“Thou Art a Traitor. Off with his Head!”: Applying the Ricardian Shock to de Casibus Narrative

  • Charles A. Hallett
  • Elaine S. Hallett


There are four episodes in Shakespeare’s Richard III that have important dramaturgical elements in common. All four episodes seem, on the surface, to resemble the de casibus biographies that were so characteristic of the Henry VI plays. The biographies here (three of them pertinent to this chapter and the fourth examined in chapter 5) dramatize the tragic deaths of Clarence, Edward IV, Hastings, and Buckingham. These characters all appear at various points in More’s History, and Shakespeare makes each of them significant characters in his play. Beyond that, all four were the subjects of biographies in Mirror for Magistrates.1 But in Richard III, the de casibus experience that these four characters share—a sudden blow that casts them from their high estate into a precipitous and fatal fall—has been rendered with new insight. In writing this play, Shakespeare discovered how to make a static form dynamic.


Scenic Structure Death Scene Degree Reversal Dramatic Form Explosive Shock 
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  1. 19.
    Charles A. Hallett, “‘For she is changed, as she had never been’: Kate’s Reversal in The Taming of the Shrew,” Shakespeare Bulletin 20 (2002), 10.Google Scholar

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© Charles A. Hallett and Elaine S. Hallett 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Charles A. Hallett
  • Elaine S. Hallett

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