Kings are generally thought to be beautiful, God-like humans
from a certain genealogy. They are placed at the throne due to
whom they were born to and/or who they marry. Richard of
Glouster is born of the royal family but, he does not possess the
qualities of a King to be legitimate according to Shakespeare’s
Richard and his brothers are all entitled to the throne if
their father dies. By killing his two brothers, Richard is the
only person in his immediate family entitled to the throne. Why
must he kill his brothers so that he may gain the crown?
Shakespeare depicts Edward and Clarence as far more worthy of the
crown. They possess traits of a King which Richard does not
Richard states in his opening speech “Unless to spy my
shadow in the sun/And descant on mine own deformity./ And
therefore since I cannot prove a lover'; (1.1.26-28). In this
speech Richard admits he cannot be a lover because he is ugly
with deformity. This imperfectness does not fit the perfect
qualities known to Kings. His brothers, on the other hand, do
possess the ability to love and both were married or betrothed.
Edward even had two women to love! Some may say that Edward was
illegitimate because of his other lover, but, is it better and
more respectable to not be able to have love or to have several
loves? A King should be able to love to rule a Kingdom otherwise
he may be a ruthless killer as Shakespeare demonstrates in the
Gaining the hand of a woman not only makes a King look
worthy to love but also is used for political gains. Richard
himself demonstrates this as he ruthlessly goes after Ann after
killing her lover and her Father. Through manipulation but not
by his heart he gains Ann’s hand. So, he does gain a woman for
political strength but he still does not fulfill the trait of a
King as a loving individual.
Why does Richard believe he should be King? He seems to
possess only one quality which his brothers have: to be born of
Royalty. One other quality exists in his favor, but is
questionable. Richard is a good leader. Yet, he leads through
fear. For example, in Act 5 Richard demands that Stanley bring
him an army or he will decapitate his son. He also leads through
manipulation. For example he m...
... middle of paper ...
...ch other. By betraying them he cut off
that loyalty. Also, by physically killing his brothers Richard
has cut himself off of close family. He sees this as a means
toward his gain but in reality he needs their brotherhood to
remain in power.
An indication of Richard’s possible admittance to the
illegitimacy of the crown may be when he looses his horse in
battle and says twice in the closing battle “A horse! A horse!
My kingdom for a Horse!'; (5.4.7) He realizes that the Kingdom as
he had gained it wasn’t worth much than a horse. If he had
gained the crown through more legitimate means, the Kingdom would
be worth more.
Shakespeare’s depiction of Richard III’s rise and fall from
the throne clearly show that Richard’s claim to the throne is
more solid than his brothers. Yet, taking a closer look reveals
that Richard’s claim is illegitimate also. His illegitimacy is
not bound by bastardliness but by the qualities he possesses.
1) Shakespeare, William. Richard III. In The Norton Shakespeare.
Edited by Stephen Greenblatt. New York: Norton, 1997.
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