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520 Class 9

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Learning Outcomes: Edward IV gave us the opportunity to begin thinking about the relationship between the monarch and the city. That Richard III covers some of the same historical events as Edward IV enables us to reflect upon Richard Rowland’s conviction that Heywood changed the history play in the same way that Stow’s Survey changed the chronicle. I’d like us to think about how London figures in Richard III, which dates from at least five years before A Survey. We can also discuss the City and Shakespeare more generally; Shakespeare never wrote a city comedy or a city tragedy, although he does take up the matter of cities in Measure for Measure, Coriolanus, and Timon of Athens. Only the history plays are set in London. Is London a significant presence in Richard III? Is it merely the real backdrop to historic events, or does it have significance as a civic entity? Finally, I would like us to consider Richard’s particular trajectory from London in Acts 1 to 3 to the Court in Acts 4 and 5. How does he change (if at all) when he is no longer based in London?
Primary Reading: Shakespeare, Richard III
Secondary Reading: Browse the introduction to Siemon’s edition.
Other References: Daniell. Note! These references are for information only. I may draw upon them in my discussion, but do not expect you to read them.
Discussion Questions:
  1. ppearance is paramount in Richard III. David Bevington claims that the Renaissance held notions of platonic correspondence between outer appearance and inner qualities (645). Queen Margaret reveals a similar sentiment by hailing Richard as thou that wast sealed in thy nativity / The slave of Nature and the son of Hell (1.3.228-29). Additionally, the conversation among the citizens in 2.3 suggests that appearance, in some way, determines reality, and that the citizens deserve Richard’s potential danger to them. Does Richard’s appearance—as an outward projection of his inner state—reflect commentary on the English crown or on the city? If he is sent as a divine punishment, for whom is his punishment intended? (EK)
  2. Richard’s tyrannical reign is eventually ended through Richmond’s rebellion, bringing peace to England and an end to the War of the Roses. How is this good rebellion characterised compared to the bad rebellion in Heywood’s Edward IV? Are the implications associated with a good rebellion problematic for an absolute monarchy? (EK)
  3. It is before the battle of Bosworth Field, when Richard is sleeping in open country and away from London that his ghostly visitors demoralize him by figuring the depth of his self-imposed alienation. What are some ways that the communitas and res publica of London work in Richard’s favour as he makes his way to the throne? What differences between the city and the country might Shakespeare be highlighting in Richard’s character arc? (BB)
  4. In 3.7, Buckingham and Gloucester stage a show of pious humility for London’s Mayor and his citizen supporters, who have come to acclaim Richard as their king. However, Buckingham’s description of his earlier attempt to rally the citizens shows that the Mayor and his followers (at Baynard’s Castle) may not represent the whole city’s opinion of Richard. By including this detail, what is Shakespeare attempting to highlight regarding the role of the city in king making? If Shakespeare is keeping his London audience in mind as he writes, what might the citizens’ ambivalent response to Buckingham and Gloucester’s claim be intended to convey? (BB)


Last modification: 2016-06-04 15:13:12 -0700 (Sat, 04 Jun 2016) (jtakeda)
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MLA citation:

Jenstad, Janelle, Emily Klemic, and Benjamin Barber. “520 Class 9.” The Map of Early Modern London. Ed. Janelle Jenstad. Victoria: University of Victoria. Web. 23 March 2017. <>.

Chicago citation:

Jenstad, Janelle, Emily Klemic, and Benjamin Barber. n.d. “520 Class 9.” The Map of Early Modern London. Ed. Janelle Jenstad. Victoria: University of Victoria. Accessed March 23, 2017.

APA citation:

Jenstad J., E. Klemic, & B. Barber. (n.d.). 520 Class 9. In J. Jenstad (Ed.), The Map of Early Modern London. Retrieved March 23, 2017, from

TEI citation:

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