Shakespeare’s play famously portrayed that King Richard III was a murdering psychopath, but University of Leicester psychologists believe he may have had control freak tendencies.
With an aim to get to the man behind the bones, professor Mark Lansdale, head of the University’s School of Psychology, and forensic psychologist Dr Julian Boon have put together a psychological analysis of Richard III based on the consensus among historians relating to Richard’s experiences and actions.
They found that, while there was no evidence for Shakespeare’s depiction of Richard III as a psychopath, he may have had “intolerance to uncertainty syndrome” which may have manifested in control freak tendencies.
Their analysis aims to humanise Richard — to flesh out the bones and get to the character of the man who became one of the most controversial kings in English history.
Firstly, they examined one of the most persistent and critical depictions of Richard’s personality — the suggestion that he was a murdering psychopath.
This reputation — portrayed most famously in Shakespeare’s play — does not seem to have any basis in the facts we have about his life.
He showed little signs of the traits psychologists would use to identify psychopaths today — including narcissism, deviousness, callousness, recklessness and lack of empathy in close relationships.
However, the academics speculate that Richard may have exhibited a common psychological syndrome know as an intolerance to uncertainty.
“This syndrome is associated with a need to seek security following an insecure childhood, as Richard had. In varying degrees, it is associated with a number of positive aspects of personality including a strong sense of right and wrong, piety, loyalty to trusted colleagues, and a belief in legal processes — all exhibited by Richard,” professor Mark Lansdale said.
“On the negative side it is also associated with fatalism, a tendency to disproportionate responses when loyalty is betrayed and a general sense of ‘control freakery’ that can, in extreme cases, emerge as very authoritarian or possibly priggish. We believe this is an interesting perspective on Richard’s character,” he added.