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Richard III: The Tragedy of Isolation Essay

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The real tragedy of Richard III lies in the progressive isolation of its protagonist. From the very opening of the play when Richard III enters "solus", the protagonist's isolation is made clear. Richard's isolation progresses as he separates himself from the other characters and breaks the natural bonds between Man and nature through his efforts to gain power.

The first scene of the play begins with a soliloquy, which emphasizes Richard's physical isolation as he appears alone as he speaks to the audience. This idea of physical isolation is heightened by his references to his deformity, such as "rudely stamp'd...Cheated of feature by Dissembling Nature, deformed, unfinished. This deformity would be an outward indication to the
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And later, when Richard dreams, he is completely alone. Physical isolation in Richard's deformity wins sympathy from the audience, as we pity his condition. But Richard uses his deformity as a tool against the other characters, to portray them as victimizing Richard. Thus the sense of tragedy is lessened by his own actions, even though his isolation may become greater as the play progresses.

Richard's psychological isolation is conveyed through his lack of conscience in his murderous acts. Nowhere does he feel remorse for his murders, until Act V scene iii when he exclaims "Have mercy Jesu!" and "O coward conscience, how dost thou afflict me!". In this turning point, Richard's division from his own self is made clear from "I and I", and "Is there a murderer here? No. Yes, I am!" He has conflicting views of himself and realizes that "no creature" loves him, not even himself. We also never know the "real" mind of Richard, for he is always playing a role, of a loving brother to Clarence, a lover to Anne or a victim to the others. We feel sympathy for Richard as he awakes in a vulnerable position and for the first time acknowledges the evil that he has done. But as he only reveals his feelings of guilt in the last act of the play, we do not see him in internal turmoil and thus the sense of psychological tragedy cannot be built upon.

Socially, Richard
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