Saint Paul and Saint George in Richard III
Not by any chance or accident does Shakespeare put down any word in his works. Therefore, it is important to inspect all things he names specifically, from planets and weather to the Saints. In Richard III, there are two Saints that are named specifically and they are named for rather different purposes. Saint Paul and Saint George, two very well loved and important Saints, are the subjects of interest in this case.
The mention of Saint Paul may first be written off as an homage to the Patron Saint of writers by Shakespeare (Online). However there is much more behind the mention of this Saint than simply a nod of the head. It is by Richard III, at the time he first states the Saint’s name he is still only a duke, the invocation of the Saint’s name is made (Act I Scene I, line 144). Indeed, Richard calls upon Saint Paul five times in the play, twice in Act I Scene II, once in Act I Scene III, and the last in Act III Scene IV. Why would Richard call upon this Saint? I believe Richard, in his mind, has twisted Saint Paul’s history and deeds to justify his own actions. Paul, having been raised in Judaism before his conversion, used his knowledge of the Old Testament to convert others Jews to Christianity(Online). Paul also used his status as a Roman citizen in order to convert other Romans. Richard would have seen this as similar to what he did, using his skills as a liar and in seduction to convince his enemies of his innocence and to justify his actions.
At the conclusion of the story, when Henry VII is readying for battle, he calls upon another saint, Saint George (Act V Scene III, line 3777). Not only is Saint George the Patron Saint of England, appropriate for a man saving England from a tyrant, he is also a warrior saint and a martyr (Online). Henry calls upon the warrior saint to take back the crown from the evil and monstrous Richard. In fact, the call upon Saint George has another meaning. George is said to have slain a dragon(Online). Since Richard is portrayed as a deformed beast directly from the beginning of the play, it is only appropriate to call upon a monster-slaying saint. Richard seems to pick up on this, as he uses the name of Saint George mockingly as he, too, prepares for battle (Act IV Scene III, lines 3814 and 3868).
The use of the Saints Paul and George say a lot about those who state their names. Richard shows that his mind is just as twisted as his spine and Henry VII shows that he is a warrior and prepared to die to save England from Richard.
Online, Catholic. “St. Paul – Saints & Angels.” Catholic Online. Catholic Online, n.d. Web. 01 Feb. 2017.