Was “Shrek”s Lord Farquaad based on Shakespeare’s “Richard III?”

Is Lord Farquaad in “Shrek” based on Shakespeare’s character Richard III? Do they share more similarities besides their looks? (photo courtesy of flickr)

(If you’ve never seen Shrek (2001) or read Shakespeare’s play Richard III, let me warn you: Spoilers lie ahead! If you have seen Shrek, welcome to my conspiracy theory.)

This theory started when I was taking an Introduction to Shakespeare course last year, and one of the assignments was to read Richard III, and watch the 1955 film adaptation directed by Laurence Olivier. A few days after watching the film, I was re-watching Shrek with a group of friends because it is one of our favorite movies. When Lord Farquaad appeared, I couldn’t help, but burst out: This is Richard the III! They looked at me like I was crazy, but I felt like I had never spoken with so much sense before. Another one of my lame English-major jokes, right?

The physical resemblance between the character of Lord Farquaad and the portrayal of Richard III by Laurence Olivier cannot be denied. The haircut, the thick dark eyebrows, piercing blue eyes … The color scheme and the details of the outfit are similar. Even the shape of their noses looks alike!

Lord Farquaad from Shrek shares physical similarities to Richard III like their hair, noses, and unusual stature. (photo courtesy of flickr)

Richard III had a physical deformity scientists have determined as scoliosis, which is portrayed in Olivier’s performance as a hunchback. Lord Farquaad did not have a deformity, but he was very short in height. I wonder if Lord Farquaad’s short height is an allusion to Richard III’s deformity, or if it was simply for comedy purposes.

Other than physical appearance, they both have similar personalities and a thirst for power. They both want to be king, and they take all measures possible in order to reach the throne. Shrek’s Lord Farquaad needs to marry a princess so he can become a king. Out of a group of princesses, he chooses to marry Fiona, who lived isolated in a tower. However, he is not the Prince Charming she waits for because Farquaad does not rescue her (Shrek does). One could consider that Lord Farquaad is a coward because he doesn’t rescue Fiona, instead he holds a tournament so the winner becomes the rescuer. This unwillingness from Lord Farquaad’s part could be proof of lack of agency, but it can also reinforce the power he desired such as other people obeying him. Likewise, Richard III hires men to assassinate those who serve as obstacle to reach the throne, instead of taking the matter into his own hands.

When it is revealed that Fiona is cursed with shape-shifting into an ogre, Lord Farquaad threatens to lock her in a tower. Despite not being officially declared husband and wife, he grabs the crown, and proclaims himself king: 

 “Marriage is binding, and that makes me King. See? See?” 

Becoming the king was all he wanted in the first place. 

Laurence Olivier’s 1955 film featured a Richard III who would later resemble the 2001 Shrek character of Lord Farquaad. (photo courtesy of IMDB)

Unlike Richard III, we don’t really see Lord Farquaad performing manipulation schemes (although he does torture Gingy for information). Of course, Shrek is a movie targeted to a young audience, whereas Richard III takes more drastic measures like murder. In his greed, Richard III marries Lady Ann to gain a bit of power. After he has his brothers murdered (including King Edward, his older brother) the reign passes to him until Edward’s sons are of age. He has Edward’s sons murdered as well, and later on, he plans his wife’s assasination so he can marry young Elizabeth, which would guarantee him a place on the throne. However, his reign is brief, and dies at battle. Both characters face tragic deaths, as Lord Farquaad died because he got eaten by a dragon. 

I could be wrong, but maybe Lord Farquaad really is a parody of Richard III. What do you think?

Esther Santiago is the Long River Review Translations Editor. She can be reached at esther.santiago_rodriguez@uconn.edu.

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