“Naked Villainy”: Richard as a Satanic Hero Essays

“Naked Villainy”: Richard as a Satanic Hero Essays

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In many religions and cultures, a demonic entity embodies the spirit of evil, ruler of hell, enemy of God, and tempter of humankind. This arch rebel figure often emerges in literature, and one of the most well-known is Satan, a defiant epitome of evil from John Milton’s epic poem Paradise Lost. There must be good in the presence of evil, thus there must be a hero with whom the villain clashes with, a bold character whom the audience roots for. In Shakespeare’s tragic play Richard III, Richard plays the role of both the hero and the villain by using his heroic traits to underscore his satanic persona. He is a satanic hero because he uses his political eloquence to rebel, his isolation causes him to oppose all moral constraints, and he wears a mask of charisma to hide his selfish lust for power. In other words, Richard, like Satan, is elevated by heroic traits like alluring eloquence but is so deeply self-absorbed and bent on revenge that he precipitates his own destined downfall.
Richard is skilfully eloquent; however he chooses to convey this heroic trait satanically by using it to emphasize his rebellious nature against love, politics, and religion. Love is built upon reciprocated affection between two individuals, but Richard rebels by using it as a political tool, to the extent that he suggests incest at various points throughout the play. During the wooing scene, he wins the heart of Lady Anne by saying, “Your beauty was the cause of that effect: / Your beauty, that did haunt me in my sleep …” (1 .2, 126-127), accusing Anne’s beauty as inducement for murder. This quote implies that he plays upon the emotions of others, winning women over and bringing out their vulnerability by “his insinuating discourse” (Wilhelm, 20)...


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...conscience finally surfaces. Richard’s seclusion is a result of his ambition and isolation, and he is so absorbed in his schemes of personal gain that he does not realize how he is lending himself to catastrophe.
Richard, like Satan, is heroically amiable and well-spoken, but his greediness and insubordinate lust for power lend him to his predestined downfall. When Richard says, “I am determined to prove a villain”, he implies a tragic conception that he controls his predestined fate, and the providentialism eventually endorses this meaning. He uses his political eloquence to rebel, he is isolated and therefore his mental and physical energy is unhampered by his moral deformity, and he masks his satanic traits with charisma. Though the ending is tragic for Richard, it is a new beginning for England, and in a way, Richard purges England of its collective guilt.

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