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Home :: Archive :: 2003 :: September ::
Determined to Be a Villain
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 14.1838  Tuesday, 23 September 2003

[1]     From:   David Cohen <
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        Date:   Monday, 22 Sep 2003 10:31:11 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.1827 Determined to Be a Villain

[2]     From:   Graham Hall <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 23 Sep 2003 08:30:06 +0000
        Subj:   A shower of psycho's.


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David Cohen <
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Date:           Monday, 22 Sep 2003 10:31:11 -0500
Subject: 14.1827 Determined to Be a Villain
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.1827 Determined to Be a Villain

Sam Small recently wrote many insightful things about Richard III, but
seems to have got three things wrong.  He wrote

>(1) "Psychopaths are extremely rare," but that is not so if rare
>means a prevalence of less than 1/1000.  I would estimate that at
>least one percent of the male population could be defined as
>psychopathic, though of course it all depends on definition.   I am
>ignoring the far higher percentage of males diagnosable as
>"Antisocial Personality." All this notwithstanding, the prevalence
>of a psychopath like Richard III with the intelligence and savvy to
>murder his way to the top-well, that is rare.

>(2) "That is, [psychopaths are] criminals who produce no
>justification for their crimes whatsoever."  Yet even psychopaths
>will offer rationalizations for their depredations, depending on the
>situation; it seems this urge to explain or justify is part of human
>nature, even in its psychopathic form.  The psychiatric definition
>of psychopathy includes no criterion: "produces no justification for
>their crimes whatsoever."

>(3) "Perhaps modern psychology would have saved Richard from
>himself."  Fact: nothing-no drug and certainly no psychotherapy-can
>"save" a psychopath, who is a naturally alien creature like the
>interrogator in Arthur Koestler's Darkness at Noon: "without
>umbilical cord, without frivolity, without melancholy."

David Cohen

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Graham Hall
 <
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Date:           Tuesday, 23 Sep 2003 08:30:06 +0000
Subject:        A shower of psycho's.

Mr Small's philosophical meanderings (14.1827) about the psychopathology
of Richard the Third are confused and erroneous. The characteristic
prevalent in psychopaths is not "[...] criminals who produce no
justification for their crimes whatsoever [...]" They may (and often do)
provide justification but they do not experience any compunction to do
so. It is their inability to be influenced by moral or social inhibition
and their disengagement from remorse that distinguishes them.
Furthermore, Richard cannot be "[...]an ambitious, psychotic killer
[...]" and have the luxury to chose the moment when "[...] he was
determined to be a villain [...].

The pertinence of this to Shakespeare's killers (and to avoid a tedious
thread developing about opinionated views on psychopathology!) is that
none ultimately exhibit psychopathic tendencies. It is the fact that
Shakespeare occasionally teases us or characters in the play into
suspecting that they do - but eventually exposes their frailties - that
makes them so riveting.

Possible exceptions are Banquo's third murderer and those of the Macduff
family.

 Titus comes close.

Yours, behind the bathtub arras,
Graham Hall

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