The ‘friendship’ between Richard and Buckingham is an important storyline in this play ‘Richard III’ and could be used to demonstrate how Richard sees all his ‘friends’ or associates. Looked at simply, Richard seems to be merely using Buckingham in exchange for help in achieving his goals without any hint of real affection. However, examined more closely, is there a point in the play where Richard feels genuine enjoyment with his relationship with Buckingham? In this essay I am going to be exploring the nature of this relationship chronologically throughout the course of the play.
We first meet Buckingham in ACT 1, SCENE 3 when he is party to the hostile gathering in which old Queen Margaret curses almost everyone in the room. He is an able politician as well as a powerful nobleman and is discreet and apparently non-committal in this first scene. He is clearly well known and respected by those present in the room and so is put in a very awkward position when Margaret – by refraining from cursing him and instead offering the hand of friendship as “Thy garments are not spotted with our blood” – forces Buckingham to choose sides.
The problem is this: if he sides with Margaret, he escapes from her curse; however, since everyone else in the room have already been cursed and are therefore firmly against Margaret, he would lose their valuable friendship. Throughout the Scene Buckingham has been very quiet and respectful towards everyone – trying to agree with everyone’s point of view. He shows here that his true character is obviously not as a troublemaker and so is loath to make a decision that will upset anyone. However, the speech that Shakespeare gives him definitely reveals his final decision- his allegiance with Richard and the Yorks against Margaret: he mocks her, answering Richard’s: “What doth she say, my lord of Buckingham? ” with “Nothing that I respect my gracious lord. “.
At the end of the scene when Richard has a soliloquy, he states: “I do beweep many simple gulls; Namely, to Derby, Hastings and Buckingham… ” This shows Richard’s opinion of Buckingham before the ‘friendship’ is as a “simple gull” which clearly tells the audience that Richard is only interested in the usefulness of Buckingham to aid him in becoming King: he has no respect for him.
The second scene in which Buckingham appears is ACT 2, SCENE 1 where King Edward has gathered his family and friends around him with the intention for them to make peace with each other as he knows that he is dying. Buckingham once again is very loyal towards the York family (of which Richard is a member), but especially the King, by agreeing to reconcile matters with the Queen – there has obviously been past animosity between them as there seems to be a certain amount of tension.
Shakespeare uses a large amount of irony in Buckingham’s main speech in this scene: “God punish me With hate in those where I expect most love! When I have most need to employ a friend And most assured that he is a friend, Deep, hollow, treacherous and full of guile, Be he unto me! ”
This statement is very ironic as he is effectively cursing himself and sealing his own fate. This speech states that, if Buckingham ever does any wrong towards the Queen or her family, then he should be punished by being deceived in a false friendship-which is exactly what happens later in the play. In this scene (ACT 2, SCENE 2) we hear the news that King Edward has died and witness the different responses by Richard and Buckingham.
Since we have already been told by Richard that his intentions are to “prove a villain”, Shakespeare ensures that we do not really beliee him when he offers his condolences to the distraught Queen Elizabeth by his speech: “Sister, have comfort. All of us have cause To wail the dimming of our shining star; (Aside) And make me die a good old man! ” He delivers it falsely and patronisingly which reminds us once again of the fact that Richard cannot be trusted. However, in contrast, as the Buckingham we have seen earlier in the play has been loyal towards the King and his family and a very honest, up-front friend of the family, we are lead to believe in him when he offers his compassion.
This is very interesting, as at this point we are still in the dark about the fact that the allegiance between Richard and Buckingham has already been finalised. Shakespeare has deliberately not told us this yet so as to view the scene as described above. However, at the very end of this scene when Richard and Buckingham are left alone together on stage, it becomes clear that they have already begun that fatal friendship as it is obvious that they have been discussing their plans and plotting prior to their entrance half way through the scene.
With hindsight it is obvious that Richard and Buckingham have been working as a kind of double-act throughout the scene and Shakespeare makes it clear to us that Richard has taken him into his confidence (and even jokes that he is in charge) by his speech on lines 150-153: “My other self, my counsel’s consistory, My oracle, my prophet, my dear cousin, I, as a child, will go by thy direction. Toward Ludlow then, for we’ll not stay behind. ”
In this ending conversation between the two friends, it is also made known to us why they became acquaintances in the first place: They both share a common hatred of Queen Elizabeth’s family and so rejoice together at the knowledge of their planned imprisonment of the Queen’s brother’s (Rivers, Vaughn and Grey) in Pomfret Castle.
ACT 3, SCENE 1 is quite an important scene in the examination of the relationship between Richard and Buckingham. They appear in each other’s company in public quite frequently now and they always enter and leave together. In this scene they are supposed to be meeting the little princes to take the elder, Edward home to London for his coronation. It is obvious that the friendship has been continuing for quite some time as Buckingham is now growing amazingly in confidence. He feels powerful enough to be derogatory towards other people, he is able to work fairly independently while still following Richard’s orders and he now feels he has the authority to make orders of his own and tell other people what to do.
Shakespeare uses a form of irony here again when Buckingham lets slip his fondness for the little princes. The smallest prince (Richard) makes a grave mistake when he absent-mindedly makes a joke referring to Richard’s deformed shoulders: “I think that you should bear me on your shoulders”. Buckingham comes immediately to the prince’s rescue and then, seeing his mistake, covers it over by cleverly hinting that it could have been the princes’ mother, Queen Elizabeth’s fault: “Think you, my lord, this little prating York Was not incensed by his subtle mother To taunt and scorn you thus opprobriously?
” At the beginning of the play Richard describes both Buckingham and Hastings as “simple gulls”. However, by this point Shakespeare has shown us that in Richard’s mind there is now a clear distinction between Hastings who is just a fool who can be manipulated and Buckingham for whom I think Richard now has a certain level of respect for his ability to work on his own initiative. It is also clear that Richard trusts and respects Buckingham’s intelligence enough to confide in him all his deepest secrets and plans. Now, the question is: what does Buckingham think of Richard?
I think that at this point Buckingham is actually using Richard for his own objectives. He knows Richard’s aims to be king and thinks that he can raise his ambitions and position in society by association with Richard. Shakespeare uses Buckingham in this part of the play in place of all the soliloquies Richard had at the start of the play. Instead, he now confides in his confidant- Buckingham – who then conveys the information to the audience. Nevertheless, I think that it is at this point that the two really begin to enjoy this friendship together.