Richard III

Cluck, Nancy A. “Shakespearean Studies in Shame.” Shakespeare Quarterly 36.2 (1985): 141-51. JSTOR. Web. 30 Sept. 2013.

In her study, Cluck examines how powerful the feeling of shame can be, which rises from internal inadequacy and when not overcome is redirected and transformed into “shamelessness,” a “shield” and defense mechanism against the feelings of abandonment and contempt, the complexities of which are seen in many of Shakespeare’s dramatic characters, specifically Richard III (142-43). Through psychological and sociological analyses and investigations, Cluck reveals that because Richard was an “object of contempt” for so long, he no longer considered himself part of society and therefore abandoned the society that denied him the chance to participate in it. His “self-contempt” then causes an “alien character” to emerge in order to combat feelings of vulnerability and unlovability, which then “motivates his will for power” (142-44). Because he had no role in the social world, he conceded to become a villain – but his villainy is nothing more than “an act to avoid the psychotic terror of showing any of his feelings, because any one who perceived them would have power over him” (145). Showing his true feelings of self-loathing would force him to take down the guise, which he already asserted and accepted as truth; therefore, showing any of his feelings would mean a complete loss of self for Richard. A “narcissism and will to power over others” thus arise as armor, and enable him to feel that he can “simply nullify” and quash “all who might have the ability to force him to confront himself” (142). (M. Boldyrew, October 2013).

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