Speculation on Richard III's Malignity
'Distortum vultum sequitur distortio morum.'
[Distortion of character follows a distorted countenance.] --Thomas More
Shakespeare's Richard III from the so-titled play shares the unsettling characteristic of being expressly "determined to prove a villain" (I.i.30) with other Shakespeare creations, most notably, Iago of Othello, and Aaron the Moor of Titus Andronicus, who, like Richard is quite obviously a physical outsider. Richard's statement, which Shakespeare includes in the first scene, carries an ambiguous, double-edged meaning. First, Richard is saying by this that he is resolved to "prove" himself "a villain." This interpretation requires that the reader imbue Richard with free will. The OED's definition of "resolving" as the act of "making up one's mind" shows why. If life is pre-ordained then a man can never make up his own mind, only destiny can. Being resolved is the subject's demonstration of free will. The second possible interpretation directly contradicts the first. That is, Richard might be saying that he is "determined" as by fate (or perhaps his author, Shakespeare) to "prove a villain." In this case, he has no...
Join Now to View Premium Content
GradeSaver provides access to 818 study guide PDFs and quizzes, 6109 literature essays, 1714 sample college application essays, 245 lesson plans, and ad-free surfing in this premium content, “Members Only” section of the site! Membership includes a 10% discount on all editing orders.
Already a member? Log in