Kings are generally thought to be beautiful, God-like humans from a certain genealogy. They are placed at the throne due to whom they were born to and/or who they marry. Richard of Glouster is born of the royal family but, he does not possess the qualities of a King to be legitimate according to Shakespeare’s Richard III. Richard and his brothers are all entitled to the throne if their father dies. By killing his two brothers, Richard is the only person in his immediate family entitled to the throne. Why must he kill his brothers so that he may gain the crown?
Shakespeare depicts Edward and Clarence as far more worthy of the rown. They possess traits of a King which Richard does not possess. Richard states in his opening speech ‘Unless to spy my shadow in the sun/And descant on mine own deformity. / And therefore since I cannot prove a lover’; (1. 1. 26-28). In this speech Richard admits he cannot be a lover because he is ugly with deformity. This imperfectness does not fit the perfect qualities known to Kings. His brothers, on the other hand, do possess the ability to love and both were married or betrothed.
Edward even had two women to love! Some may say that Edward was illegitimate because of his other lover, but, is it better and ore respectable to not be able to have love or to have several loves? A King should be able to love to rule a Kingdom otherwise he may be a ruthless killer as Shakespeare demonstrates in the play. Gaining the hand of a woman not only makes a King look worthy to love but also is used for political gains. Richard himself demonstrates this as he ruthlessly goes after Ann after killing her lover and her Father.
Through manipulation but not by his heart he gains Ann’s hand. So, he does gain a woman for political strength but he still does not fulfill the trait of a King as a loving individual. Why does Richard believe he should be King? He seems to possess only one quality which his brothers have: to be born of Royalty. One other quality exists in his favor, but is questionable. Richard is a good leader. Yet, he leads through fear. For example, in Act 5 Richard demands that Stanley bring him an army or he will decapitate his son. He also leads through manipulation.
For example he manipulates his brother Clarence into believing he was going to help free him from prison (though he was responsible for putting him there in the first place). He tells Clarence as he’s escorted to the tower ‘Well, your mprisonment shall not be long. /I will deliver you or lie for you. /Meantime, have patience. ‘;(1. 1. 115-117) Shakespeare’s audience already knows this is a complete lie. So, although Richard is a good leader in making people do and act the way he wants them to, he does it in an unkindly way. He is really a traitor by lying to his own brother for his own gains.
Shakespeare is commenting on yet another trait that Kings should have which Richard lacks. A King should be looking out for the good of the Kingdom, it’s people and most definitely his own kin. Richard only looks out for himself and his own personal gains. Some may say that to be a King you must be able to manipulate. After all, manipulation is a very important tool for powerful Kings to help his kingdom gain land and money. Shakespeare may be analyzing this trait of Kings. Shakespeare portrays Richard as a evil minded puppet master.
Richard even admits this in his opening speech when he says ‘I am determined to prove a villain/ And hate the idle pleasures of these days. ‘; (1. 1. 30-31). Shakespeare implies that manipulation tends to be a trait of Kings, and some even gain the throne by it. Although, the crowd doesn’t cheer for Richard when it is announced he is he new king making a statement that he really shouldn’t be the King. When Buckingham returns to Richard after announcing to the people that he has been crowned he says to Richard ‘Now, by the holy mother of our Lord,/ The citizens are mum, say not a word. ; (3. 7. 2-3) The silent statement of the citizens is clear, Richard is not to be their King. Also, Richard’s path to Kingdom costs him his life. By having other nobles kill Richard and regain the throne Shakespeare depicts again how Richard is unfit for the throne. Faith in God is another known Kingly quality. Kings were ften seen with Bishops and priests. Richard only uses men of the cloth for political gain. So, in a sense, Richard is making himself an illegitimate Christian. He is only pretending to have faith.
He is claiming to be above God’s law by only using religion for political gain. This is sinful and therefore makes him a sinner or illegitimate Christian. Isolation is another way Shakespeare depicts Richard as illegitimate. A King is a very prominent figure and just a stroll down the street for a King is an elaborate ceremony. The King is always surrounded by loyal subjects and guards. Yet Richard isolates himself physically and psychologically from everyone (including himself). At the beginning of the play Richard is speaking alone.
This emphasizes his isolation as he appears alone to the audience. At the very end of the play Richard is again alone as he asks to be alone before the final battle. He is alone once again when the ghosts appear in his dream. Another way he is physically alone is through his deformity. To the audience, Richard’s deformity is an outward indication of the disharmony from Nature he possesses. His deformity makes him an outcast of society. An outcast of society is surely not fit to be a King. Richard isolates himself psychologically by not showing the evil that is really inside his mind.
In his opening speech Richard states ‘Dive, thoughts, down to my soul’; when he sees his brother approaching. He is hiding from his brother what he is really thinking and feeling. Another psychological isolation is conveyed by his lack of remorse of the murders he’s had committed. This shows that he is a masochistic man who only wants one thing, power. Richard’s psychological isolation may not directly indicate his unfitness to be King, but it surely uestions his sanity. Questionable sanity is what makes him unfit to be a King according to Shakespeare.
Finally, Richard isolates himself from his brothers. By betraying them is the first step in his isolation. Brothers are supposed to be loyal to each other. By betraying them he cut off that loyalty. Also, by physically killing his brothers Richard has cut himself off of close family. He sees this as a means toward his gain but in reality he needs their brotherhood to remain in power. An indication of Richard’s possible admittance to the illegitimacy of the crown may be when he looses his horse in attle and says twice in the closing battle ‘A horse!
A horse! My kingdom for a Horse! ‘; (5. 4. 7) He realizes that the Kingdom as he had gained it wasn’t worth much than a horse. If he had gained the crown through more legitimate means, the Kingdom would be worth more. Shakespeare’s depiction of Richard III’s rise and fall from the throne clearly show that Richard’s claim to the throne is more solid than his brothers. Yet, taking a closer look reveals that Richard’s claim is illegitimate also. His illegitimacy is not bound by bastardliness but by the qualities he possesses.