Monday, September 18, 2006

Richard III - Getting Going

I know I'm supposed to spur you on to further thoughts, but I think my "introduction" raised, what are, for me, central questions. If you can't work with anything I've sent out, please invent areas of exploration for yourselves and delve in. Or is the responsive lethargy of 3 Henry VI continuing on into its follow-up?

One other question I would ask involves the mixture of comedy and tragedy in Richard III. As I have suggested before, Richard is in many ways a character out of the comic tradition found in "vices" like Ambidexter in Cambises and realized – perhaps – most fully in Marlowe's Mephistopheles. Such characters are frequently a mixture of detached cynicism and restlessness. They know they have no hope in any larger view of the world. "Why this is hell, nor am I out of it," says Mephistopheles famously. They, like their boss the Devil, are damned and without hope. This helps make them flat "types" – i.e. characters fit for comedies.

Well, Richard is sort of like this, and, in a sense, he is a comic character, and his play is a comedy (doubly so if he can persuade the audience that HIS world outlook is valid). Despite its "tragic form," we go to the play not to be cleansed through experiencing it, but to be entertained by the vivacious trickery and double-dealing of its chief comic trickster, knowing full well that he will be tossed out (something like Malvolio) for being too narrow to fit into the comic world's regenerative pattern.

Is there any sense in this way of looking at the play?

Note: The average temperature of New England has risen 4 degrees in the last 30 years.


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