The Man in the Middle

Remember a couple of days back, we talked a little about Henry Stafford, the 2nd Duke of Buckingham.  He was aligned to

  • the Beauforts, through his mother Margaret Beaufort,
  • the Nevilles, via his grandmother Anne Neville,  and
  • the Woodevilles, by marriage to Catherine Woodeville.

Because of these direct relationships, Buckingham is the man in the middle of three of the four major families (the only family missing is the royal family of York, but of course by his ties to the Nevilles and Woodevilles, he has links to the Yorks as well–though Isabella and Anne’s marriages to George and Richard, and through Elizabeth’s marriage to Edward IV).

When we meet Buckingham in Act One, Scene Three of Richard the Third, he holds more of an outsider status, seemingly of neither the Woodeville or the Yorkist factions.  In fact, on his arrival, he carries the wishes of the ailing King Edward to “make atonement // Between the Duke of Gloucester and (Elizabeth’s) brothers” (I.iii.37-38).  When old Queen Margaret attempts to lure him to her side, not only does he not join her but he demeans her to Richard by saying that what she has said is “nothing that (he) respect(s)” (I.iii.296).  By doing this, he directly aligns himself with the Yorks, or at least Richard.

and in a sense, he is like us, who by this point have already begun to make a connection to Richard–through his soliloquies–as well…

When we see him next, during the familial reconciliations of Act Two, Scene One, he is the only one who swears to God in sealing his commitment… and even more, calls upon God to “punish” [II.i.34] him if he fails to live up to his agreement (while Rivers, too, swears, it’s by a more nebulous “heaven” [II.i.9], and with no sense of accountability).  The others who swear love for one another do so with no little sense of ambiguity and lack of conviction; Buckingham, however, is (seemingly) sincere, and as an audience, we are drawn to his sincerity.  We begin to feel a connection with Buckingham here.

After Edward’s death, Buckingham shows his intelligence when he calls upon Elizabeth to send for young Prince Edward to become king.  Intelligence, like sincerity, is a positive attribute, and we want to see ourselves with those qualities.  His political insight is further seen in calling for “some little train” (II.ii.120) for Edward’s return; his political reasoning (avoidance of “the new-healed wound of malice [that might] break out” [II.ii.125]) is shrewd, and again this is something we would like to see in ourselves… we want to be Buckingham.

And when Buckingham tells Richard that they should go to secure to prince to “part the queen’s proud kindred from the prince” (II.ii.150), it is not just we who see the brilliance of this plan, but so too does Richard:

My other self, my counsel's consistory,
My oracle, my prophet, My dear cousin,
I, like a child, will go by thy direction.

— II.ii.151-153

Richard sees the intelligence in Buckingham, and he is as drawn to Buckingham, as Buckingham is to Richard, as we are to Richard.  Buckingham is Richard’s “other self”… and if we are Buckingham, we are also Richard’s other self.

and we’ll pick this idea up again in a few days…

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