I wrote this paper for school last week, and then realized it was perfect for Easter, and just in time for it too, so I decided to share it today.
I honestly do not know why I chose to read Richard III for Great Books this year. I recall seeing it on my list of books, after I had long forgotten picking it, and thinking something along the lines of What was I thinking? or What have I gotten myself into?
The fact remains: it’s an odd play. Not to mention, a bit disturbing. It is a story–not surprisingly–about Richard III. Richard is a discontented man, with no friends, no pretty lady to court, and nothing to do.
“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.” (4)
Out of this boredom, he sets out to become king of England. The play follows this power-hungry, dissembling villain as he works his way up the hierarchy and pays mercenaries to murder off all other potential heirs.
To make matters worse, Richard happens to be an amazing actor, and plays everyone who stands in his way. He manages to make himself look so good! To be completely honest, if I only saw the side of him he chose to show in public, I think I would like him. And that’s what makes it so scary. And so the story continues.
With Richard as the main character, Shakespeare gives us a view into his thoughts, his schemes, and plans with his few friends. Richard is willing to go to any means to achieve his end–which happens to be his own crowning.
I curled up with my comfortable paperback, and read with disgust the unfeeling heart of villainy laid out in pretty verses, and stopped to scribble “I’m fuming” in the margins–and I never scribble in the margins. So the play goes on like this through four acts–until the entrance of Richmond, in Act 5. He enters the scene almost out of nowhere, challenges the newly-crowned King Richard, slays him in battle, and becomes the next king of England. You don’t see much of Richmond in Richard III, but he is my favorite character, simply because he is the hero–the one who makes everything right. He stops villainy in its tracks, rescues the distressed princess, and takes the throne and its power which the villain has abused.
The pain you endure watching Richard deceive, plunder, and murder his family members and friends, in the end makes your satisfaction with at the appearance of Richmond, the hero, even greater.
J.R.R. Tolkien called this unexpected moment of redemption a “eucatastrophe”–the moment when things look up, the sun comes out again. Fascinatingly, this moment often happens when the hero finally moves. When he steps onto the scene, and makes things right. In The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien edited by Humphrey Carpenter, he told his son Christopher: “The Resurrection was the greatest ‘eucatastrophe’ possible in the greatest Fairy Story (100).”
Jesus was the greatest hero. Actually, He is the only real hero in our story. And maybe that is why there is something in the human heart that longs for a hero. Something that jumps at the sound of the hero’s voice, something that is only satisfied by a hero.
Because we were created that way.
Every human heart longs for a hero–The Hero–to come and make things right.
And one day, we know He will.
And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
-Revelation 21:3, 4