Richard III

Sinister Aesthetics and Courtly Manners in Richard III

Many critics and theorists alike have studied William Shakespeare’s “Richard III” in the attempt explain the external and internal mismatch of character and physical appearance. Richard III is able to deceive those around him based on these incongruities and so has sparked interest in the academic community. Some more recent critics have argued that Richard’s success stems mainly from his conformity to the expectations of his time through the use and manipulation of courtly manners and decorum, while other critics argue his success is derived from the “sinister aesthetics” found in the play.

The first set of critics argues that Richard’s use of decorum is his most powerful weapon in his ascension to the throne. Dolores Burton, author of “Discourse and Decorum in the First Act of Richard III” ” argues that Richard’s use of discourse and decorum allows him to win over all of his audiences. His use of deliberate discourse in his opening monologues, Burton claims, places him in the role of the classic orator whose powers of persuasion gives him power over his audience. Burton’s central claim is Richard’s use of the ethical appeal in his public speaking is the means by which he gains his power. The elements of his speech operate...

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