Monday, October 22, 2012


Psychological Hate          
Many of Shakespeare’s villains, from the plays that our class has read, are just plain bitter about the lack of opportunity in their lives. Iago and his want to destroy Othello because of the stall in his upward mobility over Cassio, and the suspicion of a cheating wife. Don John’s jealousy over his brother and the praise and recognition that he gets because Don Pedro is a legitimate heir; all points towards the notion that the lack of recognition and upward mobility causes a rage so powerful that these characters try to ruin lives. But in Shakespeare’s play, The Tragedy of King Richard the III, the villain, Richard Duke of Gloucester, is not bitter about the lack of mobility or recognition; instead he is bitter towards love and physical disability. This is one of the first villains in which we have encountered that is not bitter about the lack of status and prestige, but the lack of having a lover and most importantly a suitable appearance. Richard is bitter of being deformed and because of this deformity deems himself, “unlovable.” The quote,
                “Why, I, in this weak piping time of peace,
Have no delight to pass away the time,
Unless to spy my shadow in the sun
And descant on mine own deformity:
And therefore, since I cannot prove a lover,
To entertain these fair well-spoken days,
I am determined to prove a villain
And hate the idle pleasures of these days.”
 (Shakespeare 1.1.1)
exemplifies his reason for being a villain is part of his nature due to the fact that he is not physically aesthetic. But another insight that this passage from his soliloquy also exposes is a psychological look more into the character.
Compared to the other villains such as Iago and Don John, who both exhibit some part of their inner psychological reasoning for hating Othello or Don Pedro, Richard is a full blown-psychological induced hate towards people that have deemed him unlovable, but more importantly a hate towards himself because of the lack of opportunity to obtain that love. Furthermore we see a lot of hate directed towards Richard and his deformity through other characters, unlike Iago and Don John. Richard has to work harder to seduce and make people believe him due to his deformity. The quote from Lady Anne,
“Foul devil, for God's sake, hence, and trouble us not;
For thou hast made the happy earth thy hell,
Fill'd it with cursing cries and deep exclaims.
If thou delight to view thy heinous deeds,
Behold this pattern of thy butcheries.
O, gentlemen, see, see! dead Henry's wounds
Open their congeal'd mouths and bleed afresh!
Blush, Blush, thou lump of foul deformity;”
                                                                                (Shakespeare 1.1.3)
demonstrates a deeper hate and disgust towards Richard, who through the psychological damage from other characters, has developed this deep reason of being a villain. He is similar to the character to Frankenstein. Both characters have a deformity because they were, “born” with deformities, and both being shunned by society and given the mind-set that because they are ugly they cannot be loved, decided that they are to be villains instead because of the lack of love. Richard, unlike all of the villains, has a richer and more plausible reason towards hating individuals and the want to ruin their lives, because without love for yourself and from others, what other choice does one have, but to hate and plot the demise of the ones that had hurt you the most. 


Christine Richin said...

I like the way you tie in the physical aspects of Richard’s character as partially responsible for the psychological ills that serve as the motivation behind his behavior towards others. I think of all the villains we’ve encountered thus far, I feel the most empathy for Richard because of his ailments. I agree with most of what you are saying about what drives his anger. Richard has an obstacle beyond that of a lowly- ranked (or at least lower than he would like it to be) status to tackle. He has the woman he courts calling him a devil. He lives in a world where beauty is abundant to everyone except for him.
You just lost me a little bit when you said he is unlike the villains in the other plays we’ve read in that his bitterness does not stem from lack of status and prestige. I think it’s clear that status is exactly what he’s looking for in his opening speech when he says, “Plots have I laid, inductions dangerous,/By drunken prophecies, libels and dreams,/To set my brother Clarence and the king/In deadly hate, the one against the other” (1.1 lines 32-35). If you couple with the family tree in the back of the Norton with these lines, it makes most sense that Richard’s reason behind becoming a bad guy has to do with the unhappiness of his position in the line to the throne. With this in mind, his physical deformities almost seem secondary in light of all our encounters with various Shakespearean villains.

Joshua Briggs said...

This was another interesting post. It does seem that Richards only purpose for destroying the peace is simply that he cannot exist in an environment without conflict and strife. To me this makes him a more pure character than other villains, one that is easier to understand. Richard eschews moral culpability by being such a profound villain. He says so himself, when he declares he intends to play the villain. Such a psyche is certainly fun to analysis, and I look forward to continuing to do so as the play progresses.

Cyrus Mulready said...

I'm interested in something you say at the end of this post, Christina, when you compare Richard to Frankenstein's monster. I would be interested in seeing that idea teased out in more detail. There is something to be said about the physical deformity of Richard and how it aligns with his inner state (an idea he prompts immediately). But like the monster, Richard's outward appearance also hides an active mind. Richard is not as naive as the monster, though, and has now become deeply cynical about the world and its prospects for him. I wonder, therefore, if "cynicism" might be a better way of thinking about him than "hatred" exactly?