In Christian philosophy, love is a revered virtue built upon understanding, trust, respect, and compassion. The act of marriage is its ultimate expression: a promise of abundant happiness and fertility. Many poets and authors in classical literature share this idea, depicting righteous resolutions and jubilant atmospheres through successful unions in their works. One such playwright is William Shakespeare, who in the tragedy Richard III uses marriage to end a tyrant’s bloody rule and restore peace to England. Interestingly, in the same play, Hastings “forfeits all title to compassion”, and “the widowed Queen Margaret appears as the fury of the past” (Schlegel, 2). Furthermore, numerous relationships amongst the nobility are loveless, dysfunctional, and ill-fated. Love is cynically portrayed to the extent that all male/female relations inevitably lead to death, desolation, ruin, and decay.
The first victim of love is Lady Anne. Her wooing and marriage are “perversions of the ritual of traditional courtship rights” (Carroll, 3). In a vulnerable state subject to “loss of title, position, and identity” (Miner, 6), her denial of Richard’s feelings is so significant that he threatens himself with death: “This hand, which for thy love did kill thy love, / shall for thy love kill a far truer love” (1.2.194-195). Yet, after she accepts his proposal, he indicates to the audience that he does not love her. He even congratulates himself on being able to manipulate her emotions, because gaining her confidence is merely a part of his larger scheme to become king. It is too late when she realizes his true intentions, and laments to Queen Elizabeth and the Duchess of her unhappy marriage:
For never yet one hour in his bed
Did I enjoy the golden dew of sleep,
But with his timorous dreams was still awakes
Besides, he hates me for my father Warwick,
And will, no doubt, shortly be rid of me. (4.1.83-87)
She correctly guesses her fate, as by the next scene, it is revealed that she has “outlived her use for him” (Miner, 6), and shortly will be disposed of. She also correctly states her fatal flaw: allowing her “woman’s heart / grossly [grow] captive to his honey words” (4.1.79-80). Without doubt, trusting Richard’s sincerity was the decision that ultimately led to her downfall.
Hastings is similarly a casualty of affection. Despite being presented with various opportunities to turn over his loyalties to Richard, he maintains allegiance to the previous King Edward: “To bar my master’s heirs in true descent, / God knows I will not do it, to the death” (3.2.54-55). His unwavering support for the crowning of the young prince reflects the strong friendship he shared with the deceased King. This presents Hastings as a threat to Richard, who immediately plots a means of removing the obstacle. Moreover, his wholehearted belief that the Duke and him are “near in love” (3.4.13) contributes to the thoughtless response he delivers to Richard’s trap: