Study Guide

Richard III Allusions

By William Shakespeare


Major Literary Sources

  • Thomas More, The History of King Richard the Third (c. 1513)
  • Edward Hall, The Union of the Two Noble and Illustrious Families of Lancaster and York (1548)
  • Raphael Holinshed, Chronicles of England (second edition, 1587)

Major Literary Influences

  • Senecan Tragedy (1st century A.D.)
  • English Morality Plays (developed in the 13th century and popular in the 15th and 16th centuries)

Literary References

  • William Shakespeare, Henry VI Part 3, 1.4: Queen Margaret taunts Richard, Duke of York and father of Richard III. As the Duke weeps, Margaret hands him a handkerchief steeped in his young son Rutland's blood. (1.3)
  • William Shakespeare, Henry VI Part 3, 5.5: Murder of Prince Edward at Tewkesbury. (1.3)
  • William Shakespeare, Henry VI Part 3, 5.5: Clarence's treatment of King Edward IV, his brother. (2.1)
  • William Shakespeare, Henry VI Part 3, 3.3: Edward's offer of marriage to Bona of Savoy. (3.7)

Mythological References

  • Phoenix: Richard calls little Elizabeth's womb a "nest of spicery," a reference to the mythological phoenix, who used the nest of spicery as both its birthplace and funeral pyre, regenerating every 500 years (4.4)
  • Charon and the River Styx, of Greek mythology (1.4)
  • Jove's Mercury, of Roman mythology (4.3)

Religious References

  • Apostle Paul, the Bible (5.3)
  • Saint George (5.3): Of Christian tradition, soldier of the Roman Empire and Christian martyr, who was most notable for defeating an evil dragon, rescuing a fair maiden, and bringing her people to Christianity and peace. He is often depicted on horseback, which is fitting given Richard's final horseless state, when Richmond (who had appealed to Saint George) defeats him.