"This Weak Piping Time Of Peace"

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Last Updated on August 7, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 299

Context: Shakespeare's depiction of the character of Richard III, similar to those of the leading Tudor historians, is that of an arrant Machiavellian who sets his crooked sights on the throne of England and determines to wade through murder, if need be, to achieve it. As the play opens, Edward...

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Context: Shakespeare's depiction of the character of Richard III, similar to those of the leading Tudor historians, is that of an arrant Machiavellian who sets his crooked sights on the throne of England and determines to wade through murder, if need be, to achieve it. As the play opens, Edward IV rules, and there is a temporary lull in the struggle between the Yorkists and the Lancastrians for the throne. With Henry VI dead, the Yorkists for the moment are firmly entrenched. But for Richard this situation is small comfort indeed; between him and control of England stand the ruling Edward and his two royal Princes as well as his own older brother George, Duke of Clarence. In the soliloquy with which the play begins, Richard sets forth his plan with cold-blooded ruthlessness. Deformed of body, he can take no pleasure in women; twisted of mind, he can delight only in the destruction of those who stand in power around him. To this end, he has laid plots to "set my brother Clarence and the King/ In deadly hate the one against the other." And, like Iago, he will manipulate every opportunity that arises from the dissension:

. . .
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.
. . .

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