Shakespeare on Machiavelli: The Prince in Richard III Essay

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Shakespeare on Machiavelli: The Prince in Richard III

According to many, Shakespeare intentionally portrays Richard III in ways that would have the world hail him as the ultimate Machiavel. This build up only serves to further the dramatic irony when Richard falls from his throne. The nature of Richard's character is key to discovering the commentary Shakespeare is delivering on the nature of tyrants. By setting up Richard to be seen as the ultimate Machiavel, only to have him utterly destroyed, Shakespeare makes a dramatic commentary on the frailty of tyranny and such men as would aspire to tyrannical rule.

From the outset of the play, it is obvious that Richard subscribes to the majority of the
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He recognizes that he is "in So far in blood that sin will pluck on sin; Tear-falling pity dwells not in this eye."5 There is no turning back. He must be become evil incarnate or he will fail.

While his heart must be black, Richard must convey the appearance of a humble and gracious ruler. He will say or do anything to gain and then to keep his crown. Perhaps the most striking examples of this Jekyl and Hyde farce are his pledges of undying love for two women he plans to have killed, claiming that all the heinous acts he's committed were only for their love.

Your beauty was the cause of that 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.6

This is only one of a multitude of lies, each serving to further our opinion that, for Richard, appearance is to be valued over substance. On face, and in action, he truly seems to be "That excellent grand tyrant of the earth, That reigns in galled eyes of weeping souls"7, Machiavelli's Prince.

The Fall of Man

For truth to the cliché 'the bigger they are, the harder they fall' one needs look no further than Richard. All he's done to get his crown, and all he does to keep it only serve to make his fall all the more dramatic. By the time his test arrives, he is not feared, but hated. God turns his back on Richard, and fortune spurns him when he fails
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