Memories of Things to Come (or, “Words”)

Remember how last week, when discussing Richard’s deformities, we noted that Richard has a tendency to expand upon what others have said?

Take a look at King Edward’s speech in Act Five, Scene Three of The Third Part of Henry the Sixth. After the Yorkist victory at Tewkesbury, Edward tells his brothers:

Thus far our fortune keeps an upward course,
And we are grac’d with wreaths of victory.
But in the midst of this bright-shining day,
I spy a black, suspicious, threat’ning cloud,
That will encounter with our glorious sun,
Ere he attain his easeful western bed...

(3HenryVI) V.iii.1-6

OK, for those who have started in on next month’s reading (uh, today IS the last day of the month, people), those lines should tickle the frontal lobe a little.

heck, even if you haven’t cracked the spine of the next play, that play’s opening soliloquy is one of the most famous in the Canon… so it should engender SOME tickling, regardless

At the beginning of the play that bears his name, Richard appears alone on stage and states:

Now is the winter of our discontent
Made glorious summer by this sun of York;
And all the clouds that lour’d upon our house
In the deep bosom of the ocean buried.
Now are our brows bound with victorious wreaths;
Our bruised arms hung up for monuments;
Our stern alarums changed to merry meetings;
Our dreadful marches to delightful measures.

(RIII) I.i.1-8

Two sentences, both four lines in length, each calling back to imagery his brother used upon their climatic victory in the first phase of the War of the Roses.

Richard begins the speech where and when he finds himself: NOW (bam, start that line, that speech, that PLAY with a stressed syllable, kick-start it with a trochee) … in the winter of his DISCONTENT(though check out that initial use of the royal “we”).

From there, he hearkens us back to Edward’s speech: Richard’s “glorious summer (is made by a) sun of York,” Edward’s “glorious sun”… both Richard Duke of York’s son and the emblem of that Edward.

Richard then states that the “clouds that lour’d” upon the house of York, those “black, suspicious, threat’ning cloud(s)” Edward references, are now in the “deep bosom of the ocean buried.”  And what can bury clouds in an ocean?  Why, the “bright-shining day” of Edward’s, of course.

Finally, Richard notes that Yorkist brows are now “bound with victorious wreaths”… the same “wreaths of victory” by which Edward felt his family “are grac’d.”

Richard then moves beyond this parroting of Edward’s speech, but continued the oppositional rhetoric (arms/monuments, alarum/meeting, stern/merry, dreadful/delightful, marches/measures).  Here, Richard takes over the speech and moves it into his own direction… one that distinctly moves away from Edward’s wanton past (“capers nimbly in a lady’s chamber…lascivious pleasing of a lute…wanton ambling nymph” [(RIII) I.i.12,13,17]).

is this a clue that those first few lines should have Edward (or at least George, Duke of Clarence) as an audience?  Was this the idea that drove Ian McKellen (and his director Richard Loncraine) in the opening moments of their Richard the Third?

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