Traditionally, men are recognized for their achievements and women recognized for their man’s achievements. Society has always given different roles to the two genders but with men receiving the position of authority almost every time. In King Richard III, Shakespeare publicizes this idea of male supremacy through his misogynistic and demeaning portrayal of women. Firstly, he introduces female characters in terms of their relation to important male figures and being noble solely because of these affiliations. Furthermore, he undermines women as mere objects for men to exploit for personal gains. Finally, he portrays women as being heavily dependent on their husbands and losing all their influence and nobility when their husbands pass away. By portraying women solely as extensions to noble male figures, Shakespeare effectively disempowers women in King Richard III and strengthens the social stigmas of women during the Elizabethan Era.
When Shakespeare introduces a female character in King Richard III, he often mentions their affiliations with an important male character. This takes away from what they represent as a character, undermining them as symbols of these men. For instance, when he introduces Lady Anne, she says in her soliloquy she’s “wife to thy Edward, to thy slaughtered son” (1.2.10). Likewise, he introduces Queen Elizabeth as worrying over her husband’s sickness and Queen Margaret saying “Thou kill’dst my husband, Henry, in the Tower” (1.3.117). Here, as Madonne Miner explains, “…women must depend on men for identity”, meaning women are not ends but means of representing these men (Miner 51). In fact, when Richard decides to marry Lady Anne, he says he will “…marry Warwick’s youngest daughter” rather than saying her name (1.1.154). By introducing female characters this way, Shakespeare transforms Queen Elizabeth and Lady Anne, into King Edward’s wife and Warwick’s Daughter respectively, extending all of the men’s ideals and values onto the women. In contrast, Shakespeare introduces Richmond by his values and his goal of getting rid of Richard and reaping “…the harvest of perpetual peace” (5.2.15). This way, Shakespeare does not make Richmond a representative of another character but empowers him with his own views and ideals.
In addition, Shakespeare empowers men with the ability to fight and conquer yet he portrays women as mere pawns for men to use for personal gains. Firstly, there are sexual exploits, which Richard describes in his opening soliloquy saying:
And now, instead of mounting barbed steeds
To fright the souls of fearful adversaries,
He capers nimbly in a lady’s chamber
To the lascivious pleasing of a lute. (1.1.12-13)
Here, Shakespeare portrays women almost like rewards or war spoils for these war heroes returning from the battle of the roses. Secondly, women are often the victims of political marriages like Richards marriage with Anne, which...