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Essay about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in Shakespeare's Richard the Third

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All the passions of the irascible rise from the passions of the concupiscible appetite and terminate in them. For instance, anger rises from sadness, and, having wrought vengeance, terminates in joy.
-- St. Thomas Aquinas

Richard the Third is an intense exploration of the psychology of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and that exploration is centered on Richard’s mind. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, PTSD, is an anxiety disorder that can develop after exposure to a terrifying event or ordeal in which grave physical harm occurred or was threatened. PTSD is characterized by the following central symptoms; feelings of detachment or estrangement from others, efforts to avoid activities, places, or people that might be associate with the trauma, recurrent dreams of the event, and a sense that time is short and there is no future. Richard displays all of the fundamental symptoms of PTSD that is farther amplified by his distrust for his dysfunctional family. Consequently, he becomes psychologically obsessed with war and is unable to assimilate back into civilian life. Both physically and psychologically deformed; Richard wanders down the path of self destruction as he kills everyone around him. In Shakespeare's Richard the Third, Richard is psychologically deformed by war and subsequently rejected by society for being deformed.
Feelings of detachment or estrangement from others, is just one of the many symptoms of PTSD that Richard displays. Richard feels isolated because he is unable to relate to anyone else and knows only of war. He has never loved and has never been loved. Richard’s mother, the Duchess of York, had told her own son that he is the devil “Thou cam’st on earth to make the earth my hell. A grievous burden w...


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...aily bases. Richard had a serious case of PTSD that was enhanced by his psychological paranoia of the people around him. During Richard’s life time in the 1400s he had been constantly exposed to death at a very young age because of the War of the Roses. The death of his family members had most likely left a void and a sense of insecurity within Richard’s psyche. Richard had filled this void by embracing the role of a villain and continues his conquest for power. He subsequently is rejected by society because he is psychologically deformed by the war. With this in mind, the audience can conclude that despite his deformities Richard was able to reach the highest level of power. Rather than wallow as a boar in defeat and accept Society’s oppression of the abnormal.


Work Cited

Greenblatt, Stephen, ed. The Norton Shakespeare. New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 2012.



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