*WINNER* Richard III’s Bestial Masculinity and the Rhetoric of Animality in Thomas More's History of Richard III and The True Tragedie of Richard the Third


  • Lauren Morgan


Through a feminist lens, this essay reveals the fragility of masculinity through an analysis of the ways in which Richard III is typified by animalistic imagery and rhetoric as a monstrous figure; his unruly, violent tendencies critique the instabilities inherent within a society that is structurally dependent on masculine values and aggression. Due to more recent scholarship by feminist and queer theorists, the study of gender tends to shift its focus on the marginalized by allocating agency to those excluded from the historically privileged category of male elites. Rather than analyzing those outside the center, I focus within the structure by exposing incongruities that existed within performances of masculinity in early modern patriarchy. Taking More’s History of King Richard III and The True Tragedie of Richard the Third as my points of departure, I argue that both characterizations of Richard III function as passionate denunciations of lawless masculinity by emphasizing his perverse destruction of “effeminate character” or feminine allegiance through a discourse of animality. I focus on the animalistic rhetoric and imagery surrounding Richard III’s birth, his heraldic emblem, and his death to strengthen my argument. This paper was written for my Topics in British Literature to 1667: Sixteenth-century English Literature class during Fall 2019.