Sympathizing with Hamlet… For Now

I read Shakespeare’s tragedy Hamlet for the first time back in my senior level honors English class, so it’s safe to say that I already know the story. Written by the early 1600s, I think Hamlet is one of Shakespeare’s greatest plays. Perhaps one of the more interesting pieces of the tragedy’s plot is that the title character’s mother, Gertrude, has relatively quickly married again. Who she marries is even more intriguing, as the man happens to be her dead husband’s brother, Claudius. This causes great distress for Hamlet, as he thinks his mother should still be mourning the death of his father. The stress becomes even more pronounced later on, when he finds out that Claudius is responsible for the death of King Hamlet.

In Act I scene ii, Hamlet has been told by Claudius to remain in Denmark against his wishes rather than return to his collegiate studies at Wittenburg. The only reason as to why he doesn’t put up a fight is that his mother asks him to stay: “I pray thee stay with us, go not to Wittenburg” (I.ii.119). Once everyone else leaves the stage, Hamlet delivers his first important soliloquy (I.ii.129-158). Here he speaks the first time of wanting to commit suicide; by desiring his flesh to melt and wishing that God had not made self slaughter a sin. Suicide seems to be a desirable alternative to life in a painful world, but it is clear that Hamlet feels the option is closed off to him because of his religion. (As I wrote that last sentence I remembered a saying my middle school health teacher told us frequently: Suicide is a permanent solution for a temporary problem.) Hamlet describes the causes of his pain, the greatest of which is his intense disgust towards Gertrude and Claudius upon their marriage:

“O God! a beast that wants discourse of reason,
Would have mourn’d longer,—married with mine uncle,
My father’s brother; but no more like my father
Than I to Hercules: within a month;
Ere yet the salt of most unrighteous tears
Had left the flushing in her galled eyes,
She married:— O, most wicked speed, to post
With such dexterity to incestuous sheets!
It is not, nor it cannot come to good.” (I.ii.150-158)

In addition to the motif of misogyny already touched upon earlier in the soliloquy (“…frailty, thy name is woman” (I.ii.146), Hamlet accuses his own mother of incest whilst rushing with “wicked speed” to “incestuous sheets”. Last but not least, Hamlet speaks of the wedding between Gertrude and Claudius as being a bad omen for the state of Denmark. If I just looked at this passage from the modern view point, I would be disgusted at Gertrude’s character. However, my anthropology minor has taught me not to judge something else by my society’s standards. I understand that Gertrude probably wanted protection of some sort, but still one would think she could mourn a little longer for her husband out of kindness towards her son. This early in the play, I can’t help but feel a little sympathy for Hamlet. However, knowing what happens in the rest of the tragedy prevents this speck of sympathy from growing.

While I am enjoying reading Hamlet a second time around, I look forward to ending the semester on a more comedic note when we begin Shakespeare’s comedy The Tempest.

A Troubled Hamlet

In Shakespeare’s Hamlet, there’s no doubt in my mind that Hamlet (the son) is a troubled person, both troubled by his father’s death and his mother’s willingness to re-marry in such a short span of time.  He’s having troubles dealing with the death and mortality of his father, and because he’s unable to catalogue and sort through his emotions, he’s not understanding why it is that his mother was so easily able to move on and work through her emotions, which is understandable.

When Hamlet first encounters his father’s ghost, he is told that the murder was a foul one.  Another encounter, his father (the dead King Hamlet) urges him to take revenge on the wrong-doer.  For someone as emotionally unstable and unable to work through their emotions as Hamlet, it’s easy to see why he’s so motivated to get revenge and then flip-flops.

The audience sees more of Hamlet’s instability later in the play during the famous delivery of the lines “To be, or not to be? That is the question—”.  This speech showcases a majority of the instabilities of Hamlet’s mental state that he’s experiencing.  He goes over whether or not death or living is the greater sorrow, using different metaphors and aspects of his speech to ask this question to himself.  In short, Hamlet’s mimicking the ideas of a suicidal person at this point—someone who is at their breaking point mentally.

To go back to Hamlet’s resentment towards his mother, he says “O God, a beast that wants discourse of reason / Would have mourned longer!—married with my uncle, / My father’s brother … Within a month, / Ere yet the salt of most unrighteous tears / Had left the flushing in her galled eyes, / She married”.  In this part of the text the audience can see and understand Hamlet’s bitterness towards his mother—it’s been less than a month since his father’s death, and his mother has re-married (to his uncle, no less).  Hamlet sees this as an act of treason, in a sense, as his mother is betraying both his father’s memory by not weeping, and himself by not weeping and aiding him through this time.  We see more of this behavior again, in Act 3 Scene four when Gertrude has requested Hamlet in her chamber, upon which she tells him that he has offended his father (meaning his uncle).  Hamlet retorts by saying “Mother, you have my father much offended”.  The sly and quick retort shows his resentment and aggression towards his mother—the very fact that he feels as though she’s made an incorrect choice in marrying his uncle. His mother later betrays him and tells Claudius about Hamlet murdering Polonius, which adds to the mood.

Hamlet, while being emotionally unstable over losing his father, is also pushed to the edge further and further by his mother’s actions.  He seems to view her as a heartless and selfish woman who does this for personal gain (such as re-marrying so quickly).

What Makes a Son

When discussing Hamlet, one must note the parallels between the fathers and sons of the play. The two that must most notably be taken into account are those of King Hamlet and Prince Hamlet, as well as Polonius and Laertes. Both father-son dynamics are relatively similar, in both personality and relativity to the plot of the play. The most important parallel between these two dynamics is not presented until the end of Act 3, when Prince Hamlet kills Polonius. At this point, however, it is clear to the reader (or the viewer) that there is a comparison to be made between Prince Hamlet’s actions and Laertes’s actions.

Before encountering his father’s ghost, Hamlet merely grieves for his father; any other emotions about his father’s passing seem to be outweighed by his grief. In no way does he appear angry until he speaks to the ghost of King Hamlet. This is a rather importatn point: once Prince Hamlet finds out that his father was murdered, rather than merely passing, he begins to crave some sort of revenge on the king’s killer. In Laertes’s case, it is immediately known that Polonius was murdered, and therefore his emotions are immediately those of anger, a desire for vengance driving Laertes’s actions.

Another important parallel to note between the characters of Prince Hamlet and Laertes is the ability to commit to the action of avenging their fathers. Hamlet, though he promises his father’s ghost that he will take action against King Claudius and avenge his father’s death, has not yet done so in the first four acts of the play. He laments on this in Act 2, Scene 2, saying

“Yet I,
A dull and muddy-mettled rascal, peak,
Like John-a-dreams, unpregnant of my cause,
And can say nothing; no, not for a king,
Upon whose property and most dear life
A damn’d defeat was made. Am I a coward?”

Hamlet recognizes that he may not have the courage to take revenge, seeing as the proper way to do so for his father’s sake would be to murder King Claudius. Hamlet, in this moment, questions whether or not that is something he would be capable of doing. There is another moment in Act 3 where Hamlet has the oppurtunity to kill Claudius, but does not due to the fact that he is praying and would be sent to heaven rather than purgatory, where King Hamlet requested he be sent so the two brothers would suffer the same fate. The reader/viewer questions in this moment whether Hamlet would have been able to go through with this if Claudius had not been praying.

Laertes, on the other hand, seems to have no problem with his desire to eliminate his father’s killer. When Claudius asks what he would like to have done to his father’s killer, Laertes simply responds that he would like “To cut his throat i’ th’ church.” Considering this prompting, it is essential to note Claudius’s role in increasing Laertes’s desire for revenge. Claudius encourages Laertes, giving him suggestions such as challenging Hamlet to a duel. Considering that Claudius’s initial goal was to eliminate Hamlet, it would only make sense that he would help Laertes plan his death.

Both sons were very loyal to their fathers, and swear vengance on the man that killed him. The question that now remains is who of the two sons will make good on his promise.

The madness

Ophelia is a very interesting character in this play, and it seems she does go through a lot, and by the end of her life can you blame her for seeming mad? It is a debatable argument that she is mad, personally I think that she is not insane or mad, but that she is depressed about what is happening in her life. I pose the question what makes her mad over her brother Laertes? He is talking about killing people for revenge, and she is singing sad songs, and passing out flowers.

 

Ophelia is mourning the loss of her father and you can clearly see that in her songs, she evens sings “No, no, he is dead/ Go to thy death-bed. / He will never come again”(4.5 190-193). She knows that her father cannot come back, and she knows that she that the only person that can protect her is her brother. This song that she sings and sings also has lines that could relate to a broken heart for example, “Quoth she, ‘before you tumble me, / You promised me wed.’ / He answers: / So would ha’ done yonder sun, / An thou hadst not come to thy bed.” (4.5. 62-67). It sounds like she bring into her song that Hamlet into her song, and how he has left her. It has to be hard for her to have the love of a man and then have him turn you away, and then lose your father too, all with in a few hours or days of each other.

 

Part of her issue must come from her father, and brother telling her that she could never be loved by Hamlet, Laertes even says “…If with too credent ear you list his songs, / Or lose your heart, or your chase treasure open/ To his unmastered importunity” (1.3.30-33). Which is him telling her that he will use you until he no longer needs or wants you, and that he could never find a true love in her, he would use her. So after her encounter with her brother, before he leaves Denmark she is met with Hamlet in her bedroom, where he proclaims his love. Later when Ophelia tells her father of this, Polonius confronts Gertrude and the King, about what Hamlet has done, but Hamlet interjects, but he never really seems to have an answer to his feeling for Ophelia. I think that Ophelia just happens to be in the way of Hamlet’s madness; which is clearly shown. Hamlet tells Ophelia “You should not have believed me, for virtue cannot so / inoculate our old stocks but we shall relish of it. I loved you not” (3.1. 117-119). He basically tells her that everything she said was a lie and never happened and he would never love her, just as her brother had told her. This is what leads me to believe that Ophelia is mourning her father’s death in the right way, she is numb for having her heart broken by Hamlet, and then she is sad because her father was killed, and knows that Hamlet did it. When she drowns, I do not think that this act was premeditated, I really think that her death was an accidental suicide, where she could have slipped and fell into the stream and could not get up because her heart was broken, or she hit her head to hard on a rock and became unaware of what was happening to her.

 

This is all unlike her brother Laertes, who wants the revenge on his father’s death, and him and Claudius come up with master man plan to kill Hamlet. To me that shows more madness then how Ophelia acted.

 

Now if you want a good laugh, please take a look of this YouTube video I have linked, I remember it from one of the times I read Hamlet previous, and it can show you how Ophelia could have lived, also it is only a little over a minute long. Enjoy! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jnvgq8STMGM

Marc Antony’s Condemnation of the “Honorable” Conspirators

When Caesar is murdered by the conspirators, Marc Antony must quickly choose a course of action for himself. Will he side with the conspirators, or will he take actions against them? The  conspirators, when plotting, point out that Antony will be useless without Caesar, and that he shall therefore be spared. Brutus even compares Antony to a part of Caesar, saying to Cassius “Our course will seem too bloody, Caius Cassius, /To cut the head off and then hack the limbs, / Like wrath in death and envy afterwards,/ For Antony is but a limb of Caesar.” (2.1 169-172).

It is interesting, then, that Antony proves himself to be just the opposite of what the conspirators expected of him. Without hesitation, he plots the downfall of this group of men, knowing exactly what needs to be done in order to get the town to see them for the murderers they are. In humbly asking them to grant him the ability to make a speech in honor of Caesar, the conpirators concede that he may as long as he does not speak ill of them. Antony assures them he will not, and the conpirators believe that they have successfully gotten Antony on their side. Antony, on the other hand, has them in the palm of his hand, knowing full well that he intends to convince the citizens to side with himself and the late Caesar over the conspirators.

Antony speaks to the public and begins with a condemnation of Caesar himself. He follows what Brutus told the crowd moments earlier, saying that Caesar was ambitious. Due to the fact that Brutus used this word with a negative connotation, Antony follows suit. He calls Brutus and the rest of the conspirators “honorable” directly after this. This sets up a dichotomy: “abitious” is negative, “honorable” is positive. Throughout the course of his speech, however, Antony goes on to point out all of the good things that Caesar has done for the people of Rome, continuing to call Caesar ambitious and the conspirators “honorable.” This shows the people that what Caesar has done is not negative at all, but rather positive. Being ambitious isn’t bad at all. By extension, the citizens now begin to associate the word “honorable” with negativity, beginning to paint the conspirators in a negative light. Without actually saying anything negative about them, Antony has managed to turn all of the citizens against the conspirators. Antony is an extremely talented speaker, and his ability to move the crowd is very impressive.

Marc Antony in Julius Caesar; not the singer

In our groups today, after watching the scene I was still struggling with Marc Antony and his motive with the plebeians. I didn’t understand why all of a sudden the people of Rome went into rage, and I was lost when it came to what Marc Antony was saying. After some group discussion on why the Roman people decided to go after Brutus, and the conspirators, and destroy everything on their way, I fell upon these lines again:

“…Then burst his mighty heart,

And in his mantle muffling up his face,

Even at the base of Pompey’s statue,

Which all the while ran blood, great Caesar fell.

O, what a fall was there, my countrymen!

Then I, and you, and all of us fell down,

Whilst bloody treason flourished over us.”

(3.2 180-186)

Realizing that Marc Antony was not on the side of Brutus and the conspirators helped me understand what he was sating in these lines, and I was able to understand the scene. Antony is telling the plebeians now that Caesar has fallen, the rest of us will fall if we do not take care of the people that have caused this great leader of ours to no longer exist. Marc Antony helps the people realize that Brutus was the leader of the conspirators, and he should have to pay for the suffering he has caused. I find it interesting as well as too

Antony as a character is very intense, he is able to speak to the people and turn an entire crowd against the conspirators and Brutus with jus the way he speaks. Antony speaks of how great Caesar was, to his friends and to the people that he ruled over. During the speech at the funeral Marc Antony is able to persuade the entire crowd of plebeians, to withdraw their support of Brutus, and he used only three props to do so. He spoke about the will Caesar left, and then he shows everyone the dead body of Caesar, and lastly he shows the robes that he was wearing he when he was killed. He will that Caesar left states that he is leaving the countrymen with money and that he wants his gardens to become a public place so people can enjoy them as much as Caesar did while alive. Marc Antony was a fantastic politician, and that is shown by the way he can speak to the people. He is able to speak to the people on based on what the people want to hear. He is also is very skilled in rhetoric and he is able to use is to his advantage to convince the people that Caesar was better than Brutus will ever be.

After Marc Antony’s speech at Caesar’s funeral, Antony, Octavius, and Lepidus go through and determine who is to blame for Caesar’s death. Antony also seems to take responsibility of the plebeian people, and everyone accepts Antony as the new person in power. All the plebeians say, “Peace, ho! Hear Antony, most noble Antony” (3.2 225) they want him to speak the truth about Caesar and the misfortune he had faced. The way that Antony talked to the people makes him such an interesting character to discuss, and one of the better characters in this play.

Who’s Who of Julius Caesar

The tragedy Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare covers a topic we all know of: the assassination of Gaius Julius Caesar at the hands of a group of rebellious Roman senators. Interestingly, even though the play is named after him, Caesar is not the most prevalent character. In fact, Brutus seems to be the main character, having four times as many lines as the title character. The main plot of the tragedy is also centered around Brutus, focusing on his struggle between the conflicting demands of honor, patriotism, and friendship. One of the many questions this play begs to be answered is, undoubtedly: “Who is the main character, and what role does he play?”

 
It seems like such an easy thing to say that Julius Caesar is the main character of Shakespeare’s tragedy. After all, the work is named after the historical figure! Caesar is the character around which the rest of the play spins. This can be seen in III.i.58-65, when Caesar compares himself to the Northern star:

 
“I could be well moved if I were as you.
If I could pray to move, prayers would move me.
But I am constant as the Northern Star,
Of whose true fixed and resting quality
There is no fellow in the firmament.
The skies are painted with unnumbered sparks;
They are all fire, and every one doth shine;
But there’s but one in all doth hold his place.”

 
Just as the Northern Star has led many a sea-traveler throughout the ages, Julius Caesar leads the Roman people. The Northern Star is superior to all other stars, and so is Caesar. As we all know, this scene is heavily ironic. Caesar, who claimed himself to be unassailable, is assailed and killed. His constancy, which can be read to mean permanency or immortality, is broken when the conspirators succeed in killing him. I for one can’t wait to see what Act V will bring onto the conspirators.

 
However, Julius Caesar appears alive on stage in only three scenes. This opens up the possibility of another person being the main character, and if I had to pick, my choice would be Brutus. Whereas Caesar could be seen as the protagonist, Brutus is the tragic hero. He attempts to put the republic over his personal relationship with Caesar, and kills him. Caesar is shocked at this betrayal, summing his emotions up into the simple phrase “And you, Brutus?” Brutus also makes the political mistakes that bring down the republic his ancestors created. He acts on his passions, does not gather enough evidence to make reasonable decisions, and is ultimately manipulated by Cassius and the other conspirators. It is noteworthy that Brutus’ motivations in killing Caesar are different than those of the other conspirators. While they are envious and ambitious, he holds to the demands of honor and patriotism. It is clear that Brutus is far different from his fellow conspirators, and these differences contribute to why Brutus can be seen as one of this Shakespearean tragedy’s main characters.

 
Even if it is hard to simply identify the characters of Julius Caesar as heroes or villains, Julius Caesar and Brutus are definitely the two most important characters to pay attention to.

Manipulation in the Death Speech

Okay so,  after thinking about a lot of this scene and the language used while in class and doing the group work, I wanted to look closely at what it was exactly that had persuaded the Plebeian’s to first be extremely for Brutus, and then turn around a moment later and hate him.

The speech that Brutus delivers in front of the Plebeian’s after they’ve gathered is what really sways the minds of the people.  Brutus says, “not that I loved Caesar less, but that / I loved Rome more.  Had you rather Caesar were living, and / die all slaves, than that Caesar were dead, to live all free men?” (3.2 20-22).  Brutus is proclaiming that his act of murder was not out of selfish feelings, but that he felt he needed to protect the safety of Rome–a good leader would do what was needed to protect his people, so he’s playing off of that idea here.  He then goes on to say “If any, speak, for him / have I offended.  Who is here so rude that would not be a / Roman?” (3.2 27-29).  If I’m correct in reading this, he’s saying that any Plebeian who opposes what has happened, or feels that Caesar has been wronged, is not a true Roman.  He’s playing on the idea that those who actually in truth stand with Rome would feel that his actions were justified and good.  Who would want to argue against that, among a large group of people nonetheless?  Brutus then goes on to say, “that as I slew my best lover for the / good of Rome, I have the same dagger for myself when it shall / please my country to need my death” (3.2 41-43).  This bit of speech is saying that Brutus, again, killed Caesar in the best interest of Rome–he also refers to Rome as his country, meaning he’s accepted leadership / responsibility over it–and the very last bit sort of invokes guilt within the people.  I just picture Brutus dramatically standing above the people with the same dagger he used to kill Caesar, gently thrusting it towards himself when delivering that line.  And then the Plebeians feel for him and start basically worshiping him for the deed he has carried out; they’re manipulated to believe that what Brutus had done was good.

Moving on the Antony’s part of the speech, and trying to keep this short because I could go on for a long time about this, one of the most important things I caught on to during his speech is “Yet Brutus says he was ambitious, / And Brutus is an honourable man” (3.2 90-91).  I didn’t catch it the first time reading, but now that I’m going back after being able to sit on the speech, I see now that Antony is sort of making a jab at Brutus here.  Like, hey buddy, you lied, I thought you were honorable?  Antony points out some of the wonderful stuff that Caesar had done for Rome within the first few lines of his speech:  “When that the poor have cried, Caesar hath wept” (3.2 88), “I thrice presented him a kingly crown, / Which he did thrice refuse.  Was this ambition?” (3.2 93-94).  Antony highlights the good that he had done, and highlights the falsehood in the statement that Brutus makes about Caesar being an ambitious man.  Caesar was an extremely humble man.  Antony then goes on to say that he has Caesar’s will, “It is not meet you know how Caesar loved you. / You are not wood, you are not stones, but men; / And, being men hearing the will of Caesar, It will inflame you, it will make you mad.  / Tis good you know that you are his heirs, / For if you should, O what would come of it?” (3.2 138-143).  In this, Antony reveals that the Plebeians are part of Caesar’s will, which shows how humble and kind he was, and how he thought of the people; a complete contradiction to the way that Brutus tried to portray Caesar.  Skipping to one final point, because I know this is getting long and I’m sorry, Antony has a powerful moment with the Plebeians–one that motivates them greatly:

“This was the most unkindest cut of all.
For when the noble Caesar saw him stab,
Ingratitude, more strong than traitors arms,
Quite vanquished him.  Then burst his mighty heart,
And in his mantle muffling up his face,
Even at the base of Pompey’s statue,
Which all the while ran blood, great Caesar fell.
O, what a fall was there, my countrymen!
Then I, and you, and all of us fell down,
Whilst bloody treason flourished over us.
O now you weep, and I perceive you feel
the dint of pity.  These are gracious drops.
Kind souls, what, weep you when you but behold
Our Caesar’s vesture wounded?  Look you here.
Here is himself, marred, as you see, with traitors”
(3.2 178-192)

This part of the speech really caught my attention.   Mark Antony makes light of the brutally of what actually happened.  He makes sure that his Plebeian audience knows of the brutality of Caesar’s death.  Antony is uniting the people in this speech, like any great leader would do; he makes them realize that when Caesar was wronged and fell, they all did as well.  The traitors not only affected Caesar, but they affected his people, and Antony makes sure to note that in a way that the Plebeians finally realize the truth, which inspires and motivates them to rebel against those that they should be angry with: Brutus and Cassius.

So, while there was a lot of other wonderful rhetorical strategies used, and a lot of other manipulative speech, I find that these phrases highlighted above were really crucial in looking at this scene and understanding the manipulation that caused the Plebeian’s to bounce back and forth between who they were siding with.

Sorry this is so long, ahhhh!

Predator vs. Prey

The manipulative Richard III, and the weak woman (the alternative post title!)

Shakespeare seems to enjoy portraying some of his characters as the very definition of evil and manipulative, Richard III being no different in this case.  Throughout the acts that we have read so far, we can see the powerful use of manipulative language that Richard III uses in order to persuade his way into getting what he wants; he uses those around him for his own personal gain.  And this isn’t a new thing to Shakespeare, either, as I had said.  Iago in Othello did much the same thing; manipulating those around him. Richard III however, seems to be more cold-hearted and cruel about how he goes about things.  He’s not hidden behind a facade of being a gentler person; he’s openly rude, manipulative, and evil.  As we know, too, Shakespeare also enjoys the word play he executes throughout his plays.  While often times it’s with puns and other funny literature techniques, he’s also well versed with how to play around with language to make it fit the character of Richard III.

As we spoke about in class, there’s the scene between Lady Anne and Richard III where he uses his language to not only tell her that he killed her husband, but to go on and say “Your beauty was the cause of that accursed effect. / Your beauty that did haunt me in my sleep / To undertake the death of all the world / So I might live one hour in your sweet bosom” (1.2.121-124).  He confesses in this moment that he killed Lady Anne’s husband, and then turns around and says that the only reason he did so was because she was so beautiful and he needed to have her.  Manipulation at its finest.  In this same scene with Lady Anne, Richard III gives Anne his sword and bears his chest to her—essentially laying the fate of his life in her hands.  In this vulnerable moment, he’s praying on her kindness and compassion, and continuing to use extremely manipulative language to persuade her and convince her that he only acted out of jealousy/a need to have her to himself.

This scene also really bothered me because it shows a woman who’s vulnerable.  I’m all for really strong female roles in literature (and in real life) so this was just pathetic and upsetting.  Lady Anne should’ve taken his life, honestly.   She’s portrayed as this sort of frail, nimble and dim-witted woman that falls for the bait that Richard casts her way—give a lady a compliment and she’s putty in your hands essentially.  You can sort of see the anger and frustration in Anne when Richard confesses to killing her husband, but she just allows him to continue on, which is the weakest display here.  She goes from being angry with him one moment to calming down (after she drops the sword) and just sort of letting everything get wiped away; brand new slate for Richard!

Richard uses extremely manipulative language to swoon Anne, which works extremely well.  She goes from being an enraged women out for revenge against her husband’s killer to brushing everything off and agreeing to marry her husband’s killer.  A complete 360 within, what, two pages of text?  Roughly 20 lines after Anne drops the sword, Richard says “Vouchsafe to wear this ring”.  Anne replies, “To take is not to give”.  Richard then swoops in with more manipulative words and cutesy little words, and Anne gives in to it, agreeing to meet him later on.

The character of Anne we get in this play is much different from the empowered females we see in some of Shakespeare’s other plays, like a Midsummer Night’s Dream and The Twelfth Night.  Really, really upsetting to see the difference here, but it sort of works in contrast with Richard, I suppose.  Richard is the hunter, stalking his prey, and Anne is unfortunately the first bit of prey he’s got his eyes on, and he doesn’t stop until he’s convinced her he’s a good guy.  Such a shame.

(P.S. –sorry this is late! I have class and work and I don’t really have a chance to post until later in the evening.  Also sorry if this isn’t the best, I was rushing to post as soon as possible.  Awkward.)

Manipulation in Shakespeare

When one considers the character of Richard in Richard III, the first major personality trait that comes to mind is the fact that he is extremely manipulative. Looking at his behavior over the course of the play so far, one other character’s actions come to mind: those of Iago from Othello. A difference between the two of them is the way in which their personalities cause other people to form opinions of them.

Iago, for one, is someone who is well respected by those around him, especially Othello. He has built up a very respectable reputation, making it easier for him to make sure that those involved in his schemes trust him. For example, when he speaks to Othello about the possibility that Desdemona is being unfaithful, Othello is very willing to listen. These suggestions that Iago gives him about his wife’s faithfulness are ones that Othello takes to heart; he trusts that Iago would not deceive him, ironically enough. All of the characters in this play trust his word, which eventually backfires on all of them. Because of this, however, he doesn’t need to try very hard to manipulate these people.

Richard’s manipulative personality, however, is very well known by everyone present in the play. His own mother even comments on the fact that his word should not be trusted. He goes into a conversation with Anne and she is able to predict exactly what he is there for. For the most part, Richard is an open book. Yet somehow, he is capable of getting away with just as much manipulation, if not more, than Iago. Does he have to put more effort into said manipulation? Most likely. However, he still manages to do so.

The differences in the methods between these two characters is honestly astounding to me. As it is, I was shocked to see how much manipulation Iago managed to accomplish while reading Othello. Coming into Richard III, we are given a completely different character with very similar goals. Unlike Iago, Richard outright states in the very beginning of the first scene of the play that he intends to be a villain in his life. Those in his family and those close to him are very aware of this. His manipulation of those around him, therefore, is that much more impressive. One must then wonder why exactly Richard manages to get away with all of the manipulation that he does, and come to the conclusion that he must be even more skilled than Iago is in the art of manipulation.