William Shakespeare’s Richard III and Macbeth, one a historical play, and the other a tragedy respectfully, are two of Shakespeare’s plays that embody several similarities. The most evident similarities in the two plays are the number of shared characteristics between the two main characters for which the plays are named, Richard of Gloucester (Richard III), and Macbeth. Both men are soldiers, attain the throne through a series of murders, and are eventually slain by their nemesis in a battle at the end of the play that restores power to that of a strong, humble, and virtuous leader, as opposed to a tyrannical one (Manning-Smith 1003). Although Shakespeare’s suggested opinion about how the kingship should be performed is not explicitly stated in Richard III or Macbeth, I will further analyze the aforementioned similarities between the two characters and argue that the qualities of an exceptional leader in the eyes of Shakespeare include: humility, strength, and virtuous.
Firstly, let us analyze the similarities between the two characters’ rise to power. Richard III, the younger brother of the current King, Edward IV, resents his brother’s political power and his admired societal recognition. This bitterness is what drives Richard to do whatever is necessary to attain the throne, later equating to a series of malicious murders. Richard III is also interesting because of the fact that he was born with a deformity. As a consequence, he has always been in the shadow of his family and desires the power and limelight.
“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.”
However in Macbeth, “three weird sisters” confront Macbeth and present him with a prophecy that states that he will first be named Lord of Cawdor, and later King. At first Macbeth thinks nothing of it, however shortly after he is named Lord of Cawdor, and he begins to believe the prophecy may be true. It is Macbeth’s eager desire for the second part of the prophecy to become true that leads him to his series of murders, along with manipulation from his wife Lady Macbeth, who pushes him to go through with his first murder by questioning his manhood. The two characters differ in that they have quite contrasting lines to the throne. Richard III has a more treacherous and chaotic road to securing political power than Macbeth, however it is the measures they take in providing themselves throne security that we see distinct similarities. For example, in Richard III, Richard marries Lady Anne because of the fact that she is a member of the Lancaster lineage, who held the throne before Richard’s family of the York lineage did. In Macbeth, this same behavior can be evidenced through Macbeth’s ordering...