When thinking about the instances of madness in Richard III, it was too simple to just call Richard insane and dismiss the cause of his actions to him not liking his body as he stated in his monologue in the opening scene. During the progression of the play, I started to think deeply about Richard’s character, such as his thought process and the way he spoke. It all seemed too calculated for it to be simply done because he did not like his body. In my eyes that is a bit of an insult to his intelligence. So, based on the little information provided about Richard’s past I concluded that his negative disposition towards himself and those around him, particularly his brothers, possibly stemmed from how he was treated during his youth from his mother.
Starting from Richard’s monologue in the opening scene of Act 1, we can firstly see that he is insecure about his deformity. He mentions how even dogs bark at him and how he was unfairly given a bad face and body. Although he later sways Anne’s heart despite her losses, instead of taking the situation as a compliment, he dismisses her as being a fool and makes sarcastic jokes about himself as if it were so outrages and unlikely that someone could ever take interest in him. That behavior is a demonstration of a lack of self-confidence. One could say that he would obviously suffer from low self-esteem seeing as he as a disfigurement and that he could have been mostly rejected by women. However, when reading the part in his monologue about how the rest of his family celebrated with women after their victory but he did not because his body wasn’t made for seducing (1.1.14) it appears Richard doesn’t even try to court women. So, if this self-doubt does not stem from rejection of the women he’s liked, where did it come from?
Moving on towards his actions against his family. I was intrigued to see how his first victims were his brothers who seemed to really love and cherish Richard. They did not seem like the type to bully him due to something he did not have control over, so it was interesting that he still had this hatred for them and that they were first on his list. The main source of this jealousy is most likely from the fact they did not share their areas of defects as physically as he did. But if they treated him well, it would not make since that he was only envious of their body. This is where the possible reasons of Richard’s actions start to shift away from his disfigurement and towards his mother.
In Act 4 scene 4, Richard encounters his mom and Queen Elizabeth. Interestingly, Richard begins to drown them out with trumpets as if he were a kid trying to drown out a scolding parent once they started questioning him about the previously deceased. Afterwards, we get a one-on-one conversation between Richard and his mother. This is where his behavior really reverts to a child. He starts off by wanting to ignore what she must say and not letting her speak. And once she does, he constantly replies with smart remarks and to me it comes off sort of as a defense mechanism. This is especially noticeable when the Duchess tells him that his entire life was basically a huge disappointment and he replies with “if I be so disgracious in your eye, let me march on and not offend you, madam” (4.4.180). He then goes back to trying to get her to stop talking. He seems to be genuinely hurt by her words but tries to cover it up with snide remarks. What really puts the blame on Richard’s mom for me is the comments she makes about Richard and as he was a baby. She mentions how she should have killed him when he came out of the womb and how he was horrible to raise (4.4.167-177). Even though Richard has committed horrendous acts, it still seems a bit cruel to regret letting your infant son live. And even though the Duchess may have loved Richard initially when he was younger, she could have, without realizing, treated him differently from his brothers which led him to hate them because of it. And seeing as she is his mother, Richard could have sensed this disliking which could have also led him to doubting his capabilities of living a fulfilled life even with his deformity because he still lacked the approval from the one person he needed it from the most. This is what could have led him to become a murderous tyrant and led me to sympathize with him.