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editions from 1559 to 1610 eleven of its “legends” are connected with him. In the legend of George Plantagenet (Clarence), Richard is represented as his brother's miserable murderer; and to the Mirror, or, more likely, to an already established popular tradition evidenced in Legge's play, in the True Tragedie, and elsewhere, and not, as is generally asserted, to Shakespeare's own invention acting on a mere suggestion of More, we owe Richard's appearance as Clarence's murderer in the play.
In Dr. Thomas Legge's Latin play Richardus Tertius, presented at St. John's College, Cambridge, possibly in 1573, certainly in 1579, Richard's story appears first in the drama. In this, apparently the first real history play written in England, Richard is conceived throughout as a Senecan tyrant, and the whole drama is made to imitate Seneca as far as possible. The play was famous, but there is no direct evidence that Shakespeare knew it. In 1594 was printed a play in English, entitled The True Tragedie of Richard the Third. It was undoubtedly composed and acted considerably earlier than this. It probably followed 3 Henry VI or its earlier form, if earlier form it be, The True Tragedy of Richard Duke of York; and quite certainly preceded Shakespeare's Richard. Whether Shakespeare knew and was influenced by The True Tragedie of Richard the Third is still a matter of debate. Present opinion appears to lean toward an affirmative answer. But this influence was, at best, not great; and there is general agreement that the play is in all essentials Shakespeare's."
1 For a full discussion of Shakespeare's sources and the problems connected with them the reader should consult the editor's Richard III up to Shakespeare, Berlin, 1900.
A scenario for an act of a Richard III play exists among the papers of Alleyn, son-in-law of Henslowe, the manager; but we do not know whether the play was ever written, or whether, if written, it was anterior to Shakespeare's. Two lines from another Richard play are also preserved, but this also may have succeeded Shakespeare's.
Other Versions of the Story. That the story of Richard was immensely popular is sufficiently indicated by the works from which Shakespeare's play may be said to have descended in direct line. But these are by no means all. Henslowe mentions 1 a play called Buckingham, 1593, whose hero was doubtless the companion of Richard, and which may have been one or other of the lost plays mentioned above. Another of Henslowe's plays, Richard the Confessor, 1593, may possibly have had Richard III as its hero. There is extant a play by Thomas Heywood, King Edward IV, in two parts, 1593-1594, in which Richard plays a considerable rôle. Jonson handled the material in his Richard Crookback, 1602, and Samuel Rowley in his Tragedy of Richard III or the English Prophet, 1623, both of which are lost. Shore's Wife, 1599, by Day and Chettle, and The Second Part of Henry Richmond, 1599, both likewise lost, dealt with kindred material. Among the non-dramatic versions of Richard's story the most important is perhaps The Rising to the Crowne of Richard the thirde, by Giles Fletcher the elder, 1593, in which, however, Richard's character is barely outlined. None of these works can be shown to have exercised any
1 Henslowe's Diary. Ed. Greg, Part I, p. 16.
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influence on Shakespeare's play, while in those that followed it, as in the newly inserted legends of the 1610 edition of the Mirror for Magistrates, viz. The Two Princes and Richard III, the influence of Shakespeare is strongly marked.
Relations to Contemporary Drama.
Richard III stands in the full dramatic current of its time. The influence of Marlowe appears in it so strongly that some have been tempted to ascribe it to the hand of Marlowe himself. The figure of Richard is conceived in such heroic proportions, so entirely does he focus and absorb our interest, so dominate the action, that he reveals at once his dramatic lineage. Shakespeare follows Marlowe's treatment of his heroes, Tamburlaine, Faustus, Barabas, in substituting for the epic sequence of the earlier history plays the dramatic unity of a central and dominating personality. The material here, it is true, was specially apt for such treatment, but that he followed in it a clear and conscious intent is made evident by the countless touches which heighten Richard's ability and power, and render irresistible his unswerving purpose and absolute egoism. This intent is made even more evident by the way in which, from the earliest appearance of Richard in 2 Henry VI, he is made a prime mover in all the intrigue. Of specific debt to Marlowe, the clearest example is the imitation of Edward II in the scene of Clarence's murder.
Wider influences than those of one man are also apparent. The True Tragedie had united the form of the revenge play with that of the history drama, and though Shakespeare's is not technically a revenge play, the influence of the form is plainly to be seen in the ghosts of the victims who
" threat To-morrow's vengeance on the head of Richard," as well as in the reference of the prince to his “uncle Clarence' angry ghost.” Other reminiscences of the drama of Kyd, and of the Senecan influence, appear in the violence of speech characteristic of Richard, Margaret, and others; in the lamentations of the three queens, who in these, as has often been said, fulfil the functions of the Greek chorus; in the curses and their fulfilment; and in the extended debates between Anne and Richard, and Elizabeth and Richard. Senecan, too, is the whole part of Margaret, the embodied Nemesis of the house of York and the chorus of its tragedy, a part due to Shakespeare, not to his chronicle sources.
To Shakespeare alone, however, if he was responsible for the scheme of 2 and 3 Henry VI, is due the development of the suggestions of the chronicle into the conception of a Nemesis ruling through the whole York-Lancastrian struggle, a conception in which every murder is both crime and punishment for crime, till Richard pays the final penalty at the hands of Richmond. To Shakespeare, also, is due the conception, developed from the view of More, and especially of Vergil, by which the story is raised from the plane of merely external tragedy and ennobled into a tragedy of the spirit: wherein conscience, long subdued, asserts its power at last in the soul of Richard. To these two conceptions most of all, is due
the preëminence of Shakespeare's play over the productions of the contemporary drama.
Style. The style of the play is largely conditioned by the same factors as those which governed its composition. To Marlowe is due the predominance of blank verse: rhymes are almost totally absent save as scene-tags. In this respect the play presents a notable contrast to the later Richard II. The lyrical laments, with their repetitions, parallels, and antitheses, the frequent stichomythia of the dialogue, the cold philosophy of such lines as All unavoided is the doom of destiny,” betray the influence of the Senecan style. Humor is, as in Marlowe's work, conspicuously absent, except for a trace of it in the colloquy of Clarence's murderers, in the delight of Richard in his own evil skill, and in the pervading dramatic irony. Bitterness and despair generally take the place of formal pathos, which, where it is present, as in Tyrell's description of the death of the princes, shows something of arti
ficiality and effort for effect. More genuine pathos is * found in Shakespeare's revelation and differentiation of the princes' characters.
Throughout the play there rules a certain high formality, to which the use of regularly end-stopped lines, the constant employment of repetition, antithesis, and balance, the conduct of argument through a set play upon words, and a consistent elevation of speech, even in the mouths of characters like the citizens, all contribute. There is abundant condensed metaphor, but little play of poetic fancy or imagination. In short, save in Clarence's dream and a few minor passages, pure poetry, such as had ap