November 6, 2010


Saul, Nigel, Richard II (Yale English Monarchs) (New Haven & London: Yale U. Press, 1997) ("Richard can easily emerge from the evidence as a bundle of contradictions - on the one hand, a kindly, generous, considerate, and thoughtful man, and on the other, a tyrant: cruel, arrogant and capricious. Is there anyway in which a coherent picture can be formed of Richard's character and personality?" "The most plausible way of reconciling the opposites is to see Richard's personality as essentially narcissistic. Narcissism describes a condition in which only the person himself - his own body, his own needs and feelings - are experienced as fully real: everybody and everything else lacks reality or interest. Generally a narcissistic person achieves a sense of security in his own subjective conviction of his perfection, rather than through being related to others. He needs to hold on to his narcissistic self-image - for, without it, his sense of worth and identity is lost. Commonly, if his narcissism is wounded by criticism or humiliation, he reacts with intense anger, whether or not he shows it or is even aware of it. The intensity of this aggressive reaction is evident from the fact that hardly ever will such a person forgive anyone who has wounded his narcissism. Very often he feels a burning desire for vengeance which would be less intense if it had been his body or property that had been attacked." Id. at 459 (citing Erich Fromm, The Anatomy of Human Destructiveness (London, 1974) at 201-2.). "Narcissistic tendencies are commonly found in rulers with a powerful sense of their providential mission. . . . The highly public way in which [Richard] achieved his ends owed much to the narcissist's craving for recognition and outward success. It seems likely that the cruelty which he visited upon his enemies among the former Appellants had is origins in so-called 'narcissist aggression'. In the assault which they had launched on the prerogatives ten years earlier the Appellants had shattered Richard's narcissistic self-image. In the manner characteristic of his type he now exacted a terrible revenge on them." Id. at 459.).