8. Question: Do you consider Richard of Gloucester to be wholly evil as presented in Shakespeare’s Richard III?
One of Shakespeare’s ‘history plays’, though sometimes categorised as a tragedy, Richard III is centred on the evil but charismatic, Richard of Gloucester and his rise to power. In a Shakespeare essay on this play, Richard would always be the central consideration and this question is no exception. However, this Shakespeare essay also requires you to consider the idea that there might, if not be good to be found in Richard, at least be a reason provided by Shakespeare for his behaviour.
In this Shakespeare essay, you should look carefully at the speeches where Richard interacts uniquely with the audience, making them co-conspirators, if you like. This draws the audience into Richard’s confidence and facilitates an understanding of how Richard can influence those around him.
You need to focus on key scenes in this Shakespeare essay, such as the seduction of Lady Anne (Act I, Scene ii) where having murdered her husband Richard is capable of persuading her to marry him. Richard’s potent sexuality seems to be inextricably linked in the play to his evil and in this way, although Shakespeare in no way diminishes his evil propensity it does show why others follow him and you should talk about this in your Shakespeare essay.
In the same way, your Shakespeare essay should address Richard’s disability, saying how Shakespeare uses this, how Richard speaks of it and how others do. Your Shakespeare essay should also consider whether Richard’s childhood degradation due to his disability might be connected with his evil nature (there is textual evidence of this as a possibility which you should cite).
Use the standard five paragraph format for this Shakespeare essay, i.e.:
- Introduction - addressing the question, stating your position and the methodology you will employ.
- Main body - three paragraphs taking a different aspect of the topic as outlined above for each, with strong, well-analysed textual evidence throughout.
- Conclusion - where you sum up your argument, perhaps suggesting that although Richard’s deeds are ‘wholly evil’ the man himself might not be.
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