Visually grasping Lady Anne’s Character

After reading Act I scene ii of Richard III, I was left feeling angered by Lady Anne and her ability to so quickly be wooed by Richard’s rhetoric. I came across a video of the exceptional performance by Ian McKellan of the scene, and although I was still irritated at Lady Anne’s naivety, I found myself sympathizing with her. Initially, after reading this scene I accused Lady Anne of being an incredible narcissist; she abandons the grieving process, and is easily distracted by compliments of her fatal beauty. By taking the ring from Richard, she suggests to her husband’s murderer that she may have some sort of interest in him. I could not believe that Shakespeare would create a woman character that was so vain and quickly soothed by compliments and seductive word play.

Video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3wxGfjcfZkA

After watching this video, I was able to approach Lady Anne’s character differently. In this video, I see a woman who is very intensely immersed in the grieving process of her dead husband and father in law. Richard takes advantage of Lady Anne’s emotionally vulnerable state to manipulate her, and disturbingly seduce her with no shame. There is a shift in Anne’s responses towards Richard, once he suggests that she must take fault in the deaths of her loved ones too, because it was her beauty that drove Richard to murder. Richard plays on her sorrow by suggesting that she should feel guilty– I feel that these lines are especially sexually sadistic, because Richard gets pleasure from demeaning Anne’s innocence in relation to her husband’s death, while he simultaneously asserts his seductive powers over her. 

Perhaps Lady Anne is unable to deny some companionship in her state of mourning. From watching the video, I got the sense that Lady Anne is comforted at the notion of someone wanting her. In the wake of her husbands death, it is a natural emotion to desire company, and Richard is not shy about wanting to comfort her. Although it is hard for us to accept her relationship with Richard, we cannot forget the vulnerable state she is in. I think Lady Anne will play out to be a very intriguing character in terms of where she places her loyalty. I think she is dynamic in that she plays the ethical widow at first impression, but she may have her own deeper motives. Shakespeare does a great job at allowing the audience to ponder the complexity of his characters, and to measure their intrinsic morality up against each other. 

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5 thoughts on “Visually grasping Lady Anne’s Character

  1. taylordomenick

    When first reading this scene, I had the same initial impression of Lady Anne. I wished she would be more like Emilia from Othello and stand up for herself! I too was upset that Shakespeare wrote such a weak female character. However, after watching the video you posted and after our class discussion today, my opinion of Lady Anne changed as well. In class we talked about how accepting Richard’s courtship was really the only choice she had. I think when watching the clip you provided, you can see this in her face. She realizes that if she doesn’t at least appease Richard then he’ll probably either make her life miserable or kill her too. I think she recognizes that he’s manipulating her with rhetoric, so she knows how hard he is trying to win her over. Because of this, she accepts Richard’s ring because there really isn’t anything else she can do.

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  2. elainemarina24

    I actually feel really sorry for Lady Anne. Although it may be perceived that she is quickly getting over her dead husband, she is in fact grieving in her own way. One may assume that she didn’t care for her husband because she seems to be so involved with a new man, but in fact her coping strategy seems to be to look for companionship and love to fill the hole in her heart. She was a lost woman and RIchard provided an escape from the reality she was facing. Although Richard shows us a side of him that is manipulative, for now I believe that his presence is doing Lady Anne some good.

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  3. Lex

    I love that you used Ian McKellan’s take on Richard. I believe that it’s a wonderful rendition of the character and truly demonstrates to the audience just how manipulative and ingenious Richard is. He makes sure to work on both logic and emotion in his endeavor to woo Lady Anne. I also agree that this seeing this scene played out also says a lot about Lady Anne’s character that some may miss in simply reading the play. Lady Anne is at first a scorned and strong woman, but she is manipulated, as anyone can be, by Richard into a much more vulnerable state. Hence, she is wooed, but I do not believe this is weakness of character.

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  4. David Young

    I have to agree with the general consensus that when first reading this, Lady Anne seems incredibly weak. Maybe even pathetic. However, I find that I always miss something when reading Shakespeare. Maybe its just me but it seems to really help to discuss it, like we do in class, or to see it. I think this clip works perfectly to show us things we may miss when reading it. Seeing Lady Anne’s initial reaction to Richard’s proposal helps illustrate her loyalty to her now dead husband. Instead of reading the scene as if her resolve just crumbles away, we see a strong, dedicated woman who is victim to a master manipulator. I think your points about Lady Anne’s possible desire for companionship and her vulnerable state are spot on. In retrospect I think maybe we don’t give her enough credit. Its natural for people to want companionship especially in times of grief. This can add to their vulnerability which I think Richard may have been counting on. He knows his business and does not waste any possible opportunity. I also like Taylor’s point that Lady Anne may have had no other option and realized that. I also think she’s right to say that Richard would have either made Lady Anne miserable or killed her if she had said no. All this being said, maybe Lady Anne is actually more justified in appeasing Richard than we think. Maybe.

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  5. johnacahill

    I think it’s important to note that while Anne may seem weak for succumbing to Richard’s attempts at wooing, the situation plays more into Richard’s despicable nature as a character more than Anne’s submissive behavior to Richard’s proposal. Anybody would be vulnerable at the funeral of what is essentially their father. Anne is not so at fault for seeking out the companionship of someone new in her darkest hour – in fact, it makes her human. To us, it is a mistake, but to Anne, it is the beginning of the next part of her life, however crazy and deluded it may be. Richard is a monster for manipulating Anne in this way, and I believe the point of the scene is to further Richard’s sadistic, perverted desire and love of manipulation and power. We want to hate Richard for being so depraved, manipulative and calculating, not Anne for being vulnerable.

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