Forensic Friday (#4): RIII III.ii.39-42


BH mexico germany
A nice positive GIF for my Y12 class … you CAN score, people!

‘SQUEAKY BUM TIME’:  the point towards the end of a football game, or season, when you hold a slender lead but are almost shitting yourself, in case something goes horribly wrong …

– – –

I’m publishing this with a exactly a week to go before my Y12s face their end of year exam –  a full exam on everything we’ve done this year: Tennyson‘s ‘Maud’; Marlowe‘s Edward II; and of course, Richard III.  Evidence suggests my students are in full ‘squeaky bum’ mode, despite my best efforts to reassure them.  And, hey, it’s the World Cup:  if Mexico (one of ‘my teams’ can hang on to a 1-0 lead for an hour against Germany, I think you can hang on to what I have taught you this year for another seven days?

You know what to do: especially (for the first question) if you have been reading these …

A summary of the rules, although I also urge you to read the previous three, starting here.  If I teach you, pay special attention because you HAVE to do one of these after the exam:

  • Choose two-to-four ‘interesting’ lines from Richard III;
  • Annotate the shit out of them (students, I will want to see this); and
  • Construct a 250-word analysis based on your analysis (that’s weighted 25% AO1, 75% AO2 according to OCR’s mark-scheme)

So, to that prize buffoon, Lord Hastings.

Despite the terrifying supra-judicial aspects of his execution, I can’t help sniggering at how Shakespeare sets him up for the ultimate fall in Act III scene iv …

FF 04 RIII III ii 39-42.001

Shakespeare continues to create a complex response to Richard’s crimes: Hastings’ eventual supra-judicial execution should shock us, but simultaneously Shakespeare undermines any sympathy, hyperbolising Hastings’ naivety and hubris.  Catesby is met by a triplet of rhetorical questions, the metre beginning with a disorientated spondee: Hastings could be confused, or more charitably, stalling.  Echoing Catesby’s guarded euphemism suggests disbelief – perhaps Hastings has, like us, recognised the imperial connotations of ‘garland’?  Our views on the ‘sweating lord’ might acknowledge his prevarication, or alternatively dismiss his apparent stupidity.

Catesby’s response (instructed by the ‘mighty’ dukes) is blunt.  The four-syllable, unadorned, simple sentence suggests Shakespeare has deliberately created a six-syllable window, permitting not just Hastings, but the audience, to react and wait with increasing anticipation.  The dramatic irony created in the previous scene makes Hastings’ reply more important than he realises.

Hastings’ response could be interpreted in various ways.  The enjambment of the two lines suggests a passionate denial of Richard’s right to kingship, or perhaps it can be seen as hubris: the twenty-one syllables certainly suggest his privileging ‘what’ he says over ‘how’ he says it.  Signifying over-confidence in his familiarity with Richard, Shakespeare allows Hastings a pun on the noun, ‘crown’, unwittingly foreshadowing the black humour of his beheading.  Finally, we should note that as Richard’s erstwhile ally, it is implausible that ‘foul misplaced’ is a personal attack.  More likely, Hastings rejects the notional usurpation of primogeniture.  Regardless, his fate is immediately sealed. [246 words]


Quotation:  William Shakespeare, Richard III (ed. John Jowett), (Oxford University Press: Oxford, 2008)

Author: Boar's Head, Eastcheap

Hyperactive English Teacher and Tutor; Shakespeare-obsessed 'Villainous abominable misleader of youth'; 'old white-bearded Satan'; Friend of the Orangutan

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