The Evil King in Shakespeare's Richard III

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The Evil King in Shakespeare's Richard III

Richard is an actor, a fully evil actor, who through his mastery of the stage has come to appreciate his skill. Richard Moulton, in his Shakespeare as a Dramatic Thinker, proclaims Richard's wonder at his own command of the stage: "Richard has become an artist in evil: the natural emotions attending crime-whether of passionate longing, or horror and remorse-have given place to artistic appreciation of masterpieces" (40). And Robert Weimann, comparing Richard Gloucester to a character in Shakespeare's King John states: "Both characters exemplify a strenuous need to perform, 'toiling desperately' to play a role, 'to find out,' and, for better or worse, to take up arms against a thorny world" (130). Richard Gloucester begins taking up arms against his world in the opening scene as he finds himself shunned in the manners of friendship and love, being "cheated of feature by dissembling nature" (1.1.19), and he decides to take on the role of scoundrel: "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" (1.1.28-31).

The physical deformity that pushes Richard to his evil conniving may be nothing more than a creation by Shakespeare to further point out Richard's wickedness. Peter Kilby, author of "The Princes in the Tower," claims that in reality Richard had no deformity, and that Shakespeare created it because "physical deformities were considered to be outward signs of an evil nature" (11). Not so much, according to Zamir, who states: "Various sources tell us that he was short, that one of his arms was smaller than the other, that his legs, too, were of unequal si...

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Moulton, Richard G. Shakespeare as a Dramatic Thinker. New York: MacMillan, 1907.

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Righter, Anne. Shakespeare and the Idea of the Play. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1962.

Spotswood, Jerald W. "Maintaining Hierarchy in The Tragedie of King Lear." Studies in English Literature 38 (1998): 265-80.

Squire, Sir John. Shakespeare as a Dramatist. London: Cassell and Company, 1935.

Stevenson, William B. "A Muse of Fire of a Winter of Discontent?" Journal of Management Education 20 (1996): 39-48.

Weimann, Robert. "Mingling Vice and 'Worthiness' in King John." Shakespeare Studies 27 (1999): 109-33.

Zamir, Tzachi. "A Case of Unfair Proportions: Philosophy in Literature." New Literary History 29 (1998): 501-20.
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