Richard III - Tragedy in Isolation

"The tragedy of Richard III lies in the progressive isolation of its protagonist". Discuss.

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 audience of the disharmony from

Nature and viciousness of his spirit. As he hates "the idle pleasures
of these days" and speaks of his plots to set one brother against
another, Richard seems socially apart from the figures around him, and
perhaps regarded as an outsider or ostracized because of his
deformity. His separation from is family is emphasized when he says

"Dive, thought\'s down to my soul" when he sees his brother
approaching. He is unable to share his thought with his own family as
he is plotting against them. Thus, we are given hints of his physical,
social and spiritual isolation which is developed throughout the
play. But despite these hints, he still refers to himself as part of
the House of York, shown in the repeated use of "Our".

The concept of Richard\'s physical isolation is reinforced in his
dealings with Anne in Act I scene ii. She calls him "thou lump of
foul deformity" and "fouler toad" during their exchange. Despite these
insults, she still makes time to talk to Richard, and by the end of
their exchange, she has taken his ring and been "woo\'d" by him. After

Richard has successfully gained the throne, he isolates himself when
he asks the crowd to "stand all apart" in Act IV scene ii. 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 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 is isolated from both the upper and lower
classes of society. In Act I scene iii, Richard sarcastically calls

Elizabeth "sister", and she contemptuously calls him "Brother of

Gloucester" making a mockery of familial bonds. Margaret calls
him "cacodemon" and "devil", and any unity that the characters have on
stage is temporary and superficial. In act III, the citizens
are said to be "mum" and "deadly pale", which gives a sense of quiet
opposition to Richard\'s activities. Richard is thus separated from all
around him. Temporarily, we see Richard and Buckingham share a kind of
bond, as Richard calls him "My other self", "My Oracle" and "My
prophet". But they part when Buckingham hesitates to kill the young
princes when Richard says "I wish the bastards dead". This is the only
time the audience sees Richard act with any other man, but we realize
that it is for purely political purposes and that the union exists
only while Buckingham remains useful to him. Our sympathy for Richard
is limited as we see that he has no true friendships, and does not
genuinely care for his family or friends. Thus