King Richard III of Shakespeare’s play reveals to us the ruthlessness of a politician (monarch in this scenario) who achieves power and the stature of a king in the time of deep political division between the Lancastrians and the Yorkists in 15 century England. In this Machiavellian, tragic tale of rise and defeat, we see a crippled man, a joke of a man, with tremendous insecurity and pathology, use and manipulate everyone in his surroundings to arrive at his ultimate goal: to be the penultimate figure of power.
In modern times, this rise to power excludes the murderous and violent acts of King Richard III in the Western World. But, there are significant comparisons between the devious character’s motives and the US’s current political candidate of the Republican Party: Donald Trump.
Transfixed by the usurpation of power, King Richard uses his charisma, deceit, and hubris to sway individual’s to his side. Just like the Republican primary election, we see a similarity in the way Trump was able to manipulate the other candidates to join his campaign after their defeat.
Both are unwilling to accept or concede to any malicious actions they expressed or enacted. Whether it is publicly denouncing and deriding the members of their own party or negating the party’s position in order to manipulate the public’s opinion on a contradictory statement, Trump and King Richard III feel no remorse in their exclusionary and self-obsessed behavior.
The history of both individuals is not only reticent, but dangerous. Both suppress these narratives and amplify their campaigns with emotional outpourings of fear and anger. In King Richard III’s case, he murdered many important political figures on the battlefield—instead of nobly ending their life, he would let them perish in agony while watching in pleasure. Trump, hailing his aversions to trade deals, immigrants, and production overseas, has himself hired immigrant workers under illegal wages, worked with manufacturers overseas, and relies on free-trade. He continually flaunts his ability to build and give American’s jobs, yet his history reveals that many of his projects have gone bankrupt and that many investors and workers have been ruined by his abandonment succeeding the failures.
King Richard not only had his brother, George, and his nephews, the two heirs to the throne of Edward, murdered, but continually distrusted and broke relations with those that assisted him in his ascendancy to the throne. Trump has been at arms with Paul Ryan, shamed Ted Cruz and ostracized other party leaders. As a result, both experience defection to an unprecedented degree.
Eventually, if the plot is anything similar to King Richard III, it will be the end of Trump’s political party. King Richard III was the last of the Yorkists, defeated in battle against Edward VI, the first Tudor. If Trump were to fail in his candidacy, or even if he were to become president, there seems to be a significant possibility that the Republican Party, as we know it, would dissolve.
Shakespeare profoundly illustrated a man with a lust of power with such precision that he continually remains a source of wisdom for understanding the pathology of a man sacrificing everything to achieve authority and prestige. He also illuminates the culpability of many to believe in a man of such corruptive prowess.
Like King Richard III, Trump has succeeded in his arrival to such governmental power. But, like King Richard III, his motives and psychology must be questioned and his history must be accounted for.
Many of Trump’s like have risen to power before, under similar campaigns. All of them, and those who enabled them, suffer the same consequences time and time again.
Pessimistically, it must be acknowledged that due to the conditions of the state, these figures can achieve their positions of power using the same tactics and rhetoric that were employed before.
Optimistically, they all endure the same fate. It is just a matter of how much they can damage before they fall.