The connection between physical and psychological
From the point of view of modern psychology one can say that Richard's
physical deformity also influences his psyche , but actually Shakespeare
wanted to show that Richard was not forced by nature to be evil ,
but he himself decides to be evil. From his body, deformity spreads all
over his character. In the first scene of Richard III , Richard
" I am determined to prove a villain "
( I. 1 . 30)
This shows that it is Richard's own will to be a villain , and that his
motive to take revenge on nature is only an excuse.
"Then since the heavens have shap'd my body
Let hell make crook'd my mind to answer it."
(3 Henry VI, V, 6, 78-79)
Even in the Elizabethan age, which expected the god- given harmony of body
and soul, the reason that Richard does not have any other choice than to
be evil, was not accepted. In fact, Richard represents evil, the unnatural,
and sin. One may come to the conclusion that God chose Richard to revenge
on the whole human race, with the exception of the young princes all the
other characters in the play are guilty. Marjorie Garber says:
"Richard's deformed body is a mirror for the self confessed
ugliness in his soul." [2, p.81]
He could also be someone with a sound moral
attitude and he shows that he can also be kind and gentle. One can
see this from the way the little prince talks
"Grandam, we can : for my good uncle Gloucester
And when my uncle told me so he wept,
And pitied me, and kindly kissí d my cheek;
Bade me rely on him as on my father,
And he would love me dearly as a child"
( II. 2. 20-26)
Actually, it could be Richard's vocation to get real freedom with the help
of his sharp and strong mind. He has this mind power to overthrow nature,
because he is able to make the impossible possible, as one can see when
he flatters Anne and makes her admire him.Even Hastings is convinced about
Richardís theatrical abilities when he says:
"I think thereís never a man in Christendom
Can lesser hide his love or hate than he,
For by his face straight shall you know his heart"
( III.4 .51-53)
Richard plays the devil but he is not forced to be one. He could also
play a saint and does so to achieve his devilish aims. Richard is just
controlled by his drive to gain power.
However, the question is why he has this enormous drive.
"Deformed Persons, and Eunuches and Old Men,and Bastards,
For he that cannot possibly mend his owne case, will
doe what he can to
impaire on others."
[3, p. 105]
These are important words one has to keep in mind when discussing Richard's
Richard was a premature baby and his
being handicapped might be seen as a result. According to the Elizabethan
world picture society cannot not accept him because of his deformity. Even
his mother, the Duchess of York, despises him, which one can see when
"And I, for comfort, have but one false glass,
The Duchess says so about her own son , which clearly shows that she does
not love him at all. Another example , which is a symbol of the whole society
" Thou elvish - mark'd, abortive, rooting hog
That grieves me when I see my shame in him."
Thou what wust sealid in thy nativity
The slave of Nature , and the son of hell;
I.3. 228 -230)
Everybody mocks him and thinks that he is not able to achieve anything,
but Richard wants to show that he, though being handicapped, can reach
power , the highest power, i.e. to be king .In this context one can refer
to Unterstenhöfer , who says that Richard does not want power to
build up, he wants power to destroy. The psychologist Adler suggests a
solution : persons try to compensate psychologically for a physical disability
and its attendant feeling of inferiority . He also writes that the overcompensation
of inferiority feelings can take the form of an egocentric strive for power
and self-aggrandizing behavior at others' expense . That is exactly
what Richard does; he overcompensates his inferiority.
Richard is directly influenced by a society that does not respect him,
and so he does not respect himself and, consequently, society.Sigmund Freud
took Richardís deformity as an example to characterize patients who think
of themselves as "exceptions" to normal rules. Freud says:
"Such patients, claim that have reounced enough and
suffered enough, and have a claim to be spared any further exactions; they
will submit no longer to disagreeble necessity for they are exceptions
and intend to remain so too." 
Richard seems to be ridiculous; even Anne
, his future wife, calls him a "hedgehog" (
I.2.104) and wishes that God damns him for his deeds
One can see that he is very intelligent in planning his evil deeds,
and his only weakness seems to be his deformity. In this context Marga
"Im psychologischen Sinn wurzelt die Machtgier nicht
in der Stärke sondern in der Schwäche.(...). Die Folge ist eine
"fiktive Leitlinie" des Lebensplanes verbunden mit Isolation, Selbstentfremdung
und innerer Spaltung."
(Psychologically, the for power is rooted not in
strength, but in weakness.) [5, p.111]
This isolation leads to Richard's inability to love . He
has never loved and has never been loved. Even his mother and his wife
do not love him, where else should he have learnt it?
To sum up: According to modern psychological theories, Richard III is
not capable to act in a different way because of his physical deformity
and the Elizabethan society, although it certainly does not mean that a
physical deformity necessarily causes a psychological deformity. In Richardís
case, on the other hand, we have to take this into account.
 Encyclopaedia Britannica 1999 Multimedia Edition: Adler,Alfred.
 Garber, Marjorie: "Descanting on Deformity: Richard III and the
Shape of History",
in: Dubrow, Heather/ Strier,
Richard (Hg.): The Historical Renaissance.
Chicago, London, 1988, pp.79-103
 Hammond; Antony (Ed.): Shakespeare, William: The History
of King Richard III.
The Arden Shakespeare, Methuen,
 Lüthi, Max: Köng Richard III", Shakespeares Dramen, Publication
dara :1956 and 1966
by Walter de Gruyter &
 Unterstenhöfer, Marga: Die Darstellung der Psychologie
des Tyrannen in Shakespeares
King Richard III
und Macbeth pp.76+111