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Home :: Archive :: 2002 :: June ::
Re: William Catesby/Richard III
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 13.1549  Monday, 24 June 2002

[1]     From:   Clifford Stetner <
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        Date:   Friday, 21 Jun 2002 13:59:15 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.1540 Re: William Catesby/Richard III

[2]     From:   Sophie Masson <
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        Date:   Saturday, 22 Jun 2002 23:58:10 +1000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.1540 Re: William Catesby/Richard III


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Clifford Stetner <
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Date:           Friday, 21 Jun 2002 13:59:15 -0400
Subject: 13.1540 Re: William Catesby/Richard III
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.1540 Re: William Catesby/Richard III

>On the one hand, Richard fits with the extreme
>villains that the author had already used in TA, and that he inherited
>from Kyd and Marlowe (and they from Seneca). On the other hand, he fits
>with the Tudor Myth that WS seems to have otherwise accepted -- as it
>was both healthy and profitable to do.

>Cheers,
>don

>I think it can be a mistake to expect historical accuracy from
>Shakespeare. At times, especially with King John, he deliberately
>subverts and distorts historicism for his dramatic ends.

>Brian Willis

It may be that Shakespeare used archetypal characters to comment on
periods of English history so that he was less concerned with the
representation of the historic Richard than with the way his myth
personifies his epoch.  Richard as the hunchback Machiavel is symbolic
of a kind of murderous tyranny that was ubiquitous in the European and
Near Eastern states of the late Middle Ages replete with tales of
brothers poisoning brothers, children poisoning their parents, wives
poisoning their husbands, ad nauseum in the pursuit of power. The death
of Richard represents the end of this era in England and the advent of
the enlightened modern (Tudor) state. The caricature exaggeration of his
evil and deformity raises him to the level of archetype by preventing us
from mistaking him for simply another of the mere portraits represented
in the characters that converge around him and whose historic record can
best be understood in the paradigmatic context he creates. In accordance
with the doctrine of divine election, Richard "is" (or "was") England.
His birth defects and moral bankruptcy are therefore symbolic of
England's in the fifteenth century, born of the Wars of the Roses, and
these, according to Shakespeare were extreme.  As an ideologue of the
Tudor myth for whatever motive, Shakespeare needs to emphasize the
contrast between the deformity of England's past, symbolized in Richard
and the natural beauty of England's present, symbolized in Henry. Slight
spinal curvature and a little insider trading won't do.

Clifford Stetner
http://phoenixandturtle.net/

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Sophie Masson <
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Date:           Saturday, 22 Jun 2002 23:58:10 +1000
Subject: 13.1540 Re: William Catesby/Richard III
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.1540 Re: William Catesby/Richard III

Thank you all for all your comments.

 I suppose what I meant by the portrait of Richard being a sardonic one
was not that I expect WS to write 'proper' history, but rather that this
particular portrait is a Grand Guignol one with tongue in cheek--a kind
of subtle play on all kinds of things. It interested me that William
Catesby had been Richard's confidant, not only in terms of the play, but
also in terms of the fact Shakespeare probably knew the contemporay,
eponymous William Catesby at Lapworth. If, as seems possible,
Shakespeare and his family were part, even loosely, of a Catholic
network(and I'm not at all meaning this in terms of anything formal or
tight, more a matter of sympathies and silences, really), then it's
possible that there are double meanings behind the portrayal of Richard.
This is pure speculation on my part, I cheerfully admit it: but if the
Elizabethan Catesby had a different view of his ancestor and Richard
himself, things WS knew of, then it could have been fun for him to write
the play in a vein not only of history and tragedy, but also of hidden
satire.

 If Henry Tudor was seen as a prototype Protestant, for instance--if
Richard's name was blackened not only for dynastic reasons--to make out
he was an evil tyrant, who needed to be overthrown--but also for
religious reasons--and therefore the lily was gilded in Tudor _and_
Protestant propaganda, then it is interesting to speculate on just the
fact that almost alone of Shakespeare's villains, Richard has that 'Pulp
Fiction' quality, if you like. Is the playwright making a subterranean
point about the Tudors and their pretensions/hypocrisies? And is he
using established pieties to do so?  Everyone 'knew' Richard was a
deformed monster--why not emphasise it so often that in fact it loses
its punch and begins to seem almost suspect?  Writers, especially those
of a secretive/reserved character, like to make points, allude to
things, even sometimes key in total inversions of what their work
appears to be, just for their own fun, and that of others who may share
their sympathies. Even if other people don't get it, it doesn't
matter--as long as the story can stand on its own two feet anyway. Which
Richard III obviously does.

All stuff to play with, really; I am certainly not trying to prove
anything in any way.

Sophie Masson
Author site: http://www.northnet.com.au/~smasson

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