Shakespeare and the Public Relations Machine of Richard III

not sleeping to engross his idle body, but praying to enrich his watchful soul“Not dallying with a brace of courtezans,
But meditating with two deep divines,
Not sleeping, to engross his idle body,
But praying, to enrich his watchful soul.”
(King Richard III, act 3, sc. 7)

Comments. Italian writer and historian  Benedetto Croce said that all history is “contemporary history”. It means that history consists essentially in seeing the past through the eyes of the present and in the light of its problems. Therefore the main work of the historian is not to record, but to evaluate. For, if he does not evaluate he cannot determine what is worth recording.

The quote above is a perfect representation of how the electioneering system worked then, at the times of Richard III, just as it works now, but for the more sophisticated methods to dupe the believing masses.
In the play, Richard who has no legitimate or even lateral claims to the throne. Earlier on the London public did not respond enthusiastically to his initial claims. Richard, via his PR agent Buckingham, hatches another plan. Buckingham will tell the mayor of London that Richard does not really want the throne and that he, Buckingham, has a hard time in persuading him to take it. Now Richard sequesters himself with two holy men and a prayer book. He then appears on the scene in prayer and surrounded by two priests. Buckingham the jumps on the media opportunity to show the pious nature of Richard and that he just cannot persuade him to take the throne.

The charade works well. Richard, pretending he’s very sad finally relents and says fine, he’ll take the crown, even though he doesn’t really want to be a king.  He quickly leaves with the Bishops to continue the pretense of how holy and pious and therefore fit to be England’s king.

References to today? Look at the recent political conventions. There were no priests, but here the compounded charade consisted in persuading the ready-to-believe public that there is a real difference between the parties and that the electorate has a choice. It has been proven through the decades that the financiers of the immensely expensive political campaign contribute to both parties. Why would the 1% contribute to the Democratic Party that, nominally, is the party of the working man? The Democrats are vital to the wealthy, because they are the branch of the Property Party that pretends to accommodate labor, blacks and liberals while, at the same time, hindering genuine economic solutions to old and never openly discussed problems. Despite the social and economic hardships suffered by hundred of millions of Americans, the power elite have been able to contain demands for a steady job, fair wages, good pensions and effective health care within modest limits compared to other developed countries. Indeed, one of the most important factors in maintaining the regressive status quo has been and is the Democratic Party.
Could it ever change? Not likely in the near future. Today, Sep 17, 2012, the most popular item of interest in the Internet is still the business of the topless pictures of Kate Middleton.

Tips for Use. A good ironic come back to questions of the type, “What are you doing these days?”.  Answer, “I am not sleeping, to engross my idle body,  but praying, to enrich my watchful soul.”

In the Play. As per the comments above in a masterful image-building charade, (worthy of a US presidential convention),  Richard III arrives at the meeting of the London council accompanied by two priests, all in prayer. The PR man in the instance is Buckingham, who later will pay for his life for having consorted and assisted Richard III in his murderous undertakings.

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