Villians of Manipulation - Shakespeare's Tragedies

Connecting the different themes in Shakespeare’s tragedies and reoccurring similarities that lead to disorder helps to understand the plays and Shakespeare as an author. An occurrence which was notable among Othello, Richard III, and King Lear was the transition from the state of order to a place of dysfunction and chaos due to a villainous character. Richard became the poison that led to the downfall of the royal York family line. Iago was the deceiver that influenced Othello’s mental breakdown.

King lear’s daughters, Goneril and Regan, along with Edmund led to their own deaths as well as the disorder of the kingdom. In the time of Shakespeare according to Thomson Gale, the Elizabethan era, people valued politics and social order over science.

Class was thought to be granted by God and the world of order was created around that knowledge. If Richard had accepted his place in the order of society he would not have gone out of line.

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Man knows what is good yet may succumb to devilish temptation for power or love. Order in that time period was based on God, nature, and politics, now order is based less on god and more on discipline and law enforcement.

Calm before the storm

The York kingdom, ruled by King Edward IV, won the war against king Henry VI and the Lancastrian branch of the family. With victorious triumph the people celebrated, all except the scheming Richard. Richard introduced the play describing the peace and order,

Now is the winter of our discontent

Made glorious summer by this son of York,

And all the clouds that loured upon our house

In the deep bosom of the ocean buried.

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Now are our brows bound with victorious wreaths,

Our bruis?d arms hung up for monuments,

Our stern alarums changed to merry meetings (1.1. 1-7).

The battle is won and people resume a peaceful life again, hanging up their items of war. Shmoop believed the bliss is something God would have wanted for the kingdom and seems almost too good to be true. Richard is too unattractive for anyone to love him and feels like he (4)doesn’t fit into the society. Richard blamed creation for his deformed body and (6)cursed all those who seemed more “blessed” by God.

Richard lets the readers in on his plan to change the outcome of this peace time, “And therefore

since I cannot prove a lover to entertain these fair well-spoken days

I am determined to prove a villain and hate the idle pleasures of these days.

Plots have I laid, inductions dangerous,

By drunken prophecies, libels and dreams,

To set my brother Clarence and the king

In deadly hate, the one against the other” (1.1.145-150); Richard regards the new aura of the kingdom as “idle pleasures.” He will become the storm that rains on the sunny day.

Clarence has a loving relationship to his brother Richard but Clarence is imprisoned for his name and no one suspects Richard would cause harm. Richard deceives his brother and after talking to Hastings he said, “He cannot live, I hope, and must not die Till George be packed with post-horse up to heaven.

I’ll in to urge his hatred more to Clarence

with lies well steeled with weighty arguments.

And, if I fail not in my deep intent

Clarence hath not another day to live-” (1.1.145-150)

Richard has a tendency to talk to himself about what he’s really thinking, contradicting what he just said to someone, showing his two-faced character.

The murderers told Clarence, disbelievingly,

As snow in harvest.

Come, you deceive yourself.

‘Tis he that sends us to destroy you here” (1.4. 230-231). Richard is given the means to manipulate people and position them how he wants them. King Edward IV dies from a broken heart after Richard convinces him that he was the reason for Clarence’s death. Richard is a cunning and intelligent man full of his dark purpose. Richard is coordinated, (8)calculated, and uses his polite manners and (5)smooth language to get what he wants. Lady Anne, the widow of King Henry VI’s son, Edward, met Richard during her husband’s funeral.

The interaction between the couple does not start peacefully but becomes a courtship. Anne spat in anger at Richard, (5)blaming him for the death of the two men, he tells her to forgive him, then denies killing them altogether. He tells Anne he killed out of love for her.

Anne is consumed with loneliness and with her sudden weakness she gives into Richards manipulation. He uses his words of honey to dig into the weakness of her heart. Richard tries to manipulate Anne by selling her lines such as,

Is not the causer of the timeless deaths

Of these Plantagenets, Henry and Edward,

As blameful as the executioner?

Anne then accuses him, which he answers, “Your beauty was the cause of that effect/ Your beauty that did haunt me in my sleep/ To undertake the death of all the world/ So I might live on ” (1.2.3).

At first Anne sees right through his corny words and seems to withstand the (5)pressure of his manipulation. A genius that Richard is, he changes his tactic and gives her a dagger to stab him knowing she wouldn’t have the heart to go through with it.

He finds her weakness for romantic language and uses that to advance their courtship while seeming like he’s a good guy and gives himself up to her,

If thy revengeful heart cannot forgive

Lo here I lend thee this sharp-pointed sword;

Which if thou please to hide in this true breast

And let the soul forth that adoreth thee

I lay it naked to the deadly stroke

And humbly beg the death upon my knee.

[He lays his breast open; she offers at it with his sword] (1.2.48). Richard manipulated to get his position of power and to get back at those more fortunate then him.

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Villians of Manipulation - Shakespeare's Tragedies. (2019, Nov 24). Retrieved from

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