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Richard III - Villain As A Hero, Oxford University, August 1,2011
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Richard III - Villain As A Hero, Oxford University, August 1,2011

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Influence of Niccolo Machiavelli’s Political Philosophy on Shakespeare’s characterization of King Richard III, …

Influence of Niccolo Machiavelli’s Political Philosophy on Shakespeare’s characterization of King Richard III,
Presentation in Oxford Univ, UK, August 1, 2011


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  • 1. Richard III – Villain as Hero Machiavelli’s Influence on Shakespeare
    My Kingdom for a Stage
    Jim Mukerjee
    August 1, 2011
  • 2. Agenda
    Niccolo Machiavelli
    King Richard III
    Influence of Machiavelli’s Philosophy
    Dilemma of Leadership
    Conclusion
    Epilogue
  • 3. Niccolo Machiavelli (1469 – 1527)
    The Prince, published in Italy,1532
  • 4. King Richard III (1452 - 1485)
    “Every tale condemns me for a villain”.
  • 5. 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
  • 6. 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
  • 7. 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!
  • 8. Conclusion
    • Although necessary in politics, taking Machiavellian philosophy too far is not a prudent strategy for leadership
    • 9. Leaders must learn from history, or be doomed to repeat the same mistakes
    • 10. Richard loses good judgment and does not value the importance and responsibilities of being a true king
    • 11. Had Richard not been so persistently evil, he indeed would have been a real Hero – a tragic waste of a heroic opportunity - Villain as Hero!
  • HonniSoit Qui Mal Y Pense
  • 12. EPILOGUE
  • 13. 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?