Richard III. and women---peculiar relationships
As far as the two major female characters of the play are concerend, Richard's attitude towards women becomes quite evident. There is Elizabeth Woodville, Edward IV's wife, and Lady Anne Warwick, Richard's queen and widow of the Lancastrian Prince of Wales Edward. Both women are inferior to Richard and lose their strength and integrity to him. However, they play a significant role in Richard's life and take a significant part in the responsibility for his decline(1).
Especially the strong-minded and self-determined Elizabeth Woodville, who
craves for power and wealth as much as her late husband Edward IV. and
Richard himself (2), regains the might she lost and
knows how to outwit Richard while he woos her daughter Elizabeth.
So Richard's decline really starts as soon as he falls to be inferior to
during that very scene(
IV, 4). Although Richard is known to be wicked and skilled while arguing
with his adversaries, Elizabeth proves to be the more cunning, though she
leaves him with the impression she would woo Elizabeth for him, while in
reality she betrays him by having already promised her daughter to Richard's
greatest enemy and later executor Richmond. Her giving Elizabeth to Richmond
is actually the most decisive aspect and reason for Richmond's later succession
to the throne, because without young Elizabeth as his queen his kingship
would never have been strong.
While Richard's and Elizabeth's
relationship can simply be described as ''violent hate'' Anne's and Richard's
relationship is more peculiar. It is a mixture of love and hate and there
are many sadistic traits in it. Anne
is truly destroyed by Richard; she loses everything, including the
power over herself, to her sadistic husband (1). For her, Richard is the
counterpart of her first husband Edward, whom she calls '' angel-husband''(IV,
1, 68). However, she falls for him during his wooing scene( I, 2), after
having given him strong reprimand. For example, her statement
hung poison on a fouler toad. Out of my sight!
Thou dost infect mine eyes.''(I,2,151-152),
gives the impression that she hates
him deadly. However, she fails to execute him when she has the chance given
by Richard himself, nor does she command him to commit suicide, as he proposes
her to do in order to prove to her how serious his wooing is.
'' Arise dissembler; though I wish thy death
I will not be thy executioner.''(I,2, 188).
From this moment Richard knows that he has gained the control over her and can enthrall her with his promises and his hypocrisy. In fact he only uses her on his way to power and will get rid of her as soon as he does not need her anymore.Indeed he says after the wooing scene: (to see the movie sequence click 2 MB)
'Was ever woman in this humour woo'd?
Was ever woman in this humour won?
I'll have her, but I will not keep her long.''(I,2,232-234).
Here Richard first proves that he
can manipulate people, even those who belong to his enemies.
Why Anne agreed upon marrying this dogmatic, aggressive and wicked villain is probably the most incomprehensible aspect of the whole play and might as well be explained as ''tragic force''. However, it is also obvious, that Richard must be a quite charming man, who is, despite of his deformity, able to bewitch women with his words. That makes him attractive to the characters of the play as well as to the audience. Although everything speaks against the possibility of his feeling love for Anne , if we assume that a villain like he is able to feel, he feels deep for her. It is rather a pathological drive to hurt people and destroy their lives. Because he never experienced or felt love or affection himself he wants to destroy the love and trust of others. It is his sadism that forces him to woo the newly widowed Anne and that also makes him dependent on her. Those forces are love in Richard's conception and he can only express it with violent behavior that follows his '' honey words'' Lady Anne'' grew captive'' to.
Here is also the drama's connection to our modern times: There are many
people who have the same attitude Richard has. Especially husbands. Today
many women are abused, mistreat and harassed in marriage or relationships
(3). Even rape is not seldom. One theory is, that men, who fail in their
job or social life try to prove their power by abusing and mistreatening
their wives. Like Anne, most of them are powerless and afraid to act against
their tormentor because they fear a public scandal or revenge. Like women
today, Anne despairs as a result of the pressure and abuse Richard puts
upon her. Even if he had not killed her, she would have committed suicide
sooner or later, for she was aware of her soon end.
''Besides he hates me (...), and will no douobt shortly be rid of me.''
( IV,1,86).she says to Elizabeth.
This again shows how close love and violence are related in Richard's character.
He expresses love as well in hate and terror, so that others have the impression
he hates them and is not able to show love or affection for anyone or anything
except for himself and his power. That of course makes him the evil perpetrator,
as such he is characterized in the play. However, the truth is, that Richard,
although he is selfish and self-determined, needs the other characters
of the play and even depends on them. Because if it was not for the other's
harsh rejection and reprimand Richard would have no reason to prove an
evil villain and his existence would be senseless.There is a special correspondence
between Richard and the two women Elizabeth and Anne, for their destinies
give suspense to the '' tragic force'', intended by Shakespeare and are
decisively responsible for Richard's decline.
(1) ''The women of Shakespeare's Richard III.'' <http://www.geocities.com/sotto/cafe/2759/richardiii.htm>(3/17/99)
(2) '' Woodville, Elizabeth'' < file://c:/Programme/Britannica/BCD/Cache/_6_ArticleRi/htm.>
Encyclopaedia Britannica ( 3/17/99)
(3) Walker, Dr. Lenore '' Cycle of Violence'' Denver,CO <http://www.sdsalarms.com/violence.htm>(3/16/99)
(4) Pictures from the movie ''Richard III'' directed by Richard Loncrane,
1995 with Ian McKellen as Richard,
Anette Benning as Queen Elizabeth, Kristin Scott Thomas as Lady Anne.... In this movie the director subtlely
conveyed the play about the medieval king into the 1930s to show Richard as a modern dictator and to make
the Shakespearean History more significant for the 20th century.
|HOMEPAGE||Shakespeare's 'Richard III'|
|PSYCHOLOGICAL APPROACH||Richard III and women|
|Richard III the multi-faced villain|
|Physical and psychological deformity|
|Richard's family background|
|HISTORICAL APPROACH||Richard III in the mirror of centuries|
|Justification of Tudor dynasty?|
|History in Shakespeare's Richard III|
|Guilty or not guilty?|
|POLITICAL APPROACH||Richard III - a modern dictator?|
|Richard III the Machiavellian villain?|
by Team 26314 of Marienschule Opladen, Germany