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.
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.