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How is moral behaviour rewarded in Richard III, in Act V scene 3?

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fushi | Valedictorian

Posted May 22, 2012 at 8:23 PM via web

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How is moral behaviour rewarded in Richard III, in Act V scene 3?

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted December 31, 2012 at 9:08 AM (Answer #1)

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Act V scene 3 is a very small scene in the fifth act of this history play, and it is used to juxtapose the attitudes and behaviour of Richard III and of his rival, Richmond. Act V scene 3 focuses on Richard III and his attitude, and in particular his relations with his men. They are presented as being somewhat ambiguous about the forthcoming battle and serving him. Catesby looks "so sad" according to Richard, and Norfolk gives a rather ambiguous response to his liege when Richard says "we must have knocks":

We must both give and take, my loving lord.

The inclusion of the phrase "give and take" perhaps suggests that Norfolk is indirectly criticising his king as he is suggesting that knocks, or setbacks in life, are to be expected, particularly given Richard's acts in gaining the crown. In addition, not only is Richard presented as having, at best, rather lukewarm support from his nobles, but he is also depicted as an isolated figure who is unable to explore his fears and doubts publicly as Richmond is able to do so. Note how this is demonstrated in the following quote:

Up with my tent! Here will I lie tonight.

But where tomorrow? Well, all's one for that.

Who hath descried the number of the traitors?

Richard openly voices his fear and concern about the future, but then quickly moves on, not allowing himself to entertain thoughts of what might happen after the battle. He is unable to express his doubts and fears openly and is a prisoner in a cage that he has fashioned himself. His lack of moral behaviour has therefore shown its just reward in the lack of support he has from his men and his own psychological imprisonment where he is isolated and friendless. Just desserts indeed for somebody who has acted as Richard has done in the play in his single-minded quest for power.

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