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Disability as Identity? Samuel Beardslee’s Class Summary for September 17, 2010

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After the double celebration of finding the dis/lit blog on the second page of the book of life held by the Internet god, Google, and the plans held by Dr. Foss for both that night and the following night, an occurrence that is rarer than the planetary conjunction of Jupiter, Saturn, and Krypton, our class focused our attention on The Deformed Transformed by Lord Bryon, and comparing that with Shakespeare’s Richard III.  More specifically, we looked in depth at both Arnold (as well as Caesar) and Richard III (Gloucester), the roles that they play in their respective dramas, and how they handle themselves with regard to their disability (which are both physical in nature).  What we would find is an interesting juxtaposition of how one mentally approaches disability in life.  Richard III, who is always aware of the social power that his disability can achieve, uses his disability for his own gains, while Arnold, jumping at the first chance to rid himself of the disability, never frees himself from the disabled mentality that he has grown into.  Ultimately, disability (in this case) proves to be more than just a bodily defect, the effects of which are entirely dependent on the person’s mentality.

To begin our comparison, the openings of both plays were compared and contrasted.  Our group  found, based on the set up of both of these characters and with the knowledge of the outcome of these characters, that, while Richard tries to rouse feelings of sympathy, Arnold succeeds in gaining our empathy for his condition.  This is achieved by his interactions with his mother, who treats him very poorly because of his disability.  Richard, on the other hand, stands alone and is appealing to the audience.  Whatever little sympathy we have for Richard at the beginning of the play is destroyed as his motives become clearer not only through his actions, but what he says as well.

Meanwhile, Arnold, who has every right to hate humanity due to their treatment of him, does become manipulative or evil despite this.  On the contrary, Arnold is manipulated by The Stranger/Caesar after his introduction into the drama, oddly enough taking Arnold’s crippled body for his own to use (fulfilling Arnold’s wish to escape his own body into a perfect one).  Both Caesar and Richard III are using their disabilities in a way that makes these deformities seem enabling as opposed to crippling.  The social boundary usually set around those with disabilities cannot hold back either of these powerful charismatic characters.  Arnold escapes the social boundary by gaining a perfect body, and is thus not bound by the social boundaries of the disabled by default.  However, even after obtaining this body and seemingly escaping that aspect of his life, Arnold does not hold the same zeal as either Richard or Caesar.  He is still disabled in his mind; he is held back by his own inhibitions surrounding a disability that he suddenly doesn’t have any more.  Perhaps this is a commentary on class status?  That only the upper classes can deal with disability in a way that is socially considered ‘normal’.  This idea doesn’t hold much ground considering Arnold’s position in society is not made very clear; he starts off in a rustic lifestyle, but is clearly educated.

Lord Byron never truly finished The Deformed Transformed, but it is still clear that the progression of events ultimately makes Arnold a less sympathetic character, while Caesar retains his character throughout, not letting the disability affect his personality.  Richard III achieves the same result, not letting his deformities get the best of him even in the midst of battle.  What does this mean?  Is disability simply a prop or a mask, as Richard and Caesar seem to use them as?  Perhaps the case could be made with those two characters, but in Arnold’s case, disability is a bit more than a prop, even though he thinks he discards it like one.  Arnold’s disability has ingrained itself in his personality, leading him to be a rather unassertive and “boring” character.  In a sense, the body that Arnold gains is simply an Avatar; his mindset has not changed despite the freedom from his disability.  Disability, in this sense, has much more bearing to be considered an identity as opposed to a mask; an inner aspect as well as, but not necessarily including, the outer.

In other words, one can still be “disabled” simply by one’s life experience.  Arnold was rejected and shunned by society, and thus grew in this unforgiving environment.  While Richard’s disability seemed to be a manifestation of his evil nature, Arnold’s personality is very much a product of his disability and how other treated him because of it.  Disability may be a mask, but this is a mask that affects different people in different ways.  This mask gave Richard III a sort of super-ability in society, while it suffocated and stunted Arnold.  In this light, how disability affects someone is dependent on many factors, including how one is raised, one’s personality, and several others, and cannot simply be deemed as “disposable” or “integral.”

Written by Spyden

September 22nd, 2010 at 12:39 pm

Meg’s Class Summary: Wednesday, September 14, 2010

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Unfortunately, Reward Quizzes have not yet begun, and so Foss began class with several announcements involving their eagerly anticipated arrival. Following this, we continued our discussion on the latter half of Richard III, our first text after our theory unit. In Richard III, the disability of the title character causes the reader to look at Richard’s legitimacy as well as gender; generally, these are demeaning structures that could stabilize Richard as a villain and undermine his claim to the throne (thereby solidifying Henry VII’s). However, Richard defies these demeaning figures and instead becomes an empowered figure, utilizing his disability to outwit the rest of the cast.

After commenting on Foss’ new hair-do and subsequent new lease on life, we began with a large group discussion. Foss quoted Quayson, who asserted that disability serves as a metaphor to mark “anomalous social states such as those involving half-brothers and bastardy” (22). Because illegitimacy plays such a large role thematically, disability then shifts our understanding of that by becoming a marker of it; it is the possibility that whoever possess it was not capable to rule in the first. During discussion, Kathleen remarked that, “Both legitimacy and disability are tied up together; the two are both stigmas being placed against (Richard).” Because the opposition constantly calls attention to his disability, they are constantly calling into question his ability to rule. Because the audience at the time realizes that Richard is a “defused infection of a man” (I.ii.83) and a “foul bunch-backed toad” (IV.iv.81), they are constantly reminded of physical inability (and due to dramatic irony, this may be even more embellished); the audience must then question if that physical inability carries through to the ability to rule the throne. Because of Richard’s established villainy and his brief reign, an individual at the time could infer that these were all signs of Richard’s illegitimate hold on the throne and therefore believe in Henry VII’s (ancestor to the current Tudor line at the time and much more off the direct path to the throne than Richard himself) right to conquer.

Disability also plays a role within in gendering Richard and belittling him. Because most of the characters view Richard through his disability (Richard included), Richard does not utilize the straightforward, typically “masculine,” physical approach. Rather, Richard spends his time manipulating the affections of his family members and convincing others (such as Anne and the mayor) to bend to his will. This tactic is often seen as more typically “feminine.” Shakespeare and the characters even acknowledge the emasculation of Richard’s trickery, telling him to “play the maid’s part” (III.vii. 51) when he fools the mayor into believing he is religious and meek. The role that he plays with the mayor and citizens further engenders him because he boasts of his chastity, as opposed to Edward’s “lolling on a lewd day-bed” (III.vii. 2288). Chastity and purity are valued in women, whereas hyper-sexuality is a masculine merit. By the time he seizes the crown, he therefore seeks to legitimize himself in any way he can, aiming to secure his throne through marriage to Elizabeth, Edward’s daughter. Again, this is overtly feminine, as the only way women could secure and hold onto their fortunes at this period was to marry into a wealthy family. This feminization has a possibility of taking away from Richard’s legitimacy; not only is he disabled, but the means he must use through his disability also make him “less of a man;” Richard’s tactics and techniques are aligned with the various Queens; he spends more time talking with them than the men. Again, a reader at the time has a chance of ignoring Richard’s right to the throne; because he does not use physical means, he is not strong enough to rule the country.

We next moved to small groups where we were prompted to use Katherine Schaap Williams’ abstract as a jumping point: could we view Richard as an empowered example of a dismodern subject? We decided that despite the reductive effects of both disability and gender that had been previously discussed, Richard is able to become a fairly empowering figure. Through his use of rhetoric and diction, he uses these seemingly demeaning factors for his gain, letting his peers continually underestimate and ignore him—Richard outwits everyone, and it is only on the battlefield that he finally loses. In his first soliloquy, Richard laments that he has nothing to spend his time except:

Unless to spy my shadow in the sun
And descant on mine own deformity:
And therefore, since I cannot prove a lover,
To entertain these fair well-spoken days,
I am determined to prove a villain
And hate the idle pleasures of these days.
(I.i.25-31)

Here, Richard is acknowledging his disability; because of the way he is and the way he is treated, Richard has no other choice but to fight for his legitimacy. The others have backed him into a corner by not letting him be a “lover,” and not letting him work for some greater good. He has always been confined to the darkness (so as not to be horrified by the image of his “shadow”), so why should he stray from it now? Richard is a victim, illegitimate and forced into the only category that has been designed for him. However, Richard is not telling the audience (or himself, for that matter) the whole truth. He could be a lover. Clarence believes that he is a loving brother; Richard takes Anne as a wife and from that, could be a proper husband to her. Even so, Richard breaks these ties. What Richard does in this opening soliloquy is what he does throughout the play—continually convince his peers of his innocuousness. Here, he is even convincing the audience, and possibly himself, repeatedly drawing attention to what should be diminutive markers but are instead decoys for his immense strengths. Instead of condemning Richard for his actions, we either underestimate him, or, being more socially aware, pity him. Richard utilizes his disability as a smoke-screen, letting the rest pay attention to what should be his illegitimacy, while he uses his real strength, his mind, to secure a kingdom.

Although disability, gender, and illegitimacy all have the possibility of working with one another to undermine King Richard’s claim to the throne, Richard is an empowering figure. He allows himself to be underestimated, and instead triumphs over nearly every character in the play. If one follows this path, Richard transforms himself again and again. He goes from the innocuous disabled Duke of Gloucester to a conniving, strong king, and from a disabled, illegitimate villain, to a competent, fairly empowering figure.

Written by Meg

September 21st, 2010 at 12:08 pm

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Class Period Summary for September 13th: Shakespeare’s “The Tragedy of King Richard III”

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In our September 13th meeting of Professor Foss’ Disability and Literature course, our class examined and discussed Shakespeare’s “The Tragedy of King Richard III” through Act III, Scene iii. The meeting began with a brief, somewhat confusing lecture and diagram detailing the history of the royal English Bloodline, the War of the Roses, and more than a few Edwards and Henrys. The large group discussion then functioned to prime for our small group activity by presenting the idea that disability may function with a text as a binary characteristic: either as an insignia, or marker of a character’s corruption, or as a causation of that fundamental corruption. Each small group examined a short passage using this binary theoretical framework.

After the small groups were assigned their beginning passages, the groups discussed, argued, and recorded their findings regarding how each passage fit within the binary framework of insignia and causation. At the end of each singular passage discussion, the records were swapped between groups so that, by the end of class, every group was able to examine every textual passage with their own ideas as well as with the notes of every other preceding group. The small groups worked with four passages from “The Tragedy of King Richard III”: Gloucester’s opening speech in Act I Scene I, Anne’s opening soliloquy of Act I Scene II, Gloucester’s ending soliloquy of Act I Scene II, and Gloucester and Margaret’s interaction in Act I, Scene III.

My small group generally agreed with findings of the other groups. We identified Gloucester’s opening speech in Act I Scene I as an instance of disability being presented as a cause of Richard’s III evil nature that he uses as an excuse to gain sympathy from his peers, as well as the audience. He also uses the pity and sympathy created in his community – by what Quayson would describe as “aesthetic nervousness” – to manipulate the other characters. Anne’s opening soliloquy in Act I Scene II mournfully curses the unknown murderer of Henry VI, and damns the killer that their offspring may carry an “ugly and unnatural aspect” (1.2.23) as marker of his evilness, thus rendering this passage as an example of disability serving as an insignia in “The Tragedy of King Richard III”. Gloucester’s ending soliloquy of Act I Scene II also identifies Richard’s III disability as an insignia due to the normalization that results from Anne’s loss of aversion towards him. “I do mistake my person all this while: / Upon my life, she finds, although I cannot, / myself to be a marvelous proper man.” (1.2.254) Essentially, Richard III validates his disability by asserting the he must be “normal” for her to desire him. Further, this scene develops Richard’s III apathy for his disability as well as his vanity. Lastly, Gloucester and Margaret’s interaction in Act I, Scene III is a very clear example of disability’s presentation as insignia within this text: “The worm of conscience still begnaw thy soul, … Thou elvish-mark’d, abortive, rooting hog! / Thou that wast sealed in thy nativity / the slave of nature and the son of hell! / Thou slander of thy mother’s heavy womb! / Thou loathed issue of thy father’s loins! / Thou rag of honour!” (1.3.222, 1.3.228-233). Overall, the small group discussions rendered the conclusion that disability was frequently used as an insignia of Richard’s III evilness except in his opening scene which served to cultivate sympathy from the audience. Further, as Richard III emotionally and politically manipulates each character, he takes advantage of his disability and utilizes it as an empowering façade of self-pity.

After the small group discussions were completed and our large group was reconvened, we learned that because this play was first performed in the 1500’s, the audiences’ perception of disability may have varied slightly from the perceptions of the characters. While the characters may have simply assumed that a deformity was a hateful act of God, the slightly more modern audiences of the play’s first performances may have regarded Richard’s III disability as either a demonological portrayal of corruption, or as part of the natural order of variation in the world. Also in large concluding group, we were reminded to check Blackboard for Class Meeting Documents that would accompany our readings and large group discussions of the latter half of “The Tragedy of King Richard III” on Wednesday. In conclusion, the class meeting of Monday, September 13th examined and discussed Shakespeare’s “The Tragedy of King Richard III” under the binary theoretical framework of the presentation of disability as either a marking insignia of corruption, or as a causation of that corruption. The format of this discussion was transformed from a large group that gave a brief historical background, into four smaller subgroups that each talked about and shared their observations, and then again transformed back into the large group to conclude our discussion.

I hereby declare upon my word of honor that I have neither given nor received any unauthorized help on this work. Katherine Sullivan

Written by Katherine Sullivan

September 21st, 2010 at 12:07 pm

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Katherine Sullivan’s Class Period Summary of September 13th: Shakespeare’s “The Tragedy of King Richard III”

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In our September 13th meeting of Professor Foss’ Disability and Literature course, our class examined and discussed Shakespeare’s “The Tragedy of King Richard III” through Act III, Scene iii. The meeting began with a brief, somewhat confusing lecture and diagram detailing the history of the royal English Bloodline, the War of the Roses, and more than a few Edwards and Henrys.  The large group discussion then functioned to prime for our small group activity by presenting the idea that disability may function with a text as a binary characteristic: either as an insignia, or marker of a character’s corruption, or as a causation of that fundamental corruption.  Each small group examined a short passage using this binary theoretical framework.

After the small groups were assigned their beginning passages, the groups discussed, argued, and recorded their findings regarding how each passage fit within the binary framework of insignia and causation. At the end of each singular passage discussion, the records were swapped between groups so that, by the end of class, every group was able to examine every textual passage with their own ideas as well as with the notes of every other preceding group.  The small groups worked with four passages from “The Tragedy of King Richard III”: Gloucester’s opening speech in Act I Scene I, Anne’s opening soliloquy of Act I Scene II, Gloucester’s ending soliloquy of Act I Scene II, and Gloucester and Margaret’s interaction in Act I, Scene III.

My small group generally agreed with findings of the other groups.  We identified Gloucester’s opening speech in Act I Scene I as an instance of disability being presented as a cause of Richard’s III evil nature that he uses as an excuse to gain sympathy from his peers, as well as the audience.  He also uses the pity and sympathy created in his community – by what Quayson would describe as “aesthetic nervousness” – to manipulate the other characters.  Anne’s opening soliloquy in Act I Scene II mournfully curses the unknown murderer of Henry VI, and damns the killer that their offspring may carry an “ugly and unnatural aspect” (1.2.23) as marker of his evilness, thus rendering this passage as an example of disability serving as an insignia in “The Tragedy of King Richard III”.  Gloucester’s ending soliloquy of Act I Scene II also identifies Richard’s III disability as an insignia due to the normalization that results from Anne’s loss of aversion towards him. “I do mistake my person all this while: / Upon my life, she finds, although I cannot, / myself to be a marvelous proper man.” (1.2.254) Essentially, Richard III validates his disability by asserting the he must be “normal” for her to desire him. Further, this scene develops Richard’s III apathy for his disability as well as his vanity.  Lastly, Gloucester and Margaret’s interaction in Act I, Scene III is a very clear example of disability’s presentation as insignia within this text: “The worm of conscience still begnaw thy soul, … Thou elvish-mark’d, abortive, rooting hog! / Thou that wast sealed in thy nativity / the slave of nature and the son of hell! / Thou slander of thy mother’s heavy womb! / Thou loathed issue of thy father’s loins! / Thou rag of honour!” (1.3.222, 1.3.228-233).  Overall, the small group discussions rendered the conclusion that disability was frequently used as an insignia of Richard’s III evilness except in his opening scene which served to cultivate sympathy from the audience.  Further, as Richard III emotionally and politically manipulates each character, he takes advantage of his disability and utilizes it as an empowering façade of self-pity.

After the small group discussions were completed and our large group was reconvened, we learned that because this play was first performed in the 1500’s, the audiences’ perception of disability may have varied slightly from the perceptions of the characters. While the characters may have simply assumed that a deformity was a hateful act of God, the slightly more modern audiences of the play’s first performances may have regarded Richard’s III disability as either a demonological portrayal of corruption, or as part of the natural order of variation in the world. Also in large concluding group, we were reminded to check Blackboard for Class Meeting Documents that would accompany our readings and large group discussions of the latter half of “The Tragedy of King Richard III” on Wednesday.  In conclusion, the class meeting of Monday, September 13th examined and discussed Shakespeare’s “The Tragedy of King Richard III” under the binary theoretical framework of the presentation of disability as either a marking insignia of corruption, or as a causation of that corruption.  The format of this discussion was transformed from a large group that gave a brief historical background, into four smaller subgroups that each talked about and shared their observations, and then again transformed back into the large group to conclude our discussion.

Word-count: 814

I hereby declare upon my word of honor that I have neither given nor received any unauthorized help on this work.  Katherine Sullivan

Written by Katherine Sullivan

September 17th, 2010 at 10:45 am

Travis May’s Formal Post on Shakespeare’s Life and Death of Richard III/ Act 3 and 4

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Travis May Formal Post on Shakespeare’s Life and Death of Richard III/ Act 3 and 4

Formal Blog Posts
Travis May
Richard act 3-4

Richard is trying to manipulate prince Edward but the prince has caught on to his manipulation. It is safe to say that Richard is a snake and he will say or do anything to benefit his cause. Richard tries to sell the fact that the uncles have deceit in their heart when he actually is the one who has malice in his heart.

Hastings has dreams but does not pay attention to the signs. He realizes his fate and than reflects on his past omens but it is to late. He sees the boar in his dream which destroys him but him being cocky and overconfident will be his downfall. His pride is definitely his fall.

Richard and Buckingham join forces to manipulate the court and England to carry out their own agendas and to ensure that Richard is in the hot seat as King. Richard manipulates the mayor into letting him think that Hastings confessed to trying to kill Richard and makes Hastings see as a traitor.

Richards plans of manipulation works and he claims the throne. He now has the image of the top dog but at the same time he wants people of England to see him as somewhat of a person coming up. Sense Richard is crazy he gets more paranoid and starts to shun buckingham and gets suspicious of his whereabouts.

Richard’s disability makes him crazy and he lacks the ability to think critically and use good judgment. It cause him to go mad and plot and kill everybody around him.

Written by mayallday

September 15th, 2010 at 2:06 pm

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Mairin Martin’s Formal Post on Shakespeare’s Life and Death of King Richard III

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“Your love deserves my thanks; but my desert
Unmeritable shuns your high request.
First, if all obstacles were cut away,
And my path were even to the crown,
As the ripe revenue and due of birth,
Yet so much is my poverty of spirit,
So mighty and so many my defects,
That I would rather hide me from my greatness,
Being a bark to brook no mighty sea,¬
Than in my greatness covet to be hid,
And in the vapour of my glory smother’d.”
– Richard, Duke of Gloster
Act III, Scene VII

Here, as in the opening soliloquy, exists one of the few references that Richard gives of himself being inadequate in some measure. This quote is taken as an excerpt from the lines in which Richard is addressing the Mayor and his train, after having tricked them by shows of false piety into begging him to become King. This part of the speech in which he feigns modesty and uncertainty at his capabilities of being king is the icing on the cake. It makes the Mayor and citizens cry for his coronation even louder than before. Richard is an evil genius of sorts, and his main strength lies in his understanding of how to flatter and put on a false front to gain the advantage.

Readers should take the scene as a warning to never underestimate Richard’s slyness. He works his silver tongue also with Anne to gain her hand in marriage and then with Elizabeth to gain her daughter’s. He flatters and makes protestations of love to Clarence and other such men whom he later kills, but the two incidents with Anne and Elizabeth are the most compelling because they show such a drastic change in sentiment of the women in such a short period of time that it gives the impression that Richard’s power of persuasion is almost of an other- worldly sort.

In this new light, the opening soliloquy (and other such moments) can be read as attempts to dupe the audience. Richard is playing the audience for the fool and invoking pity for the poor cripple who has lead a miserable life of disadvantage where-in he can never be a lover and dogs in the streets bark at his disfigurement. His insight to the human psyche is such that he perfectly understands the way in which society treats the disabled- as either a monster, or as a thing to be pitied, someone who is not fully formed and is therefore still a child who cannot be held accountable for his actions. Richard strives throughout the play, as is most clearly evidenced in his scene with the priests and the Mayor, to cast himself continually in this light of the innocent so that he will not be condemned as a monster.

This new reading of the character brings into question the views of its creator, Shakespeare, on disabled persons. Richard is a strong minded and extremely competent, powerful man. This is in stark contrast to the weakness that his physical impairments would seem to portray to an unsympathetic eye. In viewing Richard as such a clever man while also disabled, it could be supported that, to Shakespeare, disability was a thing of naught. He accepted it as just a part of life that did not have any bearing on capabilities or of reaching goals, even becoming King (although maybe Richard went about reaching those goals the wrong way).

Written by Mairin Martin

September 15th, 2010 at 8:47 am

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Susan’s Formal Post on Shakespeare’s Richard III (pt 2)

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“Thus, like the formal Vice, Iniquity, I moralize two meanings in one word.”

Richard, Act 3.1 line 82

In this quotation, Richard parallels himself to vice.  This has led many readers to believe that Richard is the personification of vice, or immoral conduct, throughout the play.  Because Richard is disabled, this implicitly links vice with disability.

This connection of vice and disability is also discussed in Sharon Snyder’s article “Infinities of Forms” through Andreas Mantegna’s painting “The Triumph of Virtue.”  This painting depicts a beautiful goddess expelling a variety of disabled figure from the garden of virtue.  Because they are being ushered out of the garden of virtue, it is implied that they represent the opposite of virtue, which is none other than vice.  Snyder also informs us that “the otherness of their figures serves as proof that the appropriate culprits have been identified and properly sentenced” (190).  In other words, the appearance of those being expelled validates their expulsion.  This equates vice to disability in a similar way in which the disabled Richard is implicitly equate to vice.

Another idea that Snyder suggests in reference to the painting is the saying “a sound mind in a sound body” (190).  If this is believed to be true, then the opposite must also be true.  Those who are being exiled from the garden of virtue clearly do not have sound bodies and therefore it is assumed that they cannot have sound minds.  This idea can also be applied to Richard.  From the beginning of the play, readers discover that Richard has a disfigured body.  In keeping with the above saying, this might set up a reader to expect Richard to be an un-sound character.  The reader might then go on to read the play with the expectation that Richard will be some kind of impulsive mad-man solely because he is disabled.  Or if they have already read the play, they might use the equation of vice and disability to justify, or at least provide explanation for, Richard’s actions.  One might even say that Shakespeare was being wholly unoriginal by presenting a character with a disability as a character full of vice.  Perhaps it would have been more shocking if Richard was a disabled representation of virtue.

I do not wish to support nor deny the legitimacy of the reader that fosters any preconceived notions or justifies Richard’s actions because of his appearance.  Nor do I wish to suggest that the equation of disability and vice is a solid one.  I only wish to suggest that if the equation is believed to be true, there is a possibility for the reader to understand this text in the ways I have presented above.

Can anyone think of other ways the connection between disability and vice could affect a reader’s interpretation of Richard III?

Written by Susan

September 15th, 2010 at 2:27 am

More disability in Richard the 3rd (And not just about Richard the 3rd)

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Hi everyone! I haven’t written for a while,and this may not be quite clear, but I want to take a stab out of this. I  really want to look at Act 1, scene 4 of Richard the 3rd, where Clarence is imprisoned in the tower, unaware that two men are about to murder him. They decide how they should kill him when Clarence wakes up, and pleads with the men not to kill him.

Cla. Not to relent, is beastly, sauage, diuellish:
My Friend, I spy some pitty in thy lookes:
O, if thine eye be not a Flatterer,
Come thou on my side, and intreate for mee,
A begging Prince, what begger pitties not
  2 Looke behinde you, my Lord
  1 Take that, and that, if all this will not do,
Stabs him.
Ile drowne you in the MalmeseyBut within.
Enter.
 2 A bloody deed, and desperately dispatcht:
How faine (like Pilate) would I wash my hands
Of this most greeuous murther.

(Richard the Third, Act1, Scene 4)

I found this passage really interesting because when Clarence is about to be killed, he doesn’t believe that Richard was the one who sent the two men, and explained how loyal Richard was. Then, he degraded himself even more by comparing himself to a beggar, and then, the men killed him. Finally, one of the men told him to look the other way before he killed Clarence. I thought the man was saying it in a sympathetic way, because he knew he had to kill Clarence, but he didn’t want Clarence to see the violence he was about to commit. It’s like soothing a scared child so he’s not thinking about the shot the doctor has to give him.  Later on, Rivers is executed in another prison, and he and his relations did not say a whole lot before they die. Edward (the Prince of Wales), and his younger brother were killed in the tower. We don’t even hear what they said when they were killed.

To me,  I found a connection between the ones who are imprisoned in the play, with disabled people living in mental institutions (or other institutions for the disabled). Prisons have the same function. They separate and isolate people from society, and yes, can make some people lose their sanity. I think Shakespeare  reversed the role of disability by making the innocents the disabled. Yes, the innocents are technically notphysically disabled, but once environment is altered (putting them in prison and killing them), they do become disabled. The guard walking with Clarence to the tower at the beginning of the play represented one who was watching over someone who may be a potential harm to the King. Queen Elizabeth, Anne and the Duchess of York were forbidden to see the princes. As the play went on, the voices of these “innocent” characters decreased.  In a way, Richard became the nondisabled, killing off the innocent ones that he made disabled (by lies and manipulations).

What’s scary is that the characters really don’t have a say for their right to live. They’re murdered, just like that!  I connect it to the questions about whether it’s right to abort a disabled baby in a pregnacny screening or if it’s right to degrade someone based on their disability.

That’s how I thought about it, but what does everyone else think? Is Shakespeare really reversing roles to the innocent characters into disabled characters or not? Why do you think he is/is not doing it?

Written by library1288

September 14th, 2010 at 11:14 pm

Sarah Smethurst’s Formal Post on Shakespeare’s Richard III (pt 1)

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“Thou elvish-marked, abortive, rooting hog,
Thou that wast sealed in thy nativity
The slave of nature and the son of hell,
Thou slander of thy heavy mother’s womb,
Thou loathèd issue of thy father’s loins,
Thou rag of honor, thou detested—…
The day will come that thou shalt wish for me
To help thee curse that poisonous bunch-backed toad.”
–Queen Margaret, Act 1, Scene 3
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It was at this point that I looked up at one of my apartment-mates and remarked, “People are MEAN in Richard III.” But I digress…
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The major question for me was what Shakespeare was trying to say (or trying not to say, or not trying to say) about Richard’s disability. To me there seem to be two options:   one is that he is disabled because he is evil, and the other is that he is evil because he is disabled.
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The first option is that Shakespeare, in keeping with the popular opinions of the time, wrote Richard as disabled because he is an evil, dissembling man and ergo it is permissible to judge a book by his cover.   Though obviously not politically correct at the time, there is evidence to suggest that (some or most) people believed that physical or mental defects were the outward reflection of some sin or inner defect of the disabled person. Sometimes it was a matter of the mistakes of one’s parents, and sometimes it was one’s own mistakes, but either way many believed that if you were deformed or otherwise abnormal in some way that it was a punishment. Queen Margaret’s quotation (see above) demonstrates this kind of viewpoint, when she ties in Richard’s evil nature with his deformed appearance purposefully. In most performances, by the way, Richard does have a hunchback, as she describes, but he is also sometimes played with a lame leg or bum arm, depending on the actor/director. Not only is there historical controversy over whether or not Richard III actually was as bad as W.S. wrote him, but I also could find very little information about any actual deformities, leading me to believe that it could be a narrative prosthesis.
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The second option is that Richard is a product of his disability in that the challenges he faced malformed his character, as well. Richard himself sets us up for this idea in the initial opening monologue, where he talks about the lack of love and companionship that his disabled state has guaranteed. If you read the lines of his mother closely enough, there are a few comments that suggest that she favors him less than his brothers because of his deformity.
Just to make things a little more hazy, however, we get another Richard soliloquy at the end of Act 1, Scene 2 where he  preens over the fact that Anne may find him attractive, completely reversing his previous opinion of himself, based on dubious “praise” from a woman on whom he’s pulling the long con. Barring some extreme sarcasm, it’s too much of a change for me to swallow, and leads me to believe that Shakespeare didn’t really understand the nature of disability or the reality of life for disabled persons. This, in turn, makes me side with the first option, that of the deformity of Richard III being a narrative prosthesis, a tool used to show his inner deformity of the soul, if you will.
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What do you think? Is that a good enough explanation? Are there other factors at play here that I haven’t considered? Am I missing some larger historical context? Is mine too simple a conclusion?
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Sarah Smethurst

Written by sarahsmile

September 13th, 2010 at 3:15 am

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Kathleen Fabie’s Formal Post on William Shakespeare’s Richard III

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Was euer woman in this humour woo'd?
Was euer woman in this humour wonne?
Ile haue her, but I will not keepe her long.
What? I that kill'd her Husband, and his Father,
To take her in her hearts extreamest hate,
With curses in her mouth, Teares in her eyes,
The bleeding witnesse of my hatred by,
Hauing God, her Conscience, and these bars against me,
And I, no Friends to backe my suite withall,
But the plaine Diuell, and dissembling lookes?
And yet to winne her? All the world to nothing.
Hah!
Hath she forgot alreadie that braue Prince,
Edward, her Lord, whom I (some three monthes since)
Stab'd in my angry mood, at Tewkesbury?...
...I do mistake my person all this while:
Vpon my life she findes (although I cannot)
My selfe to be a maru'llous proper man.
Ile be at Charges for a Looking-glasse,
And entertaine a score or two of Taylors,
To study fashions to adorne my body:
Since I am crept in fauour with my selfe,
I will maintaine it with some little cost.
But first Ile turne yon Fellow in his Graue,
And then returne lamenting to my Loue.
Shine out faire Sunne, till I haue bought a glasse,
That I may see my Shadow as I passe.
                            Richard III, Act I, Scene II

These lines, spoken by Richard III upon parting with the Lady Anne, are the basis of an argument that Richard is not a victim of disability but a product of a pathologic nature. Pathologic used here to describe behavior that is habitual and compulsive and, in Richard’s case, unjustifiably evil. The play’s opening focus is the soliloquy of self-pity, “Now is the winter of our discontent,” in which Richard blames his unhappiness on his physical form. But a case can be made that Shakespeare is portraying Richard’s mental state and (lack of) character rather than the physical manifestation of the man. It is the soliloquy quoted above that is more telling of Richard’s true nature.

Richard attempts to convince the reader in his opening lines that he is “Cheated of Feature” and therefore reacting to everyone’s repulsion with vengeance. Yet his following encounters with Clarence, Brakenbury, Hastings and Anne all belie any physical repugnance toward Richard. Clarence, Brakenbury and Hastings treat Richard with utmost respect. Clarence considers Richard a confidant. Yet Richard follows the encounter with Clarence with an evil confession to the audience that he himself will send Clarence’s “Soule to Heauen,” foreshadowing his involvement in Clarence’s arrest.

An even more puzzling contradiction to the play’s opening lines is the reaction of Lady Anne to Richard’s confession to being her husband’s murderer. Their conversation begins on a hostile note as Anne suspects Richard is the culprit. Only once in several pages of dialogue does Anne make reference to Richard in a physical sense: “Blush, blush, thou lumpe of fowle Deformitie.” Her other insults to this point, however, have been so ferocious that this line can be taken as just another bit of vitriol as Anne expresses her contempt of Richard’s suspected crime. Yet, as Richard continues his verbal joust with her, Anne’s demeanor softens and she begins to be charmed by his wit and plied by his flattery, even as Richard more openly admits to killing Anne’s husband, Henry. Threatening to stab himself if Lady Anne wishes it, Richard proclaims: “This hand, which for thy loue, did kill thy Loue, Shall for thy loue, kill a far truer Loue, To both their deaths shalt thou be accessary.” Anne’s swoon at this point over Richard’s poetry is almost palpable.

Now the reader comes to the second soliloquy, quoted above, which Richard offers after Anne departs. Here Richard’s true nature is revealed and it has nothing to do with his physical form. He is smug, self-satisfied, and congratulates himself on his cunning: “I do mistake my person all this while: Vpon my life she findes (although I cannot) My selfe to be a maru’llous proper man.” Richard then plots a visit to the “Taylors…to adorne my body,” before burying Henry and “return lamenting to my Loue.” These are the words that expose the opening speech as a distraction, a device used by Shakespeare to make a physical metaphor of Richard’s ugly, evil soul.

Written by kfabie

September 13th, 2010 at 12:30 am

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