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Shakespeare-Essay 2 - Walters 1 Libby Walters Professor...

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Walters 1 Libby Walters Professor Derrick Intro to Shakespeare 11/15/07 Kingship: The Perspective of Shakespeare Shakespeare had specific beliefs, likely influenced by popular works of his day, as to what he thought a king should or should not be and specific characteristics an effective king should possess including modesty, the ability to use both the truth and lies to his advantage, and to not behave in a gluttonous or unlawful manner. One can see his characterization of these specific beliefs in his history plays of the Second Tetralogy, specifically Richard II and Henry V. In these two plays, Shakespeare ascribes to King Henry V and King Richard II traits that he believes an effective king should or should not possess, respectively. Through these two kings as Shakespeare portrays them, Shakespeare is able to illustrate his opinions on kingship. An Homily Act Against Disobedience and Willful Rebellion describes, in detail, the characteristics of a rebel, “Now such as by…gluttony…have wasted their own goods unthriftily, the same are most apt unto…rebellion,…whereby they trust to come by other men’s goods unlawfully and violently” (Anonymous, 176). Shakespeare’s portrayal of Richard II bears an eerie resemblance to this description of a rebel. Richard II was infamous for his lavish, expensive ceremonies, and was known to waste his and England’s money on such frivolous Walters 2
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things. In fact, in Richard II , when he realizes that he would, most likely, be deposed from his throne by Bullingbrook he mourns, not his country’s loss of him as a ruler, but his loss of his country and all of the perks he had enjoyed that go hand in hand with being king: I’ll give my jewels for a set of beads, My gorgeous palace for a hermitage, My gay apparel for an almsman’s gown, My figur’d goblets for a dish of wood, My sceptre for a palmer’s walking-staff, My subjects for a pair or carved saints, (RII 3.3.147-52). Richard II, by saying that he will trade his palace for a hermitage, his jewels for beads, etc, shows his obvious love for over-the-top unnecessary things and reveals his gluttony. He appears to be devastated by the downgrade to ordinary things, such as a wooden dish, which, of course, are the very things that many of the people he rules own. Another trait of a rebel that echoes Richard II is that they acquire the possessions of other men illegally. This describes Richard II to
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