The Crippled Villain Richard III
The play Richard III by William Shakespeare explores a diversity of issues that existed in the English realms of those times. The primary concept in this play, however, is that of the unruly character of one young man with a deformed body, Richard Gloucester. This is after an extended period that was characterized by a civil war that took place between the two royal families of York and the Lancaster. The nation attains a particular duration of peace under the leadership of King Edward IV and the Yorks who had emerged as the victors of the civil war. However, the Kings younger brother, Richard Gloucester, seems bitter and resents his brother for his power and the happiness that is displayed by the people who live around him. He considers himself, just as the society had already made clear, that he is useless in fighting battles, a physically unfit and deformed monarch, and one without any social standing among the societys women. It is due to this that Richard is so determined to compensate for his physical deformity by clandestinely aspiring to take the throne from King Edward IV, killing any person who gets in his way. This paper argues that Richard perceives himself as a lesser man with numerous incapacities as projected to him by society making him resort to such criminal activities as murdering Lady Annes husband, lying to the people and his family, and eventually murdering Queen Elizabeths relatives and two sons just to prove that he was, in fact, capable as any proper man.
Richard is determined to disprove the image he has established from the community as an individual who had no standing among the women of the society due to his deformed state leading him to manipulate Lady Anne into marrying him. He is so determined to ride against the perception of society, which has, in turn, influenced the way he looks at himself that he moves to kill the husband of Lady Anne. He then hastens the marriage to solidify his act of success in marrying a beautiful woman of high ranks irrespective of his deformity. Richard asserts that "and I no friends to back my suit withal / But the plain devil and dissembling looks. And yet to win her, all the world to nothing? Ha!". It demonstrates his celebration of such a significant feat. He has managed to gain success through his evil, manipulative acts of both his disability and brains to override one of the most distinctive views of him by the people. This, in fact, gives him more courage as he states in the play:
On me, whose all not equals Edward's moiety?/ On me, that halt and am unshapen thus?/ My dukedom to a beggarly denier,/ I do mistake my person all this while:/ Upon my life,/ she finds, although I cannot,/ Myself to be a marvellous proper man./ I'll be at charges for a looking-glass,/ And entertain some score or two of tailors, To study fashions to adorn my body.
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All that Richard appears to be looking for is to demonstrate to the people, virtually all of whom look down upon him for his disability, that he can, in fact, compensate for his physical structure through his negative actions such as ensuring the acceptance of Anne to become his wife. With such wooing success, there is an increase in the confidence of Richard. He is then seen to imagine himself as being adorned and fitting the social standing of a proper man in society. This was a something that he has denied during the initial moments of the play. In doing this, Richard only braces himself for many more things that he considers possible of attaining through the simple act of manipulation using his crippled body.
Richard uses his deformed body as an object with which he can divert the thoughts of people from his evil and corrupt ways and thoughts. For instance, he is seen to enter the family meeting when King Edwards IV lay dying and looking to make certain that peace remained in the kingdom. Richard proclaims that "Because I cannot flatter and look fair, / Smile in men's faces, smooth, deceive, and cog, / Duck with French nods and apish courtesy". He seeks to demonstrate that he is incapable of putting on an act. All Richard does, in this case, is to refer to himself as physically motivated to break the constraints of decorum so as to utter the truth. He claims, therefore, that he is incapable of managing human perfections of loveliness. His protest of being incapable of looking fair is an ambiguous assertion that seeks to obscure the view of the both the subject and object of his statements. Through such use of language, he shifts the perception of the viewers while triggers an artistic relation of his body structure to his conduct. In using his disfigured body as evidence that he is incapable of lying, Richard goes ahead to dissociate himself from the aspect of using family and social responsibilities for any political convenience. All that Richard is looking to achieve in this scene is to demonstrate to the court the people that he is an individual characterized by integrity. His claims in this time were in line with his placement as the protector of the English state until his two nephews were of age and one of them became the king of England. Richard manipulatively appeals to the emotions and reasoning of the people in preparation of his later crimes in the course of the plays unfolding.
Another way that Richard pursued his evil acts on the basis of his deformity is through his bid for political power in England. He uses this mainly in his presentation of arguments against his aristocrat opponents in political quests. For instance, in an attempt to get rid of Lord Hastings, the lord chamberlain of England, Richard shifts the focus of the audience to his mangled body. He makes a smart and well-calculated move of expressing to the audience what they ought to see and even explaining to them what it all meant. For example, he tells them that "Then be your eyes the witness of their evil / Look how I am bewitched! Behold mine arm / Is like a blasted sapling withered up". In this way, he uses his body as a means through which he can secure the backing of the English nobles in his quest for power. All that Richard does, in this situation, is to divert the attention of the people from his biological body structure to prove that he was a victim in the political sphere. He has sought a way out through his deformed body to express his interest in politics by telling his viewers exactly what to focus on his body almost all through the play. There is a clear indication that Richard indeed has the political influence by looking at the audiences response to his claims. In the entire text, the audience has no alternative but to agree to take the descriptions made by Richard of himself as one demonstrating reality.
Richards crippled body is also the main reason he continues to commit murders and oppress the people of England. This can be explained in two ways. Firstly, with his deformities, Richard was incapable of doing certain things all by himself. He, therefore, needed some of these things done for him or with the assistance of some other person. Some of these acts include the quest to murder Clarence as Scene 3 of Act 1 has one of the murderers insisting that it was Richard himself that sent them to kill the king. He also sends news of the death of Clarence to Kind Edward IV who was already sick. The primary intent for this by Richard was to get the king into his deathbed so that he could have the opportunity to rule. It was the view of the society initially that an individual in the state of deformity as Richards was incapable of governing the people of England. For Richard, there was only one way to find this out and prove them wrong. It has also been illustrated in the play that Richard sends his men to arrest and murder the relatives of the two princes, on their maternal side. These were Queen Elizabeths relatives. This only leaves the queen and her two princes unprotected. Through his right-hand man, Lord Buckingham, Richard moves to campaign robe crowned as the king of England. Even in campaigning for Richard, Lord Buckingham makes reference to deformity by claiming that This noble isle doth want her proper limbs; Her face defaced with scars of infamy. In saying this, he projects onto the audience that England suffers and that Richard was its cure. In the worst and most bestial move, Richard has the two princes imprisoned in a tower and sends people to murder both princes. By letting other people commit crimes upon his command, Richard absolves himself of any responsibility. It could also be suggested that his use of other people for the commission of his crimes aimed at reducing any guilty feeling in him. It is natural that one would often feel guilty for killing their relatives. Richards ordering for the murder of the two princes in the tower would have been more devastating to him if he killed them himself. Maybe he would not have even gone through with killing them if he wanted to do it himself.
Richard considers himself to be a less important individual in society just as society itself has taught him. This has several serious consequences in the life of Richard. In trying to prove that he is indeed capable of performing just like every other man, he moves to murder Lady Annes husband and to woo her through manipulation successfully. Richard, understanding the view of the people concerning his deformity, chooses to lie to the people and his family that he was incapable of attempting to pursue any political ambitions in the kingdom. It is, in fact, his deformity that makes him desire to be king even more as it would be the epitome of proof that his deformity was not a limit on his ability. He even uses his deformity as campaign strategy through Lord Buckingham striking a relation between the existing state of England and Richards deformity. The main argument in this was that Richard was better placed to rule the kingdom then as he could relate to the deformed state of England. This then led him to eventually killing the relatives of Queen Elizabeth and her two sons, Kind Edwards progeny. All the crimes Richard committed were in line with his objective to ride against the perceptions of society about him, and he sought to prove them wrong.