Publication Date


Advisor(s) - Committee Chair

Hoyt Bowen, Nancy Davis, William McMahon

Degree Program

Department of English

Degree Type

Master of Arts


In this study Richard III's character, motivations, and his path to the throne were examined as they affect the well-being of the country. Analyzed were the political, social, and moral philosophies of Elizabethan England and how they conflicted with Richard's Machiavellian tactics in achieving and holding the position of king. The necessity of purging Richard III from the throne was shown to be consistent with the Elizabethan concept of God's will for the good of the country. "Macbeth" and "Hamlet" revealed the idea that the health of the nation depends on the moral health of the king. In "Coriolanus," another strong but dangerous leader was shown as having qualities that were a value to the state, but he exhibited tyrannical irrationality that became an awesome threat to the country. In contrast, "Richard II" and "Henry VI" indicated that a weak king may be an even greater threat to the well-being of the nation than a tyrant like Richard III. The kings in "Henry IV" and "Henry V - were found to have qualities demanded of kingship. Henry IV's reign, however, was cursed by his participation in the deposition of God's regent on earth. Henry V is revealed as an ideal Renaissance king. He was a capable, mature man who was able to use Elizabethan policies to promote the health of England. In these examples of history plays and related tragedies, Shakespeare seems to demonstrate an ideal pattern of kingship as it affects the good of the country. The king had to be legitimate: and in accordance with Christian tradition, he must act in the best interest of the country. Although Henry V succeeded, Richard III failed to follow the pattern. Thus it was necessary that he be purged from the English throne at Bosworth Field.


Arts and Humanities | English Language and Literature | Literature in English, British Isles | Playwriting | Theatre and Performance Studies