For King Richard, Love IS an act of War

I was really interested in the conversation that took place between Queen Elizabeth and King Richard in 4.4. From the reading, it is obvious that he had trouble separating any aspect of his life from war, including the pursuit of a wife or the pursuit of “love” (which I am uncomfortable calling it, because he seems to view all his romantic endeavors as a means for advancement and retribution for his previous deeds – it is more practical and more of a bargaining tool for him than it actually is love).

This especially came up for me in lines 273.47-273.49 and line 345-346, where he uses two really telling words to describe his potential union with Elizabeth.

“And lead thy daughter to a conqueror’s bed, to her I will retail my conquest won, and she shall be sole victoress: Caesar’s Caesar.

“Plead what I will be, not what I have been. Not my deserts, but what I will deserve.”

He has it in his mind that he is a conqueror, which fits him quite well considering all the bloodshed he has caused in order to get where he is. But he views this union with Elizabeth as yet another conquest, just as Lady Anne was–it is one of utility rather than genuine emotion. He also seems to think that he is deserving of anything he wants, and these key words serve to objectify Elizabeth in such a way that she, the person, is not important in the matter of transaction here, but that her personhood is being overtaken by Richard. He wants to convince her that all the killing he has done was “for the love of her,” and convinces the queen that the purpose of this marriage will be to maintain her own daughter’s advancement and position in royalty.

The parallels with the situation that he instigates with Lady Anne are similar–she says yes to his offer for marriage for the sole purpose of maintaining her status as a person of importance; and Queen Elizabeth practically sells her daughter into marriage for the same exact reasons. For me, this is really hard to swallow, especially because in both these instances, the women in question berate him and tell him that they know of all the bad things he has done, yet they still surrender themselves to this horrible homicidal maniac just to maintain their social status quo. It is especially infuriating because Richard doesn’t deny anything when he is called out, but pretty much asks them to forget about it; forget about the fact that all their loved ones are dead on his accord, and “do it for the crown.” So not only is he homicidal, egotistical and a complete maniac, but he is very obviously abusive. Needless to say, I can’t help but be outraged about it.

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2 thoughts on “For King Richard, Love IS an act of War

  1. Marie

    I am interested in this point because I too am uncomfortable labeling Richard’s conquest for Anne then his conquest for Princess Elizabeth as “love.” It is exactly that… a conquest. Reading your post sparked a thought about the parallels of love and war in the plays we have read so far. In Shakespeare’s comedies we have seen the idea of “merry war.” We saw how language can be used in war and used in love for different effects. We saw how the characters can transform one mindset of war to another mindset of love. What contrasts between a comedy and tragedy? War is still present; however, the transformation or the separation between love and war are completely different. Your words helped me gain this understanding of Richard’s mentality… that he does not separate love and war because he cannot. He chose evil and from the tragedy of that choice he treats all facets of life the same. Love is war to him. I love thinking about this because it gives an even more villainous identification to the character of Richard…

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  2. elisebrucche

    I was similarly frustrated by the way Anne and Elizabeth seemed to acquiesce to Richard. However, I realized that my frustration came largely from the fact that I assumed they had a choice. Yet, as you point out, they are not dealing with a sane individual, but a dangerous man with the power to kill. You are quite right to suggest that he is treating these marriage proposals as battles to be won rather than contracts to be negotiated. If Richard’s exchanges with these women were actually negotiations, then perhaps Anne and Elizabeth might be successful as they are both quick-witted and well-spoken. Yet, Richard’s verbal assault carries the potential of physical assault, and neither Anne or Elizabeth can match him on that front. So while the women can to a certain point express their true feelings about Richard (i.e. that he is absolute scuzz), they cannot honestly refuse him if they wish to continue to live. As we have noted, this has especially tragic consequences for Lady Anne, who as a member of the defeated royal family, has little option but to accept Richard’s advances. Similarly, Elizabeth cannot openly refuse Richard if she wants to keep her daughter and herself safe. Instead, she must appear to agree, while secretly arranging for her daughter to marry Henry of Richmond.

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