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A Hero, A King, And A Daemon

1178 words - 5 pages

Gifted with the darkest attributes intertwined in his imperfect characteristics, Shakespeare’s Richard III displays his anti-hero traits afflicted with thorns of villains: “Plots have I laid, inductions dangerous / By drunken prophecies, libels, and dreams” (I.i.32-33). Richard possesses the idealism and ambition of a heroic figure that is destined to great achievements and power; however, as one who believes that “the end justifies the means”, Richard rejects moral value and tradition as he is willing to do anything to accomplish his goal to the crown. The society, even his family and closest friends, repudiate him as a deformed outcast. Nevertheless, he cheers for himself as the champion and irredeemable villain by turning entirely to revenge of taking self-served power. By distinguishing virtue ethics to take revenge on the human society that alienates him and centering his life on self-advancement towards kingship, Richard is the literary archetype of an anti-hero.

Richard’s disdain for humane beliefs and customs (such as religion, marriage, and family) shows when he treats them as nothing more than empty forms – this further labels him as a demon of indiscipline and rebellion. He sees virtues as contrary to his power-thirsty nature and aim, which emphasizes his pathological shamelessness and lack of hremorse. With his charisma, he woos Lady Anne in order to disempower her, revealing his disregard towards the seriousnesss of murder and respect for women: “What though I killed her husband and her father?” (I.i.156). Richard shows his disrespect towards love and marriage as he becomes her husband “ not so much for love / [but] for another secret close intent” (I.i.159-160) to benefit himself. In Act IV, Richard “prays” with two bishops, “[summoning] such images of heaven and virtue only to mock” (Young 22) his distance from grace and truthfullness in any of their senses. Moreover, he does not hesitate to pave his path to the throne with the bodies of murdered children, family, and friends, who stand in between him and total control in power. Richard devalues his family and friend relations as he sets his family “in deadly hate the one against the other” (I.i.35). Furthermore, Shakespeare displays Richard as the “vice”, or Devil, of the play – he influences the others into temptations throughout the plot; therefore, in the end they receive the punishment of death. In Richard’s mind, his abnormalness (which he coniders a neglect of nature) justifies him to depose values to take revenge on the society that excludes him (Schlegel 19).
Society repels the manipulative Richard, believeing that it is a dishonour to grace him with the noble titles of hero and king. In the opening soliloquy where he finds himself shunned by friendship and love, he is seen as unconcupiscible by all levels of society: “Cheated of feature by dissembling nature . . . / That dogs bark at me as I halt by them” (I.i.19-24). This causes Richard to set himself apart from...

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