Richard III Similarities Between Seneca And Shakespeare

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There are very large similarities between Seneca and Shakespeare. However, one of the most prominent comparisons is the theme of ‘evil in the ruler’. Seneca’s Thyestes as well as Shakespeare’s Richard III heavily features this theme though they are written centuries apart. It is known in the classical and theatrical world that Shakespeare took heavy influence from Seneca, especially Seneca’s main protagonists. It is important to note that Seneca and Shakespeare’s plots were not original. For example, in Richard III, Shakespeare took influence from Seneca but also Thomas Moore, who depicted Richard as a hostile character (Bate, 2007, p. 1299). With the theme in mind, the characters of Thyestes and Atreus as well as Richard III are manipulating,…show more content…
As his mind is clouded by ambition, Thyestes does not think of his brother’s feelings and the repercussions of his crimes. His desire for rule has caused Thyestes to manipulate Atreus’ wife into helping him take down his brother. ‘My wife has he debauched, my kingdom stolen’ (1917, 222). As a result, Atreus turns evil to gain revenge and justice for his brother’s actions. The ‘evil in the ruler’ comes out of Atreus when he gains revenge by brutally murdering his brother’s two sons, cutting them up and serving them to Thyestes in an act of cannibalism and a form of sacrifice. ‘Let the father with joyous greed rend his sons, and his own flesh devour’ (1917, 278). This proves Atreus’ vaulting ambition to keep the throne. This act of cannibalism parallels to Tantalus, who killed his son, Pelops and served him to the gods. That event caused the house of Atreus to be under an eternal curse by the gods. However, it must be noted that within Thyestes, the gods are not present in the action because they did not need to be. Therefore, the fate of the curse will cause their downfall. Similarly in Richard III, Richard has vaulting ambition to become king which makes him evil, causing him to commit the murder of people who are in the way of him obtaining power. For example, the princes, who see through Richard’s schemes, are murdered by his orders. Therefore, vaulting ambition turns him ruthless…show more content…
This is evident in the Seneca’s Oedipus as Oedipus does not realise he is the perpetrator of the crime. We get a sense of irony as Oedipus is able to solve the sphinx but not understand who he is. Furthermore, he wants to solve the case of who murdered King Liaus so that the plague of Thebes can end. However, because of Oedipus’ unawareness, we sympathise with the king as he shows true signs of guilt and remorse for his actions. In relation to Shakespeare’s Richard III, it is clear that Richard is the anti hero. However, similarly to Oedipus, he shows redeeming qualities, which make us question if he is truly evil. It is evident that his choices and vaulting ambition makes him the tyrant. For example, when he has the members of the senate that support the princes killed, he does this to weaken and later dispose of them. In relation to Thyestes, Atreus is an early figure that represents tyranny because of his wit and expression in speech. Therefore there is a clear influence of Atreus on Shakespeare’s Richard (Boyle, 1997, p.
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