Buckingham’s Stupidity

While coming to the ending of “Richard III” I couldn’t help but be amazed at Buckingham’s response to Richard even though he knows what would become of him if he decided not to follow through with Richard’s orders. When Richard asks Buckingham to murder the two princes who are one of the last things standing in the way of Richard taking the crown and becoming king, Buckingham hesitates and says “Give me some little breath, some pause, dear lord, before I positively speak in this. I will resolve you herein presently” (4.2.25-27). Of course, Richard is angered by this and now has to not only find someone else to kill the young princes as soon as possible due to Buckingham’s hesitation, but also now has to rid himself of Buckingham because of the fact that he can’t be trusted in Richard’s eyes.

What intrigued me most about this particular section of the text was why on earth Buckingham would pause or refuse a task of Richard when he knows for a fact and has seen with his own eyes that everyone who has denied Richard or even slightly gone against him or gotten in his way before has been put to death by either Richard himself or one of his followers or hired men. So why, knowing all of this information full well, would Buckingham decide to pause at completing the one task that would have secured his life if performed. Why would he choose to deny Richard? Not only that, but he then pushes Richard further into not trusting him by practically demanding that Richard give him the land that was promised to him for his services to Richard. He knows that Richard is angry, so why poke at him and prod him with such demands, no matter how much he deserves them?

Part of me wants to believe that Shakespeare did this purposefully to show how even the characters who seem to be closest to Richard aren’t safe and that no amount of family or friends can face the wrath of Richard and get away with it. After all, Buckingham was the one character that while reading the play I was certain would live because of how truly loyal he was to Richard and how willing he was to help him out throughout all of his endeavors. Another part of me believes that Shakespeare just wanted to kill off another character and add to the death toll. But I would like more closure than this idea and I would like to think that there was more of a reason behind Buckingham’s death. I just can’t bring myself to understand how Buckingham would think it would be a good idea to go against the wishes of Richard after seeing how many people he had killed for not following his wishes. Maybe this is just one character trait/action that I will never understand for as long as I read Shakespeare.

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One thought on “Buckingham’s Stupidity

  1. Margaret Hack

    Despite Buckingham’s refusal to appease Richard, I have to give him some credit for recognizing the danger he was in and fleeing. Granted, it didn’t work out too well for him, but at least he stood for his morals. To your point about Shakespeare’s intentions of doing this, I think it adds to the loneliness of Richard. Stanley, Hasting, and Buckingham all “leave” him, or at least refuse his power to some extent. It drives him into further madness over not being able to trust anyone. He resorts to Norfolk as his new head-boy, but Norfolk didn’t really have that much of a part prior to this. Richard is totally alone – no family, and everyone who was really close in his support group bailed on him.

    Reply

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