Richard III and His Shadow
For centuries, psychologists and philosophers have tried to understand the complexity of the “individual” because it is both fascinating and exciting to study the division between the public and private self. Shakespeare provides us with an excellent character to explore how this division takes place with Richard III. Richard III is an interesting case not only because of his public and private forms are very different from each other, but also because he can transition between them fluidly at the beginning of the play, but later on they become confusing that his mind cannot make sense of what is going around him. The genre of drama allows us to explore the fascinating transformation of Richard III as his public and private self begin to reverse roles and his shadow becomes his master.
Richard III’s private and public self are well defined at the beginning of the play, and it helps him be successful with his many plots. We can observe how in the opening lines, Richard III is confident with the way he is conducting his self both publicly and privately. He accepts that people perceive him as an ugly and deformed person in his soliloquy but just physically and not because of his plots yet. It is interesting to see how he conducts himself privately with every plot he plans, and that is successful; he is proud of himself. During the first Act and scene one we can see some excellent example of how he is plotting his plans even as he is speaking to one of his victims, Clarence, he publicly presents himself as his best friend. He fakes having any concerns for what is happening to him, and then privately, he wishes for Clarence’s “soul be taken to heaven.” Drama allows for these sudden changes to place quickly when Richard III role-plays the “concerned” friend and the villain that lurks right in front of its victim. The many successful plots that Richard III plan play out are successfully and his feel confident enough to push his public self to be a little bit more explicit with his intentions.
Anne’s actions push Richard III transformation to the next level, and also she is the first to push back at some of Richard III’s actions. The funeral scene is exciting since we can see the transformation that Richard III is having take place at a dramatic pace when he begins to woe Anne he is bolder than before and is not too afraid of failing. It is essential to his plot to become the King to win Anne as soon as possible, and he begins woe her. The way Richard III role-plays this scene is almost surreal as he goes contrary to what his public self was supposed to behave and transforms himself into a lover that is desperate for Anne’s love, and that’s why he killed her husband. Richard III invokes pity from Anne, and it confuses her because right in front of her is the killer of her husband, and yet she feels like she owes something to Richard III. His skillful ways of manipulating pay off with Anne and crosses the divide between the public and private self when he tells Anne of his plot and his justifiable reason for doing it, of course, we know it is a lie. Still, he sounds convincing enough to make Anne doubt his real intentions, and she was the first to pick up that something was up with his twisted plots. Richard III’s public restrictions slowly begin to be peeled away by the private self, and drama in the play takes an interesting turn of events as he begins to kill many of his family members and friends.
Clarence is a victim both of fate and of Richard III role-playing villain of opportunity to get what he wants even if members of his family have to die for him to do so. When Clarence is about to die, Richard III is well into a different state than when he spoke last time before planning to kill him in his dreams or fantasies like that of a resentful person. But, when we get to the scene where his plot begins to play out, we see him more active of his private self, it comes through when he asks for the King to be killed because of the prophecy. Richard III plays with the fears of the King to get his way, and he is successful. But, he is a little less careful, and eventually, the King has a change of heart, but it is too late. Now that Richard III has closed the line and even killed his own family, there is no turning back; he lets himself be taken by his shadow. This is more than role-playing; it manifests his physical deformation into his mind and soul. People around him begin to notice his private self’s deformation when they begin to suspect of him plotting stuff against them. When Richard III delivers the news that Clarence is dead to the King, everyone is surprised because when the King was sick, that was a moment of unity for the family and the kingdom. Still, the villain Richard III decided to ruin it and instead ruin the world’s peaceful departure to the dying King. Here, the drama takes an extreme turn to the worse as Richard III’s evil shadow overtakes him to suspect everyone around him, and his private self slowly fades away into the background. Everyone is a suspect, and everyone must die. That’s what Richard III mindset thinks, and there is nothing that will stop him from becoming a king, even if he has to kill a few children along the way.
Richard III becomes King by ultimately killing his private self and putting on the bloody crown covered with the blood of many of his family members and close friends. Interestingly, when the private self in Richard III breaks down, everything around him becomes a world full of betrayers and enemies that are on to get him. His role-playing persona has become him, and he longer is just ugly outside but in the inside. When he orders his nephews to be killed because they represent a threat to him, he has lost all connection to reality and his public self. Richard III then becomes the King that he always has desired and kills his close friend Burkman that aided him with his many plots in exchange for an heirloom, but he never keeps his promise. He becomes a lonely villain and gets extremely paranoid at every person around him, and he uses his powers as King to kill people in daylight, without remorse of anyone coming to get him. We can observe an interesting change in how he moves, and his tactics become weak and not, so smarty crafted as before, as we see the many people escaping his grasp and forming a rebellion against him. But, the ultimate test will come from his worst enemy that it is himself.
Richard III is his most feared enemy, and the fight between the private and public self comes to light.