Philippa Gregory

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Analyzing Richard III's morals and physicality in The White Queen

Summary:

Richard III in The White Queen is depicted with complex morals and notable physicality. His actions are driven by a mix of ambition and loyalty, often leading to ruthless decisions. Physically, he is characterized by his deformity, which influences how others perceive him and adds to his portrayal as a multifaceted and often misunderstood figure.

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Evaluate Richard III's morals in The White Queen.

In The White Queen, author Philippa Gregory treats Richard III much more kindly than Shakespeare did. Rather than being a completely amoral and scheming villain, this depiction of Richard shows him to be a well-intentioned man overcome by his circumstances. He is shown as loyal to his brother, and later to his nephews, at least at first.

Although Richard and Elizabeth are rivals, there are moments when Richard sincerely wants to come to some sort of amicable relationship with her. The two foes come to realize that it would be good to build a sense of mutual trust between them. Unfortunately, this attempt is thwarted by the machinations of Lord Stanley and Margaret Beaufort.

When Richard finds himself in the role of Lord Protector and regent of young Edward, he grows to fear that Elizabeth's distrust of him will poison his relationship with the new king. Richard figures that it is only a matter of time before the Woodvilles find a way to take away all his power and titles. This is when Richard starts to compromise his morals. Being so close to power convinces him to take it for his own. He imprisons his nephews and has Edward and Elizabeth's marriage declared void. As Philippa Gregory presents it, this is Richard's tragic flaw. His distrust (which is honestly come by) leads him to become power-hungry and commit terrible acts.

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Analyze Richard III's moral dimension in The White Queen using specific events.

In The White Queen, Richard III is presented as a more morally complex figure than in other fictional interpretations of him, such as Shakespeare's Richard III. He is a decent man who, for the most part, wants to do the right thing. Unlike his wife, Anne Neville, he wants to trust Elizabeth Woodville despite how court intrigue puts them in opposite factions. He genuinely loves his wife and is pushed to take the throne for himself by others such as Anne, rather than inspired to do it himself. All of this makes Richard more complicated rather than merely a greedy tyrant.

The most significant illustration of the moral dimension of Gregory's Richard comes with the treatment of the disappearance of the princes in the Tower of London. Gregory goes with the theory that Richard did not kill his nephews. In the novel, he swears to Elizabeth that he is not the culprit, and in the miniseries, he even asks if Elizabeth used magic to spirit the boys away, suggesting strongly that he is unaware of what became of them. This makes Richard less of a monster than in other depictions of him. Even though he takes the throne from his nephew Edward, he is still trying not to cross any major moral lines, at least in Gregory's version of events.

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Analyze Richard III's morals and physicality in The White Queen.

For much of the four centuries after Richard III's death, it has been common to paint him as a villainous figure. Only recently have storytellers working in historical fiction become interested in portraying him as a complicated, or even heroic, character.

Philippa Gregory's novel The White Queen portrays Richard in a more even-handed manner: while he acts against the interests of the protagonist Elizabeth Woodville when seizing the throne from his nephews, he is not openly malicious or scheming as he is in earlier depictions. Physically, he is rather handsome (though not as handsome as his brother Edward) instead of hunchbacked. It must be noted that in earlier portrayals, Richard's appearance was usually linked to his morals or lack thereof.

The most notable departure from most fictional portrayals of Richard III in Gregory's book is that she makes it explicit that he did not kill his nephews. The disappearance of the boy princes in the tower had many assuming for centuries that Richard had them assassinated. Newer theories suggest Henry VII or the Duke of Buckingham could have been culprits instead.

In Gregory's novel, Richard explicitly tells Elizabeth he had nothing to do with what happened to her children. His confession is implied to be sincere. Elizabeth herself believes him as evidenced by allowing her daughters to approach Richard in one scene. As a result, Gregory presents Richard III as a morally complicated character; at heart, though, he is still an essentially good man.

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