Richard Iii: The Tragedy Of Isolation

1210 words - 5 pages

 
The real tragedy of Richard III lies in the progressive isolation of its protagonist.   From the very opening of the play when Richard III enters "solus", the protagonist's isolation is made clear. Richard's isolation progresses as he separates himself from the other characters and breaks the natural bonds between Man and nature through his efforts to gain power.

The first scene of the play begins with a soliloquy, which emphasizes Richard's physical isolation as he appears alone as he speaks to the audience. This idea of physical isolation is heightened by his references to his deformity, such as "rudely stamp'd...Cheated of feature by Dissembling Nature, deformed, unfinished. This deformity would be an outward indication to the audience of the disharmony from Nature and viciousness of his spirit. As he hates "the idle pleasures of these days" and speaks of his plots to set one brother against another, Richard seems socially apart from the figures around him, and perhaps regarded as an outsider or ostracized because of his deformity. His separation from is family is emphasized when he says "Dive, thought's down to my soul" when he sees his brother approaching. He is unable to share his thought with his own family as he is plotting against them. Thus, we are given hints of his physical, social and spiritual isolation which is developed throughout the play. But despite these hints, he still refers to himself as part of the House of York, shown in the repeated use of "Our".

The concept of Richard's physical isolation is reinforced in his dealings with Anne in Act I scene ii. She calls him "thou lump of foul deformity" and "fouler toad" during their exchange. Despite these insults, she still makes time to talk to Richard, and by the end of their exchange, she has taken his ring and been "woo'd" by him. After Richard has successfully gained the throne, he isolates himself when he asks the crowd to "stand all apart" in Act IV scene ii. And later, when Richard dreams, he is completely alone. Physical isolation in Richard's deformity wins sympathy from the audience, as we pity his condition. But Richard uses his deformity as a tool against the other characters, to portray them as victimizing Richard. Thus the sense of tragedy is lessened by his own actions, even though his isolation may become greater as the play progresses.

Richard's psychological isolation is conveyed through his lack of conscience in his murderous acts. Nowhere does he feel remorse for his murders, until Act V scene iii when he exclaims "Have mercy Jesu!" and "O coward conscience, how dost thou afflict me!". In this turning point, Richard's division from his own self is made clear from "I and I", and "Is there a murderer here? No. Yes, I am!" He has conflicting views of himself and realizes that "no creature" loves him, not even himself. We also never know the "real" mind of Richard, for he is always playing a role, of a loving brother to Clarence, a lover to Anne...

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