Richard III

Angels of Wrath - The Women of Richard III

And lived with looking on his images;

But now two mirrors of his princely semblance

Are cracked in pieces by malignant death,

And I for comfort have but one false glass

That grieves me when I see my shame in him.

Thus does the Duchess of York lament the birth of her own son, Richard III, perhaps Shakespeare's most evil creation. A machiavellian who delights in governing with fear and force, his evil is only offset by his ready and cunning wit. As his talents lead others to self-destruction, the audience too succumbs to Richard's wit and egoism until finally his cruelty appears repulsive and destructive. Yet Shakespeare does provide a counterpoint, a sharp contrast, to Richard's villainy. The women of Richard III function as voices of protest and morality. They often see through Richard's intrigues and predict the dire consequences of his acts. Shakespeare uses the women to point out moral truths and emphasize general principles of the Elizabethan worldview of "moral and political order" (Tillyard 108). Whereas Shakespeare's Richard III pursues his malevolent intentions wielding a disarming wit and a bloody, conscience-less sword, the women of the play derive what power they have from sincere verbal...

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