Sunday, October 21, 2012
Understanding the Motivation behind Richard's Villainy
Throughout Shakespeare’s plays, villains are often ill treated individuals who are looking for revenge. In The Tragedy of Othello, we are clearly told the motivation of Iago’s villainy-- Cassio’s promotion over him, and the possibility of Othello sleeping with his wife. On the other hand, we do not clearly hear about the inciting incident that causes Richard’s villainy in Richard III. Instead, the play begins with Richard in a state of purely evil thought, and we see no real explanation for this behavior. Richard Gloucester says, “And therefore since I cannot prove a lover/ to entertain these fair well-spoken day,/ I am determined to prove a villain/ And hate the idle pleasure of these days./ Plots have I laid, inductions dangerous,/ By drunken prophecies, libels and dreams/ To set my brother Clarence and the King/ In deadly hate against the other” (1.1.30-35). In this opening speech, Richard reveals his villainous intentions to the audience, but he does not make his motives entirely clear. He only says that he will be a villain since he is deformed and cannot be a lover. This explanation hardly shows any type of internal motivation to become a villain.
In Act I of the play, we are left to assume that Richard’s motivation to ruin his brother’s reputation comes from jealousy and a lust for political power. As the youngest son of the family, Richard does not have the same accessibility to land and power as his brother does. In the opening speech, Richard says, “But I, that am not shaped for sportive tricks,/ Nor made to court an amorous looking-glass;/ I, that am rudely stamp'd, and want love's majesty/To strut before a wanton ambling nymph;/ I, that am curtail'd of this fair proportion,/ Cheated of feature by dissembling Nature,/ Deformed, unfinish'd, sent before my time/ Into this breathing world, scarce half made up,/ And that so lamely and unfashionable/ That dogs bark at me as I halt by them;/ 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”(1.1.14-27). Here we see Richard feeling bitter and alone at a time of pure happiness. Everyone is joyfully celebrating the end of the war, but he is left with his deformities. This therefore leaves Richard with the short end of the deal. While everyone sees the glory and victory of the situation, he is left with his crippling injuries. Similarly, he is left at the short end of the deal in his family. While his brother George (Duke of Clarence) has the ability to rise to power upon of death of his father, Richard does not have this same accessibility to political power. Here, we see that the happiness of other individuals have come to mock Richard’s unfortunate situation. The inciting incident that causes Richard’s villainous action in the play could therefore be considered the mocking celebration in the mix of Richard’s personal suffering.