I wrote this Peer review of Jonas’ blog post on Richard III.
I really enjoyed reading your piece of writing on Richard III, because I think you gave a perfect and precise idea of what kind of man Richard III was.
The portrayal of Richard III you wrote gave me the idea of Richard as a man who is unhappy in a world that hates him as he defines himself as ” deformed, unfinished, sent before his time, into this breathing world, scarce half made up”. But despite this I can see a sort of power in him; while everybody is making fun of him, and thinks he is not able to achieve anything, he shows everyone, that even if he is physically disabled, he can achieve the highest power to be a King. I think therefore, Richard somehow compensates his inferiority. Richard is directly influenced by a society that doesn’t respect him and as consequence of this, he does not respect himself too.
In this sense, Richard is for me, a slave of his own devilish nature, that constantly acts on his animal instincts. Shakespeare portrays Richard as a monster, a beast. His monstrosity is symbolized in his appearance, which is, as you said, so “lamely and unfashionable that dogs bark at” him.
But overall, I think Richard’s malformation, more than a physical one, it is a mental state of being ad a social condition. In reading your Blog, I remembered an interesting reading that I encountered back in Italy, about the concept of “monstrosity” that I want to share with you because I think it perfectly suits what you have written.
I find extremely interesting how the concept of Monstrosity, in literature, doesn’t always refer to a physical fact, but is rather linked to a processes of repression of social and cultural phenomenon. In this sense, the word monster is referred thus to an idea of otherness that classifies the “good” and the “bad” in society and indicates a figure that is not aloud to be human. In this sense, Richard III was dehumanized by the society of his time.
In fact, each society creates it own monster, thus what is repressed and rejected. I can think of many examples which I can link to the figure of “monsters”, that don’t necessarily indicate people with physical deformities. For example, a very notable case of monsters to me, were the woman in the victorian period, or better the “fallen women” who didn’t conform to the laws of society until feminism came out and therefore were blamed of their own existence and pushed to the boarder of society.
A monster can also be a figure that is not jet recognized. A monster is a species for which we do not jet have a name, that shows himself as an hallucination. And Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is exactly this as soon as he appeared from the first time, without a name and an identity. So can we call him human or not? Can we consider monsters legal personas ? Can we call Richard III a persona just because he is King ?
I can conclude this short comment by saying that basically a monster is just a social victim, trying to impose himself in a society that doesn’t appreciate him and does not give him the dignity of life.
Linking these considerations to Richard’s story made me aware of the fact that Richard III was nothing but a monstrous caricature and for this he was a basically and more in general, a victim of history. This makes me better “read” his deformity and understand the motivations behind the actions by which history remembers him.
I hope I gave you some interesting notions and I would love to know if what I wrote could be useful for another re-reading of the figure of Richard III.