Radically Different Victims

By Ransom, Emily | Modern Age, Summer 2013 | Go to article overview

Radically Different Victims


Ransom, Emily, Modern Age


The Artistic Links between William Shakespeare and Sir Thomas More: Radically Different Richards by Charles A. Hallett and Elaine S. Hallett (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011)

In one of St. Thomas More's Latin epigrams concerning the nature of tyranny, the poet describes the good king as the watchdog who protects the flock under his care from the threat of the wolf. The bad kina on the other hand, is the wolf himself.

It no secret that More's early works demonstrate a concern for kingship and a criticism of tyrants. Moreover, with the five-hundredth anniversary (so far as we can estimate) of More's History of King Richard III upon us, it is no secret that the humanist's artistic criticism of the alleged tyrant had a direct influence on Shakespeare's drama. Yet in The Artistic Links between William Shakespeare and Sir Thomas More: Radically Different Richards, Charles A. Hallett and Elaine S. Hallett question the nature of that influence, boldly opposing what they call the "dogmas" of the "More Myth," the assumption that "More virtually does Shakespeare's work for him."

Indeed, ever since scholars such as E. M. W. Tillyard and R. W. Chambers took notice of More's unfinished history embedded within the sixteenth-century Chronicles of Hall and Holinshed, they have acknowledged Shakespeare's indebtedness to it for the structure, characters, and vividness of Richard III. Some such as George M. Logan have suggested that the dramatist merely "took the wit at and caustic irony of More's narrator and transferred them to Richard," recasting "scenes that More had already made highly dramatic." Peter Holland likewise suggests that Shakespeare had seen in More's biography that "Richard's life was history already teetering on the brink of drama."

Whereas Artistic Links in some ways strengthens the connection between the two artists, it argues against a simplistic understanding of More as the mentor who would eventually be surpassed by his genius apprentice, a distortion that does a disservice to both craftsmen. In terms of More, it leads many such as Arthur Noel Kincaid and Alison Hanham to interpret his History retrospectively as a drama. As for Shakespeare, it nullifies the "mind-bending exertions" he willingly underwent in the task of "re-configuring the whole of the History" with a different set of priorities. These priorities, the authors argue, ultimately provide More and Shakespeare with "radically different Richards."

Fundamentally, however, Artistic Links does not argue for different Richards but for different story tellers, "a radically different attitude toward the character's abilities" that lead them to "differing interpretations of the same man." Specifically, the authors propose, "More had the obligations of a historian and Shakespeare had the liberties of a dramatist." More was confined by "his obligation to truth" not only in a historical sense but also in a moral one; he "wanted each incident to serve as a moral exemplum." Shakespeare, on the other hand, was writing "finely crafted scenes ... as showcase pieces of a radically new art form," scenes that "transform narrative into action."

The authors argue that, in his encounter with More's Richard and all the opportunistic theatrics of which the author was explicitly critical, Shakespeare saw a playwright within a play and determined to write not biography but autobiography: Richard III is the protagonist's attempt to defend himself from More's narrator who understood him so well yet censured him so severely. Shakespeare gives his pen to the villain, allowing him to cast a spell over the audience and other players alike until he ultimately overreaches himself in Act 4 after the murder of his nephews, at which point Shakespeare becomes dramatist again and concludes the play and the terralogy alike with a detached, moralizing finish that many critics have found out of place in a drama of this caliber. "Shakespeare arrives," the authors argue, "though by an alternate route, at More's side," although he himself has been transformed as a dramatist, with More's Richard as his tutor. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Radically Different Victims
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.