Human Agency and Divine Providence: Conflicting Worldviews and Perspectives on Identity in Shakespeare’s Richard III
In Shakespeare’s Richard III, Richard of Gloucester and Queen Margaret offer conflicting worldviews and perspectives on identity. Richard believes in the power of human agency. He challenges the notion of divine providence and attempts to take on the role of fate itself, predetermining the death and destruction of others and creating his own history. By taking on this role Richard assumes an active presence throughout the play, masterfully manipulating the characters around him like pawns and setting in motion his own play within a play in order to elevate himself to sovereignty. Richard defines his identity in psychological and theatrical terms. He presents himself as a victim, blaming his deformity, misfortunes, and subsequent isolation from society on outside forces. However, Richard refuses to accept the poor hand Nature has dealt him and counteracts it by defining himself in theatrical terms, as an actor and playmaker. As such, he compensates for his lack of control by constructing an identity contrary to the one prescribed to him and creating his own play within God’s greater play. Margaret offers the opposing worldview that divine providence governs the world and that fate and identity cannot be altered by individual...
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