Article Title

History, Character and Conscience in Richard III


In lieu of an abstract, the first paragraph of the essay follows:

Criticism of Shakespeare's second tetralogy of English history plays has moved away from the attempt to correlate precisely the history dramatized in these plays with that presented by official Tudor apologists. C. L. Barber's essay on the Henry IV plays,1 for instance, finds in them a much more profound understanding of historical rhythms and of human involvement in the dynamics of power than E. M. W. Tillyard could establish by interpreting Shakespeare through concepts expressed in the chronicles and other sixteenth century poetry.2 Alvin B. Kernan, in his recent essay on the Henriad, demonstrates the sophisticated artistry through which Shakespeare comprehends the essential conflict of power and self as it is presented to modern western civilization.3 The first tetralogy and King John perhaps fail to achieve this sophistication, but in these plays Shakespeare begins to win for himself a difficult and sobering emancipation from official historical attitudes. I will examine this struggle as it shapes the drama of Richard III.

Comparative Drama is carried by JSTOR and Project MUSE.