The following speech was presented at the ICLC/Schiller Institute Conference, September 2, 2001 as the second part of Panel 5 entitled, "Defeat the Brute Within." The slides and other graphics for this presentation will be online in the near future. The address is also available as an audio/video RealMedia archive.
The Way to Master Fate
by Harley Schlanger
In his presentation opening this panel, Stanley Ezrol introduced you to some of the critters who devoted their so-called creative lives to the destruction of what Lyndon LaRouche has called the American Intellectual Tradition. As you have heard, they deployed themselves consciously to turn Americans into the kind of anti-intellectual whiners and victims, who would tolerate an election between these two modern day know-nothings, W. Bush and Al Gore, and the kind of demented hedonists who frequent racetracks, who buy lottery tickets, and who enjoy watching the World Wrestling Federation Smackdown.
In short, they've turned most of us into the human cattle that they wanted. A recent example of this degeneration of our fellow citizens can be observed in the numbers of people who have been flocking to see the latest garbage from Hollywood. The number-one movie in the United States the past few weeks is a piece called "American Pie 2," which supplanted "Planet of the Apes." American Pie 2, as I understand it, is a story centered around the escapades of a group of oversexed teenagers, one of whom had sex with an apple pie.
Now, if that's too tame for you, for your entertainment, there's always internet porn. You can go to an all night rave, and get charged up with Ecstasy, or you can blow out your credit cards on Eddie Bauer auto accessories, or even perhaps one of these wonderful weekend cruises. I just want to point out that there are some of you in this room who, when we call to ask you to help finance the movement, say "I have no money, no money, no money." And then, we find out two weeks later, you just returned from a weekend cruise. So we know what you're up to.
A Society in Denial
How can we change a society which is in denial? Which has no sense of its history? Which doesn't know where it is and how it got there? How can we restore, in our citizens, the sense of historic purpose for which our republic was founded? Or, as Lyn asked many of us, whom he recruited in the late 1960s from the rock-sex-drug counterculture, which, by the way, is now the dominant culture (it's no longer the counterculture)has America lost the moral fitness to survive?
Now, there's no question that we live in a culture which is plunging headlong into a dark age. A key problem in our culture, which we have to address, is the desire to be popular, to be accepted. Take Baby-Boomer culture, for example, which, unfortunately, you have to do. What was more important to my generation growing up, than being popular, listening to the right music, seeing the right movies, having the right opinion, wearing the proper clothes, even if that meant wearing "bell bottoms"!
When we were organized to rebel against what we considered the stifling bureaucratic conformity of the late 1950s and early 60s, what form did that rebellion take? How did we express our individuality? Well, we all grew our hair long. Most of us smoked pot. And we demonstrated against the Vietnam War, at least until we were no longer eligible to be drafted. But to hear it from the Baby Boomers today, you'd think that this so-called Golden Generation invented civil rights, invented youth, individuality, even sex. But, in reality, my generation didn't invent this obsessive focus on me, me, me, me. We may have taken it to a higher level, and we have taken credit for it. Today, through the mass media and so-called globalization, we've created a new, more all-encompassing, form of this moral degradation globally.
However, throughout history, it has been precisely the ability of the oligarchy to induce a population to embrace, as its own, an infantile worldview, as Stanley was describing earlier, which has enabled that oligarchy to maintain its control over society. It is this oligarchical principle, whether it's enforced through the priesthood of Babylon, through the cult of Apollo at Delphi, through the bread and circuses of the Roman Empire, or the mixture, the choices of cultural degeneration that are offered today.
Just take music, for example. You have the choice of "classical oldies." And where, but in a Baby-Boomer culture, would we refer to Elvis Presley as the "Classics"? We have rap, with its limited vocabulary, taking us back to the Dark Ages directly. And, of course, we have that "favorite" of Lyndon LaRouche, Country-Western music. But these forms of culture, people hysterically claim is "my music," it's "my culture." "This is who I am, you can't take it away from me." Now, just imagine defining yourself with Country-Western music. Such songs as "If you want to keep the beer real cold, keep it next to my ex-wife's heart." Or, my personal favorite, "My wife ran off with my best friend, and I miss him." It is this kind of culture, this kind of ability to induce people to actually identify with this kind of degeneration, which has been successful in reducing populations to little more than human cattle.
Why Classical Culture?
What I hope to show, and what I hope will be an interesting demonstration this evening, is that it is only through the revival of the method of Classical culture that we can free the majority of the population from this moral and intellectual self-degeneration, which we seem to choose, and is enforced through prevailing popular opinion, and that is what is threatening to destroy us today. So, let us take a look at Classical drama through different eyes today. In particular, I'm going to introduce you to a couple of the history plays of William Shakespeare to examine one excellent example of how Classical theater, properly composed and presented, can transform an audience.
Now, Lyndon LaRouche has addressed this principle repeatedly, including at this conference. Both he and Helga have taken up one of the principles of theater of Friedrich Schiller, that through experiencing a properly performed Classical drama, you actually have an audience that leaves the theater better people than when they entered. Let's first investigate briefly this method, to discover what it is we have to do if we are to pull humanity back from this dark age.
I was recently asked by an organizer "Well, when you talk about Classical culture, should we recite Shakespeare at the literature tables or on the phones, or when we're having meetings with our contacts?" I said, "Well, that might be preferable to the kind of wild, blocked things that I sometimes hear you say." But, it misses the point.
The issue in Classical drama, as in the plastic arts and in music, is to master the method employed by the artist. When we talk about the small numbers, and indeed there are very few great artists that are available to us if you think about the vast span of history, but if you look at these individuals, you'll find that they have highly developed the capabilities that Stanley's friends in the Critter Company wish to destroy. Not just the ability to think, but connected with that, is the necessity to be an ennobled soul.
When you think about Classical culture, the idea is not just to read it and recite it as human recitation machines, as human tape recorders, the way it is done in the schools, but to actually get into the mind of the author. So, as Lyn says, that author comes to live in your own mind.
In organizing, as in Classical art, the task is to make conscious to the audience, the enslaving effects of the popularly accepted axiomatic assumptions, and the postulates attached to them, which limit a population in the choices they make, and which limit them to a fixed set of options, which are derived from the sense certainty which generates our thinking, for the most part, and is then reinforced by dull popular opinion.
To break these chains of slavery, it is necessary to induce a change in the identity of the person addressed, the person in the audience, to change that identity from one whose attachment is to the petty concerns of getting along, day by day. Instead, we must get them to think from the perspective of one with a world historic identity, who recognizes that each of us has an explicit, efficient, and living connection to those who went before us, to those who fought to improve civilization before us, as well as an obligation to those who will follow us.
The World Historic Individual
To function as a world historic individual from that standpoint, one has to overcome those character flaws and defects which are rooted, not just in the individual, but in the individual's submission to the pervasive corruption of the society. That is, you have to understand that an author in a Classical drama is addressing individuals to get them to reflect on their own thought processes, their own submission to the views of the popular opinionthe vox populiof those around them.
When the implications of these flaws and defects become conscious to the individual in the audience, and then, a solution is presented to the systemic problems the society faces, then, provided the individual has the courage to act to overcome these flaws, then, that individual becomes capable of, what LaRouche calls, dwelling in the simultaneity of eternity. So that your actions are not simply getting along, day by day, but are developed by an appreciation of the scope of all of human history, both that before, and, hopefully, that which comes after us. In that way, one's mental life is lifted above the pervasive perversity around him, and is situated in the further development of all mankind.
Now, how does Classical Theater, especially historical tragedy, accomplish this? We have to turn for a moment to our friend Friedrich Schiller, who has provided us with the most thoughtful approach to what is necessary to change and improve yourself. Schiller dedicated his whole life to this project; especially after seeing the disastrous results of the British-directed Jacobin mobs which hijacked the French Revolution and turned that nation into a slaughterhouse. For this purpose Schiller wrote the Letters on the Aesthetical Education of Man, to address precisely this problem. How can the hearts and minds of citizens become ennobled so that they may lead the citizens of the nation to become truly human?
Now, again, Lyndon LaRouche has elaborated recently, in several memos, the problem that Schiller faced. How do you lift mankind above the corruption of the society, especially when we don't seem able to reach people in our day-to-day discussion? We, therefore, seem to share a fate in common with the beasts: that we will live and die, with little opportunity to shape our destiny, or that of society, in the limited time we have between birth and death.
It is this fatal pessimism which Schiller addresses most profoundly and most personally in his writings. This personal self-examination, which Schiller insists is a precondition for overcoming this pessimism. It's also crucial for organizing. In fact, everything I'm saying about the question of drama, tragedy, and Classical art, the same process of actually understanding what it means, should impel you to apply it when you organize. I assume that all of you are going to be organizing. So, even though we are speaking of the theater here, again I want to emphasize, that it is the method of the great tragedians and dramatists, especially Plato, Shakespeare, and Schiller, that we are discussing.
You must be, above all, honest and courageous. You must always seek the truth, no matter what the cost is to you personally, and this, of course, is one of the big problems for the Baby-Boom generation. As Lyn has been discussing, the question of company manners, unfortunately, it's not just out there. Too often it's in all of us, that we still have "company manners," even though we think we are "too sophisticated" for such things. You'll find that, if you're really honest, you're never too sophisticated to slide into some form of degeneration.
You also have to be willing to take risks in order to arouse the human quality which may be presently dormant in another person. Schiller also wrote though, that, in great drama, the stage must not be used merely to teach moral lessons, but to engage the audience in uncovering the secret workings of the human soul.
Again, think about this in the context of the organizing process: How many of you think that you are organizing someone when you give them lectures about what's wrong with them? When you say "you're immoral, you should be doing what I'm telling you to do"? How many of you think that's organizing? Now, I know no one's going to raise their hand, but how many of you do that when you're organizing? Or, we have what I call the Joe Friday approach: "Nothing but the facts ma'am." "I'm going to tell you the what, where, when, how, and why of a gold-reserve system, and then you should organize."
To change another person, you have to address what Lyn always refers to as the "subjective." You have to realize that people have deep fears. The way you know it, is to look at yourself. People feel impotent. They feel incapable of rising above things. The critters have done a damn good job in convincing us that we cannot reach others.
It's also a fear of standing alone for principle. How many people could have done what Lyndon LaRouche has done? I'll tell you: None. Only Lyn, out of his whole generation, is still here to this day, fighting for the principles that he presumes many shared at the end of World War II.
So, that's the level on which we are discussing this question. ...
I'm going to rely on some quotes from Helga Zepp-LaRouche, who has done so much to introduce us to Friedrich Schiller, and has prodded us to make Schiller our friend.
Helga wrote the following about how Classical drama, especially tragedy, functions. She wrote that the chief characteristic of tragedy is "that it demonstrates that the human being is not the sole master of his own fate. Even if he does everything necessity demands of him, summoning up all of his powers, violent developments may intervene, which destroy all of his efforts and, perhaps, even his very existence."
This is the question of fate, that our fate, or destiny, may seem to be too much for us to handle. But "seeing such conditions on the stage, awakens in the character, and in the viewers of the drama, powers of self-assertion and moral resistance against unjust conditions. Such extraordinary situations demonstrate the true greatness of a person, because those who are only apparently great are crushed by this overwhelming fate.
"But the hero is the person who prescribes to himself a great idea, and does not deviate from it, even under the most adverse circumstances," such as popular rejection, or even deathand some people think popular rejection is worse than death!
"Or the simple citizen who comes to understand that his own action may determine whether the force of fate can be altered."
What Schiller said of this, is that "theater sheds light on man and our destiny, and teaches us the great art of facing it bravely."
I would like to attempt to demonstrate this process. I would like to do it by introducing you to a series of extraordinary plays by William Shakespeare, on the Plantagenet kings of England. Keep in mind, that what I want you to look at, and listen for, is not just to listen to the words, not just to figure out the words, but to understand the mind of the author.
In a recent memo by Lyndon LaRouche on this, he wrote, "The typical head of state"and perhaps we can add, the typical organizer among us"takes on more the role of the actor on the stage, than the author of the play. It is those who change or adjust the axioms of the historical process, who determine the outcome of the play."
Don't simply identify with the characters, this is part of the problem in the way people approach drama. Too often, people look at the figure on the stage, and say, "Oh, the poor fellow, he couldn't quite make it, that's the tragedy." No! The tragedy is in the inability to overcome the flaws of the corrupt society, and that no individual in the drama had the capacity, the honesty, the toughness to overcome that corruption.
So don't just identify with the characters. Think like the author.
The Plantagenet Kings
It is not my intention to present the history of the Plantagenets. But I want you to think about what Shakespeare was dealing with when he was writing his plays at the turn of the 17th Century. He was living in the twilight of the reign of the Tudor monarchs, when Queen Elizabeth, who had produced no successor, was nearing the end of her reign. He was trying to get the people of England to reflect back on what the Tudors had done, which represented a significant improvement for England. For more than 300 years, the Plantagenets had ruled England, mostly to disastrous effect. There had been no conception of a nation-state. The Plantagenets ruled from the 12th Century until 1485. Only toward the end of that period, following the Council of Florence [in 1439], was there a conception of the nation-state, and only with Louis XI in France, who became king in 1461, did the nation-state come into existence.
Prior to this, as in Plantagenet England, there had been a succession of dynastic rivalries and squabblesoften, quite bloody, sometimes within families, sometimes between families. It was during the reign of the Plantagenets that the Hundred Years War with France was fought, a destructive series of battles fought on French soil. This was followed by the War of the Roses within England, with members of the same family, divided into the Houses of Lancaster and York, slaughtering each other.
This culminated with the bloody reign of Richard III, and we will now turn our attention to this man, one of the great villains in history.
What was Shakespeare drawing upon to write Richard III? His mind was shaped by the life and works of St. Thomas More, who was part of a network of Platonists, who were responsible for the Tudor Renaissance, which was a genuine renaissance, which began after Henry VII came to power, through his victory over Richard III, at Bosworth Field in 1485.
What Henry did, was to bring with him the best ideas from France, from Louis XI's creation of the nation-state. He applied them, with great success, in England during his reign, from 1485 to 1509. Henry VII was guided by this group of Platonists, people such as John Colet, Grocyn, and others, especially Thomas More, and their great collaborator and friend, Erasmus.
Shakespeare was reflecting back on that alliance and its success in developing England as a national economy. He used More's History of Richard III. More wrote this history, not to proclaim that the Tudors had been the coming of the Messiah to England, but to demonstrate what England had been before Henry VII, to show the corruption of the society.
Before proceeding further, it is necessary to ponder the question of how one writes historical drama, and portrays the ordering of events. What one finds, in the hands of great dramatists such as Shakespeare and Schiller, is not so-called "objective" history. There have been volumes written disputing Shakespeare's "version" of history, which argue that his chronology was wrong; for example, that in Richard III, he has Richard kill someone who was really killed before Richard was born.
But, there is a truth in dramatic history which is higher than that of so-called objective history. It is a dramatic truth which goes beyond the "facts": It is psychologically true; it provides an insight into how people thought and lived. The great dramatists do that when they present a parade of characters on stage, so that you look at the characters, and see their minds, how they think, as exposed by the dramatist.
By doing this, they are holding up a mirror to the audience, so that you may become conscious of how you think, and how members of your society think. Through this process, of viewing a great Classical drama, you are induced to reflect on your own corruption and degeneration, while, at the same time, you are presented with an alternative, that you could act, if you and everyone else in the audience were moved to act for the good, to live in the simultaneity of eternitythen, perhaps, you could change the course of history, overcoming what seemed to be inescapable fate.
The concern taken up by Shakespeare, in the history plays of the Plantagenets, was to enable his audience to understand the degeneracy, brutality, and corruption of pre-Tudor England. The dramatist is speaking directly to the audience.
Awakening the Imagination
One aspect of this, is to arouse the imagination of an audience. You watch television today, or the movies, and what do you see? Is there anything left to your imaginationespecially for those of you who have cable TV?
The idea of theater is that what is on stage is a direct interaction, between the actors on stage and the audience and, through that, from higher up, the mind of the dramatist, in dialogue with the individuals in the audience.
With the aid of a good friend of mine, actor Robert Beltran, I am going to try to recreate how this process works, through several scenes from Shakespeare's history plays.
Let us begin with the Prologue to Henry V, to show how this was written by Shakespeare, and spoken by the player, to awaken the imagination. You begin with a simple, blank stage, with little lighting, and a lone figure comes on to that stage, to set the play for you [Robert Beltran recites the Prologue]:
||"O for a muse of fire, that would ascend
The brightest heaven on invention,
A kingdom for a stage, princes to act,
And monarchs to behold the swelling scene!
"Then should the warlike Harry, like himself,
Assume the port of Mars, and at his heels
(Leashed in, like hounds) should famine, sword, and fire
Crouch for employment. "But pardon, gentles all,
The flat unraised spirits that hath dared
On this unworthy scaffold to bring forth
So great an object. "Can this cockpit hold
The vasty fields of France? "Or may we cram
Within this wooden
O the very casques
That did affright the air at Agincourt?
"O pardon, since a crooked figure may
Attest in little place a million,
And let us, ciphers to this great accompt,
On your imaginary forces work.
"Suppose within the girdle of these walls
Are now confined two mighty monarchies,
Whose high-upreared and abutting fronts
The perilous narrow ocean parts asunder.
"Piece out our imperfections with your thoughts:
Into a thousand parts divide one man
And make imaginary puissance.
"Think, when we talk of horses, that you see them
Printing their proud hoofs
I' the receiving earth.
"For 'tis your thoughts that now must deck our kings,
Carry them here and there, jumping o'er times,
"Turning the accomplishment of many years
Into an hourglass; for the which supply,
Admit me Chorus to this history,
Who, Prologue-like, your humble patience pray,
Gently to hear, kindly to judge our play."
Did you see the horses, the kings, the battles, in your mind? If you see the recent Hollywood version, by Kenneth Branagh, he leaves nothing to your imagination. It opens with real horses, large numbers of them. In the Branagh version, while the Chorus is recited, you don't have to imagine, even though Shakespeare has called upon your imaginationit's all there, right in front of you. You can sit back, pop open a six-pack and be "entertained." The whole idea of drama, as encapsulated in this Prologue, is lost, by the treatment given to Shakespeare by Hollywood.
King Henry V was followed by a weak son. Henry V died young, and his son, Henry VI, came to power as a child. Shakespeare wrote three parts of Henry VI. In them, you see the corruption take over, and erode the kingdom. You see it in the court, in the rivalries.
By the time you get to Henry VI, Part III, you see emerging in the background, the figure who is the end product of this Plantagenet degeneration, Richard, Duke of Gloucester, who later becomes Richard III. You will soon hear Richard in his first soliloquy.
Enter Richard, Duke of Gloucester
In a soliloquy, there is a character on stage. I am sure many of you have an image of this, shaped by Hollywood: an actor, in tightsfor, if it's Shakespeare in Hollywood, it has to be in tightsstrutting and prancing on the stage, making you conscious that they are acting! But that is not what Shakespeare intended. What you are actually looking at, are the thoughts of the character, who is discussing them with you, giving you insight into his evil, or good, intentions, or his confusion. It is up to you to decide what's going on.
Richard, Duke of Gloucester, later Richard III, was the last of the Plantagenets, who seized the throne in 1483, following the death of his older brother, Edward IV. (Henry VI reigned 1422-1461, when he was overthrown by Richard's older brother, Edward IV. Henry VI's army is finally defeated in 1471 by Edward IV, who reigned until his death in 1483.)
In Henry VI, Part III, there is a very dramatic scene, where there is a foreshadowing of the evil which later triumphs when Richard seizes the throne. In this scene, we listen, as Richard gives the earliest outlines of his plot [Beltran recites Richard's soliloquy, Act III, Scene ii]
||"Ay, Edward will use women honorably.
"Would he were wasted, marrow, bones and all,
That from his loins no hopeful branch may spring,
To cross me from the golden time I look for!
"And yet, between my soul's desire and me
The lustful Edward's title buried
Is Clarence, Henry and his son young Edward,
And all the unlooked-for issue of their bodies,
To take their rooms, ere I can place myself:
A cold premeditation for my purpose!
"Why then, I do but dream on sovereignty;
Like one that stands upon a promontory,
And spies a far-off shore where he would tread,
Wishing his foot were equal with his eye,
And chides the sea that sunders him from thence,
Saying, he'll lade it dry to have his way:
"So do I wish the crown, being so far off;
And so I chide the means that keeps me from it;
And so (I say) I'll cut the causes off,
Flattering me with impossibilities.
"My eye's too quick, my heart o'erweens too much,
Unless my hand and strength could equal them.
"Well, say there is no kingdom then for Richard:
What other pleasure can the world afford?
"I'll make my heaven in a lady's lap,
And deck my body in gay ornaments,
And witch sweet ladies with my words and looks.
"O miserable thought! and more unlikely
Than to accomplish twenty golden crowns!
"Why, Love forswore me in my mother's womb:
And, for I should not deal in her soft laws,
She did corrupt frail Nature with some bribe,
To shrink mine arm up like a withered shrub;
To make an envious mountain on my back,
Where sits deformity to mock my body;
To shape my legs of an unequal size;
To disproportion me in every part,
Like to a chaos, or an unlicked bear-whelp
That carries no impression like the dam.
"And am I then a man to be beloved?
O monstrous fault, to harbour such a thought!
"Then, since this earth affords no joy to me,
But to command, to check, to o'erbear such
As are of better person than myself,
I'll make my heaven to dream upon the crown,
And, whiles I live, t'account this world but hell,
Until my misshaped trunk that bears this head
Be round impaled with a glorious crown.
"And yet I know not how to get the crown,
For many lives stand between me and home:
And I, like one lost in a thorny wood,
That rends the thorns and is rent with the thorns,
Seeking a way and straying from the way,
Not knowing how to find the open air,
But toiling desperately to find it out
Torment myself to catch the English crown:
"And from that torment I will free myself,
Or hew my way out with a bloody ax.
"Why, I can smile, and murder whiles I smile,
And cry 'Content' to that which grieves my heart,
And wet my cheeks with artificial tears,
And frame my face to all occasions.
"I'll drown more sailors than the mermaid shall;
I'll slay more gazers than the basilisk;
I'll play the orator as well as Nestor,
Deceive more slily than Ulysses could,
And, like a Sinon, take another Troy.
"I can add colors to the chameleon,
Change shapes with Proteus for advantages,
And set the murderous Machiavel to school.
"Can I do this, and cannot get a crown?
"Tut, were it farther off, I'll pluck it down."
Richard is plotting, as there were many people between him and the crown.
What is fascinating is the next scene, which takes place at the King's palace in France. The most interesting character in this scene is King Louis XI, the creator of the modern nation-state. As Lyndon LaRouche has stressed, these plays of the English kings must be seen as one continuous set. The question posed, following Richard's soliloquy, is whether England will continue to suffer under the brutal Plantagenets, or will it become a nation-state?
What we see in the next scene, is the battle for Louis' support. On the one hand, you have the wife of Henry VI, Margaret of Anjou, who is pleading with Louis for his support for placing Henry VI back on the throne.
The other principal character is the Earl of Warwick, who is there to make a plea for Louis' support for Edward IV, who became king by overthrowing Henry VI. Warwick is trying to seal the support for his sovereign, Edward IV, by asking that Louis XI allow his sister to marry Edward IV.
Margaret of Anjou was ranting, "No, you can't do that," but Warwick is insisting that, since Edward is the accepted sovereign, Louis has no choice but to back him. Louis seems to be leaning toward accepting Warwick's argument.
Then, suddenly, word comes from England that Edward IV, even while sending Warwick to France to negotiate a marriage, had married Elizabeth Woodville, who, we are told, is a very attractive and seductive woman. Again, we see the Plantagenet dynasty deserting the prospect for creating a nation-state, in alliance with Louis, and indulging instead in personal corruption, in league with dynastic ambition.
Edward was corrupt. Instead of acting for the good of the state, he put his lust first. The scene ends with Margaret triumphant, and Warwick turning against Edward IV, and Louis deciding that he could not support Edward. But the forces behind Henry VI were too weak to succeed, and Edward IV prevailed. Edward was a weak king, surrounded by ambitious nobles, and among them was the most ambitious of all, his brother Richard, Duke of Gloucester.
The Fall of House of Plantagenet
When Richard III opens, Richard is a little closer to the crown than he was in the previous soliloquy we heard before, from Henry VI, Part III. In this opening soliloquy, we again listen, as Richard conveys his thoughts, and outlines his evil intentions [Beltran recites Richard's famous soliloquy from Richard III, Act 1, Scene I]:
"Now is the winter of our discontent
Made glorious summer by this sun of York;
And all the clouds that lowered 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.
"Grim-visaged war hath smoothed his wrinkled front,
And now, instead of mounting barbed steeds,
To fright the souls of fearful adversaries,
He capers nimbly in a lady's chamber
To the lascivious pleasing of a flute.
"But I, that am not shaped for sportive tricks
Nor made to court an amorous looking glass;
I, that am rudely stamped, and want love's majesty
To strut before a wanton ambling nymph;
I, that am curtailed of this fair proportion,
Cheated of feature by dissembling Nature,
Deformed, unfinished, sent before my time
Into this breathing world, scarce half made up,
And that so lamely and unfashionable
That dogs bark at me as I halt by them
Why, I, in this weak piping time of peace,
Have no delight to pass away the time,
Unless to see my shadow in the sun
And descant on mine own deformity.
"And therefore, since I cannot prove a lover
To entertain these fair well-spoken days,
I am determined to prove a villain
And hate the idle pleasures of these days.
"Plots have I laid, inductions dangerous,
By drunken prophecies, libels, and dreams,
To set my brother Clarence and the King
In deadly hate the one against the other;
And if King Edward be as true and just
As I am subtle, false, and treacherous,
This day should Clarence closely be mewed up
About a prophecy which says that
Of Edward's heirs the murderer shall be.
"Dive, thoughts, down to my soul: here Clarence comes."
Who says there are no conspiracies?
To summarize the play briefly, Richard battles his way to the throne, killing a number of people, marrying the widow of one of his victims. In a chilling scene, he woos the widow of a prince he has murdered, almost as a business proposition.
What is Shakespeare portraying here?
Richard does not become more evil during the play; he's depraved from the moment you first see him, as you have just seen.
He's almost joking about his dislike of peace, his preference for war; therefore, he has no difficulty carrying out a conspiracy to seize the throne.
So, the question is not the character of Richardit's of the English people, of those in the court, who first served his brother, then served Richard. Every single one of them, including those who do not like Richard, cut their deals with him. First, there is Anne Neville, who agreed to marry him even though he killed her beloved; or Buckingham, who sold out for the promise of an estate. One after another, they march across the stage, the courtiers, who engage in the ongoing conspiracy with Richard, even while talking against him behind his back.
Still, hope emerges, for removing Richard from the throne, putting an end to the Plantagenet nightmare. That hope is in the person of Henry Tudor, the Earl of Richmond, who went to France for aid and support, who succeeded in winning the backing of the heir of Louis XI.
Instead of having to choose between rival factions of the Plantagenets, as Louis XI had to do, the decision was made to bring down the Plantagenets, by supporting a new king, establishing a new dynasty, that of Henry Tudor.
The play ends with Richard going to war against Henry Tudor, who returns from France with an army. Some of the noblemen desert Richard III for Henry, some sit watching the battle, to choose sides at the endso you know the corruption doesn't end, even with the decisive victory by Henry Tudor.
There are two completely contrasting speeches given, by Richard and Henry, before the final battle. Richard tries to rally the troops by saying that these are foreigners coming here, they're going to take your wives and your land, you must fight to defend the women of England.
Whereas, Richmond holds out a different vision, and we see him in his final speech, now triumphant, presenting that vision. After denouncing Richard as a "bloody tyrant and a homicide," who had "slaughtered those that were the means to help him," he promises them that they will benefit from his ascendance: "But if I thrive, the gain of my attempt /The least of you shall share his part thereof."
This sentiment is expanded by Richmond, after the defeat of Richard, in his final speech. Richard's defeat was not easy. He fought nobly and valiantly. We see him fighting to the very end, demanding "A horse! a horse! my kingdom for a horse."
But Richard is finally beaten. In his speech which ends the play, which is almost a prayer, Henry Tudor addresses his victorious collaborators [Beltran recites Henry's speech, Act 5, Scene 5]:
Inter their bodies as become their births
Proclaim a pardon to the soldiers fled
That in submission will return to us;
And then, as we have ta'en the sacrament,
We will unite the White Rose and the Red
Smile heaven upon this fair conjunction,
That long have frowned upon their enmity
What traitor hears me, and says not amen?
England hath long been mad and scarred herself;
The brother blindly shed the brother's blood;
The father rashly slaughtered his own son;
The son, compelled, been butcher to the sire:
All this divided York and Lancaster,
Divide in their dire division,
O now let Richmond and Elizabeth,
The true succeeders of each royal house,
By God's fair ordinance conjoin together
And let their heirs, God, if Thy will be so,
Enrich the time to come with smooth-faced peace,
With smiling plenty, and fair prosperous days
Abate the edge of traitors, gracious Lord,
That would reduce these bloody days again
And make poor England weep in streams of blood
Let them not live to taste this land's increase
That would with treason wound this fair land's peace
Now civil wounds are stopped, peace lives again:
That she may long live here, God say amen
You can read the play. Look beyond the words, into the mind of Shakespeare, and see how he set out, in the course of these plays, to show the people of his time the benefits of peace and unity, based on the development of a nation-state, as opposed to the horrible circumstances, due to the murderous squabbling of rival dynastic ambitions, that existed before the victory of Henry Tudor. And this will give you insight into how we can triumph over fate.
Recommended for Further Reading
1. Friedrich Schiller's Aesthetical Writings, and Essays on Theater. Friedrich Schiller: Poet of Freedom, Vols. 1-3, Schiller Institute, 1985-1990.
2. William Shakespeare's History Plays, especially Henry V; Henry VI, Parts I, II, and III; and Richard III. Order from BenFranklinbooks@mediasoft.net
3. Muriel Mirak-Weissbach, "Saint Thomas More," New Federalist, June 18, 2001.
4. Stanley Ezrol, "It Only Smells Like the Island of Dr. Moreau"
5. Lyndon LaRouche, "Shrunken Heads in America Today," and other articles in LaRouche's book, The Economics of the Nöosphere.