I’ve had to take a week out, basically, through pressures of work. It could easily have extended into a fortnight, but to paraphrase Lord Foul – the Sauron-style character in Stephen Donaldon‘s Chronicles of Thomas Covenant – I am ‘stubborn yet’.
So, where were we?
Last time I posted, I gave a pre-battle speech for my Year 12s. Today, it’s time to analyse the shit out of someone else’s – in 250 words. Usual rules apply.
Unsurprisingly, Richard’s pre-battle speech is littered with inclusive pronouns: if they fool his troops, they will have long since lost their value for the wider audience. Beyond this, Shakespeare has Richard use this extract to denigrate the enemy in various subtle ways. The iambic stress on the feminising epithet ‘men’ at the outset helps accentuate Richard’s scorn; it is matched by the epithetic, impersonal pronoun ‘these’, when he almost indignantly considers the possibility of defeat at the end of his emotional, 41-syllable rhetorical question. Deliberate or not, Richard seems emotional. This links, almost subliminally, to the abstract noun ‘shame’ whe assigns to the invaders based on their heritage. Shakespeare has retained Richard’s pride in his lineage and earlier attempt to discredit, in fact disinherit, his nephews. It is manifested here in a nostalgic reference to the triumphs of Henry V: ‘our fathers’ who at Agincourt left the French troops ‘beaten, bobbed and thumped’. Again, Shakespeare’s metre emphasises ‘Bretons’ and plays to any xenophobia in the army – and his audience. The invaders are adjectivally insulted as ‘bastard’ and only the ‘heirs of shame’, nothing more. It is notable that ‘fathers’ and ‘bastard’ are juxtaposed in this sentence, the former disrupting the pentameter to create a ‘feminine’ ending to the enjambed line. Shakespeare also employs what we might term – in 2018 – ‘Project Fear’. The final three verbs of the rhetorical question create an emotional crescendo, as we move from connotations of unearned rewards through to unpleasant sexual connotations of rape. [250 words]
William Shakespeare, The Tragedy of Richard III (Oxford World’s Classics, ed. John Jowett), (Oxford University Press: Oxford, 2008)