Richard III By William Shakespeare Study Help Essay Questions

1. What characteristics peculiar to the Machiavellian villain-hero are revealed in Gloucester's first soliloquy, Act I, Scene 1?

2. Richard is early referred to as a "hedgehog" and later repeatedly as the "boar." What is the significance of this appellation?

3. In the introduction, reference is made to Senecan elements in this play. What is one example each as regards (a) style, (b) character, (c) theme, and (d) tragic elements?

4. In what way are the two wooing scenes (I. ii and IV. iv) similar to each other? How do they differ?

5. What dramatic purpose is served by such minor characters as the three London citizens and the scrivener?

6. Keeping in mind the major theme of this play, how can you account for the fact that the villain-hero flourishes for such a relatively long time?

7. Why is Queen Margaret's appearance in this play unexpected? How do you account for it?

8. What is the first indication that Richard's fortunes, which have been in the ascendant, have reached a turning point? What do you consider to be the climax of the play?

9. George Bernard Shaw insisted that Richard was a splendid comedian. What can be said in support or in refutation of this opinion?

10. According to a long-lived theory, tragedy evokes the tragic emotions of pity as well as fear. What scenes are especially notable for arousing our sense of pity?

11. "In Buckingham we have an admirable foil to Richard." How may one defend this statement?

12. What is meant by dramatic irony? Illustrate your definition by three examples from this play, each differing with regard to the person or persons concerned.

13. Especially since this play is based upon chronicle history, considerable knowledge of antecedent action is needed. Shakespeare does not choose to use a prologue to provide such information. Exactly how, and by whom, is it provided?

14. Since the major theme of this play is God's vengeance visited upon those guilty of heinous crimes, how can one explain the deaths of the queen's kinsmen, Hastings, and the little princes?

15. When the Duchess of York and Queen Elizabeth berate King Richard in Act IV, scene iv, he exclaims: "Let not the Heavens hear these telltale women / Rail on the Lord's anointed." Is this another example of Richard's hypocrisy? Or can he properly call himself the Lord's anointed?

16. Both Richard and Richmond use the name St. George as a battle cry. Why is this appropriate in both instances? Why is it nevertheless ironic that Richard should use the name of St. George?

17. What justification does Richmond have for identifying himself as "God's Captain?"

18. Aside from his "timorous dreams" reported by Anne, what evidence do you find that Richard has begun his descent on Fortune's Wheel?

19. Why is it appropriate that Buckingham should not survive to aid Richmond?

20. In what ways do Lord Stanley (Derby) and Lord Hastings provide an interesting contrast?

21. How does Shakespeare succeed in centralizing the conflict in this play and thus achieve a superior chronicle history play which is also a tragedy?

22. Shakespeare develops the major theme of Richard III with unstinted use of the supernatural. What are four examples? Which do you find to be most effective?

23. With reference to the proposal of marriage of her daughter, how may the Queen-Mother Elizabeth's apparent changeableness and double-dealing be explained?

24. More than one reference is made to Jane Shote in this play, although she does not make her appearance. Who was she? In absentia, what does she contribute to the action?

25. On his way to his death, Lord Rivers exclaims against Pomfret, calling it a "bloody prison." Is this to be explained only by reference to his own impending fate? Exactly why is Pomfret truly a "bloody prison"?

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At the beginning of the play, who appears to be dominating King Edward IV?




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