Families that Discuss together, stay together

Families that Discuss together, stay together
Families that Discuss together, stay together

Friday, December 4, 2015

The Structure of Soliloquy: Impending Death of Richard III

Give me another horse: bind up my wounds.
Have mercy, Jesu!--Soft! I did but dream.
O coward conscience, how dost thou afflict me!
The lights burn blue. It is now dead midnight.
Cold fearful drops stand on my trembling flesh.

What do I fear? myself? there's none else by:
Richard loves Richard; that is, I am I.
Is there a murderer here? No. Yes, I am:
Then fly. What, from myself? Great reason why:
Lest I revenge. What, myself upon myself?
Alack. I love myself. Wherefore? for any good
That I myself have done unto myself?

O, no! alas, I rather hate myself
For hateful deeds committed by myself!
I am a villain:
yet I lie. I am not.
Fool, of thyself speak well: fool, do not flatter.
My conscience hath a thousand several tongues,
And every tongue brings in a several tale,
And every tale condemns me for a villain.
Perjury, perjury, in the high'st degree
Murder, stem murder, in the direst degree;
All several sins, all used in each degree,
Throng to the bar, crying all, Guilty! guilty!

I shall despair. There is no creature loves me;
And if I die, no soul shall pity me:
Nay, wherefore should they, since that I myself
Find in myself no pity to myself?

Methought the souls of all that I had murder'd
Came to my tent; and every one did threat
To-morrow's vengeance on the head of Richard.

King Richard’s Soliloquy (Act V.III.178-207)

Shakespeare’s understanding of the human impels him to include the soliloquy for the sake of self-introspection, which often empowers the individual and the audience to learn the truth. The soliloquy helps Richard come to a realization of his circumstance and the consequence of his bloodthirsty decisions. The ghostly visitations of the eight men and women whom Richard murdered trigger the soliloquy; each of them appearing at his bedside and placing a curse upon him, “despair and die.” When he awakes, his vision is cloudy, but soon Richard recollects the dreams, which launch him through a series of emotions beginning with panic and ending with the ghostly-prophesied despair. 

Shakespeare structures the soliloquy as a process of making sense of his dire situation. The first line addresses the recent misfortune from the night before, the loss of his horse and his battle wounds. Then the next four lines deal with fearful panic as he remembers the deadly dreams of the eight apparitions. The next seven lines deal with an inquiry and battle within. He questions if he is indeed the murderer. He answers, first no, then yes, and wonders if he could flee, but knows he cannot escape from himself, nor take upon himself revenge. The next two and a half lines demonstrate a near reckoning with the inevitable truth, but he cannot hold onto it quite yet and quickly points out that no, it is a lie, he is not a villain. The next eight lines condemn him as guilty. Finally, keen despair sets in during the next four lines as he realizes he has lost all his friends with no one to pity him, not even himself. He recognizes the self-betrayal and dishonesty, which will lead him to his bloody death within moments, for with the last three lines he is brought to a perfect remembrance of the eight, midnight-ghostly visitors, of those he murdered, who had prophesied his despair and death. 

As stated, the soliloquy is a process that Richard moves through. However, Richard is not alone in the process; the audience experiences right along with him the corollaries as if the audience were in King Richard’s place. In a way, the soliloquy finally redeems the audience from suffering, for once they go with Richard through the process of reckoning and accountability, they can be rest assured that the end is near, and they have learned more completely what befalls a man with such ambition. The exercise can be remarkably influential; remaining in the minds of the audience well after the play has ended. 
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