Richard III

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The Boar Symbol Analysis

The Boar Symbol Icon
The boar is Richard's heraldic symbol and represents him several times during the play: in Queen Margaret's speech (she calls him an "elvish-marked, abortive, rooting hog"); in Lord Stanley's dream (he sees the boar knocking off Hastings' helmet); and in the Earl of Richmond's speech to his troops (he calls Richard a "foul swine"). However, the boar doesn't just symbolize Richard because it happens to appear on his coat of arms. As an animal commonly associated with violent aggression in Elizabethan England, the boar is also a fitting symbol for Richard's bloody and relentlessly antagonistic spirit.

The Boar Quotes in Richard III

The Richard III quotes below all refer to the symbol of The Boar. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Power Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Simon & Schuster edition of Richard III published in 1996.
Act 1, Scene 3 Quotes

Thou elvish-marked, abortive, rooting hog,
Thou that wast sealed in thy nativity
The slave of nature and the son of hell.

Related Characters: Queen Margaret (speaker), Richard, Duke of Gloucester, King Richard III
Related Symbols: The Boar
Page Number: 1.3.239-241
Explanation and Analysis:

In Margaret's stream of prophetic curses, Richard is saved for last. She curses him to be tortured by his conscience, to mistake his friends for traitors and traitors for friends, and to be kept sleepless by nightmares of hell. She then begins a long list of horrible epithets. We can note that the list is strengthened by Anaphora--the repetition of a single word (or words) at the beginning of consecutive lines. In this case, the repeated word is "thou." Margaret continues for six lines and seems to have more material before being interrupted by Richard saying "Margaret." Note that she responds masterfully with only "Richard!"

The quoted expert gives the first half of her six-line list of epithets against Richard. She calls him an "abortive, rooting hog" and a "slave of nature" and "son of hell." Note that even without precisely understanding the meaning of these lines one can perceive the sting of Margaret's language. Her reference to a "rooting hog" is a clever play on Richard's heraldic symbol, the Boar. She twists the supposedly noble Boar into a disgusting, aggressive Hog, outlining Richard's true personality.

But everyone on stage has already been cursed by Margaret, and so they are blinded to her accurate assessment of Richard's character. Though Margaret seems to know her predictions will come true, the others discount them. After her exit, Richard pretends to forgive her and spares her life (since she technically has been banished on punishment of death). By doing so, Richard further discounts Margaret's slew of curses and impresses everyone with his gentleness.


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Act 5, Scene 2 Quotes

The wretched, bloody, and usurping boar,
That spoil'd your summer fields and fruitful vines,
Swills your warm blood like wash, and makes his trough
In your embowelled bosoms—this foul swine
Is now even in the centre of this isle

Related Characters: Richmond, King Henry VII (speaker), Richard, Duke of Gloucester, King Richard III
Related Symbols: The Boar
Page Number: 5.2.7-12
Explanation and Analysis:

We have learned that Elizabeth lied to Richard and has in fact promised her daughter's hand in marriage to Richmond. Before being executed, Buckingham has cried out that he wishes he had repented during Edward's reign, and that Margaret's curses have come true. In this scene, we see Richmond with his troops, indicating that battle is eminent and Richard's hold on his throne is growing weaker and weaker.

In the quote, Richmond addresses his troops, whom he says have been "bruised" by Richard's "tyranny." He informs them that he has good news, information provided Lord Stanley. It is this information that Richmond delivers in the excerpted lines. He calls Richard a "wretched, bloody, and usurping boar," indicating that he is evil, violent, and that his claim to the throne is illegitimate. The boar has "spoil'd" the "summer fields and fruitful vines" of the people, and he "swills" their "warm blood like wash." His reign is terrible and is hurting the people, enraging them. In Richmond's language the boar (which should be noble, as the sign of Richard's herald) is transformed into a disgusting beast that feeds on the disembowelled "trough" of his victims. Richard is then characterized as a "foul swine." All of these insults and characterizations are to the service of Richmond's simple announcement: Richard is nearby ("at the centre of this isle").

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The Boar Symbol Timeline in Richard III

The timeline below shows where the symbol The Boar appears in Richard III. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Act 1, Scene 3
Language Theme Icon
Women Theme Icon
...and to be unable to sleep without nightmares. She calls him an "elvish-marked, abortive, rooting hog," calls Elizabeth a fool for taking Richard's side against Margaret, and says the queen will... (full context)
Act 3, Scene 2
Power Theme Icon
Language Theme Icon
...4 a.m. with an urgent message from Lord Stanley recounting a dream in which " the boar " [Richard's heraldic symbol] knocked off Stanley's helmet and decapitated him. That dream, combined with... (full context)
Act 5, Scene 2
Power Theme Icon
The Throne and the State Theme Icon
Language Theme Icon
Time Theme Icon
...urges everyone to march on in order to attain peace by killing Richard, the "foul swine" who "swills your warm blood like wash, and makes his trough in your embowell'd bosoms."... (full context)