Richard III – Villain as Hero Machiavelli’s Influence on Shakespeare My Kingdom for a Stage Jim Mukerjee August 1, 2011
Agenda Niccolo Machiavelli King Richard III Influence of Machiavelli’s Philosophy Dilemma of Leadership Conclusion Epilogue
Niccolo Machiavelli (1469 – 1527) The Prince, published in Italy,1532
King Richard III (1452 - 1485) “Every tale condemns me for a villain”.
Influence of Machiavelli’s Political Philosophy “Learn how not to be good”: The ends justify the means A ruler must survive – do whatever it takes, moral or immoral, to get and retain the throne George is Richard’s first target Arranged to kill his brother with impunity! “Learn well to disguise true character: feign and pretend” Egregious pretence of a pious life of prayer and meditation Immediate switch back to accepting the throne when pressed
Influence of Machiavelli’s Political Philosophy
“IT is necessary to seem to have the required qualities.
In politics appearance trumps reality”: Form is more important than substance Richard makes a mockery of love and camaraderie So do all others present at Edward IV’s deathbed “Avoid usurping property, women & children of subjects”: Arranged to kill two young, innocent princes in the tower Reneged on promise of property and Dukedom to Buckingham
Dilemma of Leadership If you have to commit immoral and evil acts to become a successful leader, how can you also be a good person? Richard does not triumph at the end Human instinct forces people to act in outrage when sufficiently provoked: Richard loses allies, family, and the audience Use good judgment to balance between Villain and Hero Shakespeare: Pride goeth before a fall!
Epilogue Good ‘morrow my noble lords and ladies of class, Close reading, thrust stage, mixed metaphors, prolepsis ‘n puns, soliloquies alas, If blind ambition, cold conscience ‘ere guides for thee, What sort of king doth think you would be?