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Lord Hastings: A Justification to Omit Regret
We, the audience, lend our ears and nod our heads at the exactness of Lord Hastings's uttering:
I think there's never a man in Christendom,
Can lesser hide his love or hate than he,
For by his face shall you know his heart. (3.4.51-53).
Ironically, we do not assent to his words because they are exactly in the right, but because they are exactly in the wrong. By Act III, Richard III exhibits a pallet of personalities including the devoted brother, the witty wooer, and the loyal subject. We see that these almost Platonic ideals are tarnished black under the rule of Richard's perfectly evil intent to manipulate. Lord Hastings, however, could not see until it was too late. The time to weigh the validity of the supernatural signs and omens in Stanley’s dream had past. Before his death, Lord Hastings misperceives the "subtle, false, and treacherous" Richard, and only saw the face (i.e. the theatrical abilities of Richard), not the heart (1.1.37). Why, then, do we nod at wrongness? The answer lies in the fact that we are plummeted into absolute awe. We have reached a catharsis of our emotions in response to the summit of Richard’s manipulative character, where Lord Hastings had actually believed that Richard was a man incapable of manipulating. Our response is a sign of assent because Lord Hastings is completely justified for trusting Richard and ignoring Stanley’s forebodings entirely. If Lord Hastings had the chance to relive his death scene, he would have two choices: to reiterate his regret for not listening to Stanley, or take a different course, and omit his regret. The study of this paper involves what types of justification Lord Hastings could offer if he had the opportunity to omit regret. His justification would necessarily contain an assessment of Richard’s compelling theatrical abilities. In other words, Lord Hastings would have to prove that Richard was too good of an actor for anyone to realize his acting.
Lord Hastings now carries the burden of proof on his shoulders. Lord Hastings would probably refer to the ideal representation of brotherly love Richard shows to Clarence. “We are not safe Clarence, we are not safe,” Richard says, probably placing his hand on his brother’s shoulder while stressing “we”(1.1.70). In those words, Clarence felt warmth, despite the cold chains draping from his wrists; felt security, despite his insecurities about the reason as to why he was placed under arrest.
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Hastings's quest for justification does not end at Clarence, however. Act I, Scene ii presents the dramatic change of Anne's heart, going from the grieving and bitter widow to the confused and wooed prey. Initially, the circumstances are against Richard's goal to woo Ann and to ultimately slip the ring on her finger. He murdered King Henry and Prince Edward, whose death caused Lady Anne's widowhood. Richard had his work cut out for him. However, Richard, self-absorbed in his ambition to ascend the throne shows indifference to the corpse of the dead king and begins courting Lady Anne romantically.
Your beauty was the cause of that effect---
Your beauty, that did haunt me in my sleep
To undertake the death of all the world,
So I might live one hour in your sweet bosom (I.2.121-124).
The technique that Richard uses on Anne involves his feigned gentleness and persistence in praising her beauty. Richard implies that her beauty caused him to kill the prince. In other words, Edward's death is Anne's fault. This tactic culminates in the highly manipulative gesture of Richard's offering her his sword and presenting his throat to her. Now handed the opportunity to avenge her husband's and father-in-law's death, Anne responds "[A]lthough I wish thy death,/I will not be thy executioner," probably feeling confused as well as wooed at this point (1.2.188-189). Thus, in light of the leap from Anne's rancorous attitude to a mixed feeling of confusion and acceptance emerges another fragment of Hastings's justification to refrain from regret.
Yet, the sting of Richard's manipulative character is not limited to Clarence and Lady Anne. It is a disease Richard intends to leak into the masses. After murdering Lord Hastings, Richard gains control over the court. His next political move is to manipulate the common people of England in order to pave the way to the throne. Accordingly, Lord Mayor of London becomes Richard's next target. The Lord Mayor portrays a citizen who believes everything a politician says, and is too optimistic to ascertain the holes in a story. Richard's manipulative tactics have fully matured at this point, but he only needs to use little of its power to steer the Lord Mayor in his favor. Richard must manipulate the Mayor into believing that the death of Lord Hastings was deserved.
What? Think you we are Turks or infidels?
Or that we would, against the form of law,
Proceed thus rashly in the villain's death,
But that the extreme peril of the case,
The peace of England, and our persons' safety,
Enforc'd us to this execution? (3.4.41-46).
The Lord Mayor, like Clarence and Lady Anne, falls prey to Richard as he says "[Lord Hastings] deserv'd his death,/ And your good Graces both have well proceeded,/To war false traitors from the like attempts" (3.4.47-49). Anticipating potential opposition from the common people, Buckingham, the extension of Richard, expresses concern that the citizens "haply may,/Misconstrue us in him [Hastings] and wail his death. The Lord Mayor assures him that "[M]y good lord, your Graces' words shall serve/As well as I had seen and heard him speak," and that he will tell all the citizens so (3.4. 59-65). The Lord Mayor's gullibility contributed to the achievement of Richard's political end more than Richard and Buckingham's manipulation. However, Richard and Buckingham knew of the Lord Mayor's innocence. Thus, Richard and Buckingham's flagrant and suspicious lie, which a reasonable person would probably investigate, was not a slip on their part---it was merely a play on Lord Mayor's innocence. Hence, Richard's manipulation was still tactically crafted, in that he knew he did not have to use it in excess.
Richard's control over his manipulation strengthens Lord Hastings's justification even more than the examples of Clarence and Lady Anne. The control over manipulation implies that Richard would never let it become a self-destructive force.
This study offered three ways in which Hastings could justifiably omit regret at his death scene. During his last breaths, Hastings says:
For I, too fond, might have prevented this.
Stanley did dream the boar and [rase] our helms,
And I did scorn it and disdain to fly (3.4.81-83).
However, a reliving of his death scene would give him the option to concede something along the lines of (minus the Shakespearean eloquence) "I trusted Richard, and I am justified." From there forward, Lord Hastings would probably cite the above instances in which Richard thieved other characters of the "subtle, false, and treacherous" Richard (1.1.37). Those instances mark a submission to Richard's manipulation, without the characters having any knowledge of such. Clarence, Lady Anne and Lord Mayor had justifiably trusted Richard, because of his theatrical ability to put on a straight face and veil his true heart. Lord Hastings could add himself to that list, instead of shaming his inability to realize Richard's acting.
no works cited! just the text of the play itself.