By (fill in the blank), Try as I Might, I Just Don’t Get the Tri…

As I continue to re-read Richard the Third, I’m finding some interesting things… and a couple of things that I’m not sure what to think about…

Saints

Over the course of the play, Richard makes about ten references to holy figures, and in all but two, those references are saints.

Scene Text Spoken to:
I.i.138 Now, by Saint John, that news is bad indeed! Hastings
I.ii.41 Or, by Saint Paul, I’ll strike thee to my foot Lady Anne’s train
I.iii.45 By holy Paul, they love his grace but lightly Woodevilles and the court
I.iii.306 I cannot blame her. By God’s holy Mother, Woodevilles and the court
III.iv.76 Off with his head! Now by Saint Paul I swear Hastings
IV.iv.366 Now, by my George, my garter, and my crown Queen Elizabeth
IV.iv.377 Why, then, by God Queen Elizabeth
V.iii.209 Zounds [by God’s wounds], who is there? Ratcliffe
V.iii.217 By the apostle Paul, shadows tonight Ratcliffe
V.iii.302 This, and Saint George to boot! What think’st thou, Norfolk? Norfolk
V.iii.350 Our ancient word of courage, fair Saint George, Norfolk

What to make of this?  Not sure.  According to tradition, all three saints ended up beheaded.  Richard has a history of heads: bringing in the head of Somerset at the beginning of The Third Part of Henry the Sixth, and we all know what happens to Hastings in this play.  Paul was a Jew, an outsider, until he converted; this outsider position is something Richard feels as he has “no delight to pass away the time” (I.i.25).  John the Baptist preached of apocalypse, and thus the punishment of sinful rulers; does Richard see himself the scourge of weak (Henry VI) and lustful (Edward) rulers?  He certainly disdains both, but such a verbal villain would surely have given us some soliloquy outlining this goal (even if it was a fraud, like some of Iago’s rationalizations).  After he is crowned, though, his references are more about God and the patron saint of England… what does this change mean?

I’m not sure… but there’s something there… I can feel it.

Trimeter

On many occasions in the play, the verse drops from iambic pentameter to iambic trimeter… three poetic feet, only six syllables per line.  Sometimes, it’s easily explained, as when it arrives at the end of a scene or a long speech; there, it can be seen to create an opening for what’s to follow, an opportunity to kick-start the transition to that next thing.  But in other cases, it just seems to … happen.  A quick example:

The wooing scene with Lady Anne (below, I.ii.186-203)… most of it occurs in blank verse,

RICHARD
Then bid me kill myself, and I will do it.

LADY ANNE
I have already.

RICHARD
Tush, that was in thy rage:
Speak it again, and, even with the word,
That hand, which, for thy love, did kill thy love,
Shall, for thy love, kill a far truer love;
To both their deaths thou shalt be accessary.

Here, we have the iambic pentameter, with even an antilabe (shared line) thrown in for good measure (no pun intended), showing Richard completing, topping, answering her line.  But then we have a sudden shift to iambic trimeter…

LADY ANNE
I would I knew thy heart.

RICHARD
'Tis figured in my tongue.

LADY ANNE
I fear me both are false.

RICHARD
Then never man was true.

LADY ANNE
Well, well, put up your sword.

RICHARD
Say, then, my peace is made.

LADY ANNE
That shall you know hereafter.

RICHARD
But shall I live in hope?

LADY ANNE
All men, I hope, live so.

RICHARD
Vouchsafe to wear this ring.

LADY ANNE
To take is not to give.

All six syllable lines.  Not antilabes.  They’re not shared lines.  But are we supposed to have long pauses?  Is it supposed to be like this:

LADY ANNE
[pause] I would I knew thy heart.

RICHARD
'Tis figured in my tongue. [pause]

LADY ANNE
[pause] I fear me both are false.

RICHARD
Then never man was true. [pause]

LADY ANNE
Well, well, put up your sword. [pause]

RICHARD
Say, then, my peace is made. [pause]

LADY ANNE
[pause] That shall you know hereafter.

RICHARD
But shall I live in hope? [pause]

LADY ANNE
[pause] All men, I hope, live so.

RICHARD
[pause] Vouchsafe to wear this ring.

LADY ANNE
[pause] To take is not to give.

It’s a possibility, but it feels so jerky.  Or are they’re no pauses, and this is really an acceleration of pace?  Not sure.   But I’m pretty sure this shift in meter is a clue to the actors and the director?  A clue of what?  And then what to make of how it goes back to iambic pentameter once the ring is given:

RICHARD
Look how this ring encompasseth finger...

We’re back to the iambic pentameter.  There’s a reason in there somewhere… I just don’t know what it is.

just more for me to ponder…

Comment?