Deformity in “Richard III”

The theme of body deformity as an equivalence of the deformity of the mind and soul is a theme much exploited in literature, and one that is particularly dear to the Western world. Richard III was probably not as horrible to see as Shakespeare depicted him, but here we enter the realm of political propaganda, as the victor of the Battle of Bosworth, Henry VII, and his successors liked to propose themselves as saviours of England and heralds of a new Golden Age. They were not entirely wrong; however, as the actors in Horrible Histories finely put in song, some of the things we take for granted about Richard may have been exaggerations or outright lies. After all, history is written by the winners.

However, here is the video for you to enjoy. Scroll down for more musings about deformity in George Martin’s Game of Thrones series, in the character of Tyrion Lannister.

Tyrion Lannister

Tyrion Lannister on his choice of weapon.

Tyrion Lannister’s fight against his society to prove his worth provides some of the finest moments in George R. R. Martin (in)famous Game of Thrones saga. As it is set in a fantasy world rather closely resembling Britain during the Wars of the Roses (which, just to remind, ended with Richard III’s death on the field of Bosworth) some have seen a resemblance between Tyrion and Richard. But the similarities, in my opinion, end with their lineage and their deformity.
In his first appearance in the play, Richard declares that he was not by nature destined to engage in the pleasures of love, and therefore he resolves to be a villain:

Why, I, in this weak piping time of peace,
Have no delight to pass away the time,
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.

Richard III, Prologue, 25-32

Tyrion’s first appearance in A Game of Thrones also hints at aspects of his personality, which is much different from Richard III’s. There is much bitterness in the conscience of being what he is – a dwarf – and in how society reacts to it, and how he suffers from that; there is also much willingness to prove himself better than the world he lives in. In a world peopled by murderers, incestuous adulterers, turncoats and liars, this should not prove particularly difficult; however, Tyrion’s scenes very often show his cunning, his wit and, very often, his gentleness.

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