Love and Courtship in King Richard III

Essay by XAleksX April 2009

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What is love? Is it the romantic attraction felt towards another being, a mother’s love for her children, or perhaps the insatiable pursuit of position, power and baser lusts? Richard of Gloucester, in the play King Richard III is a study in latter three, as would be expected of a character often characterized as Vice. Position and power are his all, his ends justifying his means, for which love is often a pretext, but plans far more nefarious the true cause. Over the course of the play, Richard’s pursuit of power leads him to try, with varying measures of success, to seduce many characters to his cause. They range from his pseudo-romantic pursuit of Lady Anne, the political seduction of his chief ally Buckingham, to the courtship of young Elizabeth through her mother, the Queen. He is not made to be a lover as stated in his opening soliloquy, and therefore endeavours to be a villain, setting the ironic tone love and courtship take on during the play.

Richard’s greatest success comes early on in the play, with his seduction of Lady Anne. It is a necessity for him, a wife must be had if he is to consolidate power and become king. In a great display of wit, he knows just where to plant the blame, that is squarely on Anne’s shoulders. Here Shakespeare purposely satirizes courtship, making Anne become a Mary, Queen of Scots, the young widow who marries her husband’s murderer. Richard states, “He that bereft the lady of thy husband / Did it to help thee to a better husband “(King Richard III, I, II, 142.), adding a morbid element to courtship so unlike the love idealized by the audience the effect is immediate and unmistakable, theirs (Richard and Anne’s), that is...