Rhetoric skills in Richard III by Shakespeare

Rhetoricskills in Richard III by Shakespeare

WilliamShakespeare using rhetoric devices or skill in Richard III creates aplay envisioned to sway audiences hence, exert rhetoric power. Theplay possesses protagonists whose utilization of rhetoric does notonly specify rhetoric skill, but also contribute to the particularpower of the characters. In fact, the utilization of rhetoricthroughout the play contributes to the rise and fall of eponymouscharacters, for instance, Richard’s loss of power. In the famousopening declamation of Richard III, Richard decidedly expresses hisrevulsion to ‘reasonable well-spoken generations’ and their‘indolent pleasures’. Richard comprehends his physical frailtyand trusts it sets him separately from others thus, he amenablyconfesses that he is not molded for sportive trickeries, nor preparedto court an enamored looking glass. In this regards, the discourse aframework on the utilization of rhetoric skills in Shakespeare’sRichard III and provides a counterargument on the constraints of theskills to the power of the characters.

Rhetoric is anart of inducement, which lies in the acknowledgement of the supremacyof the spoken word thus, the principal of influential homily is alsois the principal of the people. In this regards, Mcneely (1) assertsthat the characters especially Richard demonstrate unique rhetoricskills in the play. In fact, Richard performs exceptional quality ofrhetoric and his arguments ‘I play the devil’ (1.3. 337)highlight to a great gradation of his consciousness and impost of hisown performances. Such a demonstration helps the audience to realizewhat they are and what they may not become. Elsewhere, Richard’srhetoric dexterity reveals the miscreation of his belligerentmasculine rather than his physical frailty. In addition, Zamiraffirms that in the pursuing scenes, the audience obviously sees hisbelligerent pursuit of authority over effeminate gratification byplummeting women to meagre objects (517). In fact, Lopez asserts,‘Shakespeare takes the honorable, fair Richard of historicalversion and transmutes him into a monster, whose murderous actionsonly exceed his physical frailties in abhorrence,’ (304). In thisregards, Shakespeare highlights the play as Elizabethan literature byunderlining the qualities of the imperator of the period by usingrhetoric skills of the characters.

On the other hand, Mcneely affirms, ‘Richard II possessesnoteworthy rhetoric skills through the pugnacious actions ofRichard,’ (3). Shakespeare demonstrates extraordinary quality ofrhetoric developed by Richard when in the opening stages of the playRichard though answerable for the demise of Lady Anne’s husband andfather-in-law, manages to persuade her using his words only.Surprisingly, Richard woos Lady Anne by gratifying her that he onlyslew Henry because of her ‘heavenly face’ and resaying theexpression ‘love’ several periods in his proposal to take his ownlife if Anne wishes (1.2.182). In fact, Richard asserts, ‘My hand,which for they darling did slay thy love, will, for thy love slay afar realer love’ (1.2.189-190). This form of replicationimperceptibly compounds Richard’s objective, subconsciously leadingLady Anne to contemplate Richard and love to develop as tantamount.

Indeed, all thewooing Richard directs on Lady Anne develops despite the tantrumsthat Lady Anne directs on Richard. In fact, Anne directs hermalicious declamation fraught with swearwords to Richard, ‘Cursedbe the hand that ended these deadly holes, the temperament that hadthe heart do it (1. 14-15), before hurling a shower of invectives toRichard. Anne calls Richard ‘a lump foul of malformation’ avillain dispersed infection of a man and a dissembler so hedged onelaborating the devilish image of unnatural acts’ among otherinsults (1. 55-170). However, Carlson asserts that using rhetoricskills, Richard masterfully confines Anne’s choices and develops anarrogant deportment, which pursues Anne to give up her resistanceprogressively,’ (346). In fact, Richard’s rhetoric skills take inAnne who leaves the stage well disposed towards Richard and says,‘with all my heart and much it ecstasies me too to see you aredeveloped so repentant,’ (1. 205-206). The admission and aptjudgment of Anne show that Richard does not waste his verbal effortin the form of lies thus, his quality of rhetoric skill goes beyondhis comportment.

Conversely, the use of rhetoric in the play does not influence othercharacters, but also influences the audience. In fact, Richard’suse of persuasive language allows the audience to grasp the fullmeaning of persuasion and appreciates the flowery language used topersuade other characters. In the whole play, Richard tricks theaudience into distinguishing his actions, as he needs the audience toperceive them. In fact, Richard demonstrates this thinking that hewants the audience to take when he describes himself as ‘malformed,unfinished and sent before his period/…scarce half made up,’ (1.120-21). In this regards, Richard’s use of rhetoric skill allows theaudience to feel encouraged through pathos. In fact, the audiencecommiserates with Richard’s condition as the rhetoric used allowsthe protagonist to come out as persuasive and committed. In addition,in wooing Anne, Richard maneuvers his power of orotundity over theaudience by asking, ‘Was ever a woman in this comicality wooed/…was ever woman in this comicality won?’ (1.2 227-228). In thisregards, Richard employs rhetoric skill to influence the audienceinto deliberating the authority that he wields with expressions andthe way the expressions allow Richard to bend other characters to hisdetermination. Ironically, by reassuring the audience to think inthis way, they fall targets to Richard’s rhetoric prowess.

However, Zamir asserts, ‘The power of the rhetoric utilized in theplay seems to diminish towards the end of the play and with thediminished rhetoric so do the power of the characters,’ (504). Onerealizes the wanting power of Richard’s rhetoric skill when heattempts to coax Queen Elizabeth to permit him to marry her daughter.During the conversation, Elizabeth seems to agree, but the audienceknows that she has already agreed or arranged to marry her toRichmond. In fact, Richard does not utilize a single example ofwordplay during this conversation, but it is Elizabeth who takescontrol of the discourse. The audience sees Richard’s fallingrhetoric sill during his final monologue when he expresses hiscomprehensive loss of expertise over language, ‘I am I/…Is therea slayer here? No. Yes, I am’ (5.3 184-185). In this discourse, theassonance of ‘my’ and ‘I’ appears to replicate Richard’scessation and awkwardness to wordplay.

In the play, Shakespeare demonstrates the rhetoric dexterity used bythe characters, but he also demonstrates the falling or wanting powerof the characters as the play ends. The characters in the play gainauthority over each other and the readers, but this power fades withthe faltering of the rhetoric dexterity. In fact, Shakespeare allowshis characters to utilize rhetoric skills as means of manipulatingthe reader and other characters. In this regards, Richard III remainsundoubtedly a master in rhetoric utilization by manipulating thecharacters and the audience.


Carlson, David. The Princes` Embrace in &quotRichard III&quotShakespeare Quarterly, Vol. 41, No. 3

(Autumn, 1990), pp. 344-347. Print

Lopez, Jeremy. &quotTime and Talk in Richard III I. iv.&quot&nbspSELStudies in English Literature 1500-1900&nbsp45.2 (2005):299-314. Print

Mcneely, Trevor. None are for me that look into me with considerateeyes`: Richard III and Rhetoric. Proteus Unmasked:Sixteenth-Century Rhetoric and the Art of Shakespeare. Bethlehem,Penn.: Lehigh University Press, 2004. Print

Shakespeare, William.&nbspKing Richard III. Vol. 32.Cambridge University Press, 2009. Print

Zamir, Tzachi, A Case of Unfair Proportions: Philosophy inLiterature. New Literary History,

Vol.29, No.3, Theoretical Explorations (Summer, 1998), pp.501-520.Print