The Boar ( Or, Boar Hunting is Hella Rad)

In the play Richard III, Richard Gloucester is often referred to as “The Boar,” a play on his coat of arms. But what other parallels can be drawn to this portrayal of our disfigured main character? We know Richard suffers from some kind of disfigurement, supposedly being hunchbacked and unable to move his arm (as he uses to his advantage when he entraps Hastings). I personally feel that these disabilities are vastly exaggerated, considering Richard is a war hero. I don’t know about you, but I’ve never heard of a great warrior in the time period that had no use of an entire arm. It would just allow for him to be very easily disarmed, and that was a huge focus of battle back then.

Back to the point, most species of boar appear to be hunchbacked, which is an apt fit for Richard’s coat of arms. Boars are also pretty damn ugly, so we can assume that he is wearing that boar as an acknowledgement of his condition, embracing it instead of letting it be used against him (a bold move for someone as insecure as Richard). Keeping in theme with the animal, Richard also tramples on everything he can in his mad scramble for power, including his own family. He charges with reckless abandon over everyone in his path, and as Richmond points out on Bosworth Field: “The wretched, bloody, and usurping boar, / That spoil’d your summer fields and fruitful vines, / Swills your warm blood like wash, and makes his trough / In your embowell’d bosoms.” One can picture Richard, as soaked as his hands are in fraternal blood at this point, drinking the blood of the people right out of their chests. Richmond is not the first one to make this comparison, as Lady Margaret also calls him an “elvish-mark’d, abortive, rooting hog.” I guess he’s just unfortunate enough to have one of those faces.

Stanley sees a boar knocking off Hastings’ helmet in a dream, one of the many instances of foreshadowing in this play. This is obviously symbolizing Richard’s intent to cut off his head, and it’s interesting that he even shows up in people’s dreams as a boar. They obviously see him as such if they don’t even allow the man himself to haunt their dreams.

The boar was one of the most dangerous animals to hunt during Shakespeare’s time (it was considered a test of bravery), and many a good hunter found themselves gored by a boar’s horns. Boars are traditionally associated with wildness and aggression, traits we also see in Richard. Therefore, I think that the white boar is the most fitting animal he could have as his coat of arms.

P.S. : I highly recommend looking up boar hunting in medieval and renaissance times, it’s pretty awesome. Boars had such thick hides that anything other than a killing blow could be fatal to the hunter, and they had to put cross-guards on the spears so the boar wouldn’t continue charging after being ran through in order to kill its attacker. Seriously, this stuff is cool.

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7 thoughts on “The Boar ( Or, Boar Hunting is Hella Rad)

  1. michaeldrago

    The point you make in the opening paragraph is an interesting one; is it possible that Richard’s physical deformities are not as significant as we are lead to believe? We see numerous examples of Richard being deceitful with others through his language, so it’s not all that difficult to believe that such deceit could extend to his body language.

    Reply
    1. Margaret Hack

      I really like both of your points – they got me thinking. I wouldn’t put it past him to exaggerate his deformity, and faking it altogether would just heighten the intensity of his villainous nature. It made me look back at his opening lines. He mentions that he “entered this breathing world half made up-” and blames it on his nature. But he also says “our bruised arms hung up for monuments” which really speaks to Brendan’s point of exaggeration. The Norton says that this means people are hanging up their armour as memorials, but Shakespeare could be punning that Richard lets his arm hang limp as a sort of trophy or as reminder to everyone else of how much he’s “overcome” his deformity.

      Reply
      1. Margaret Hack

        Another note: the bravery associated with “boar hunting” would make Richmond seem so much more of a hero, legitimizing his power and superior battle skills – maybe another method that Shakespeare used to please the monarchy.

  2. cmstewart024

    I like your analysis of the boar as Richard’s coat of arms, as I think it is an important part of the play. Like you said, the boar as an animal had specific qualities that are assumed about it, and all qualities that can be applied to Richard as the aggressive and rash person that he is. I do not know a lot about boars, but from what your have noted, they seem to be very apt to fight, not matter who or what comes in there way. I think this quality can be translated into Richard’s lack of sympathy for the many people he slaughters throughout the play. Despite his split personality conversation he had with himself, Richard lacks a serious bit of conscience when it comes to the murders he commits. Like the boar, he felt he was threatened and he attacked with little regard for who the victim was. Maybe an interesting question to consider would be, what animal could Richard represent besides the boar? If his coat of arms was not that, would the audience perceive him differently? Great post!!

    Reply
  3. Danielle

    I really like the discussion had about the Boar imagery in the play. It is something I did not fully notice it until seeing the film with Ian Mckellen where they used the boar image quite prominently. I think the boar is very important to associate with Richard, boars are hunchbacked large dangerous and savage animals which could also be a description of Richard. I also liked how you focused on the exaggeration of Richard’s disfigurement. It seemed impossible to me that Richard would be able to be a war hero and not have use of an arm. Richard and Shakespeare definitely use the arm and other aspects of his disfigurement to gain sympathy at times.

    Reply
  4. sabrinabyrne

    I really like your analysis of the boar throughout the play. It is quite interesting how Shakespeare leaves all these subtle hints about Richard and such a brut animal like the boar. The descriptions of the boar can be closely linked with Richard and that is important to the whole picture. Richard acts like a boar with his savage actions from the beginning of the play to the very end and pretty much has the same features, as you pointed out. I think it is cool how you were able to connect all of these ideas into one logical point.

    Reply
  5. Diana

    Nice. I really like where you went with this. I also like analyzing the symbols and meanings a little bit more deeply. It really helps to “unravel” the story/play/novel. Reading your description of the different attributes of the boar helped me to see the comparison with Richard III. It’s interesting that he does appear as a boar in other people’s dreams–makes me wonder if they too hold that image of him in their minds. It’s interesting that you point out that Richard’s “injury” might really just be over-dramaticized. I’m not sure myself–but I think it’s an interesting point to consider.

    Reply

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