I)Identify the context for each
II)Analyze the language of each and its meaning
III)Consider what insights they give into Richard’s character, emotions and thinking at the time iv)Discuss how the soliloquies help structure the play and are used to create dramatic interest
1. The opening soliloquy: “Now is the winter of our discontent” 1.1.1-41
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The opening soliloquy involves of Richard contemplating the end of the civil war, and the change from warfare to peace. This soliloquy is important to the rest of the play as it shows Richard’s true character – malicious, deformed and cunning. It helps set up the dramatic irony for the rest of Richard’s encounters, because as Richard ‘acts’ we see him for who he truly is. The language that Richard uses is clever, sarcastic and determined. His second line, ‘made glorious summer by this son of York’ is a play on words of Edward being the ‘son’ of York and the ‘sun’ of the glorious summer. From this first line the audience is immediately able to tell that Richard is witty, and clever with the way in which he speaks and phrases his words. He continues on to talk about the King in a somewhat sardonic manner, bringing attention to his ‘sportive tricks’ and amorous pleasures.
Richard continues, objecting to himself that ‘since I cannot prove a lover’ he reveals that he is ‘determinèd to prove a villain’. This quote foreshadows how the rest of the play will pan out, and how Richard is depicted throughout. The most important thing in this quote however, is that this quote shows a logical decision in which Richard has made – therefore his malignity is motiveless. He chooses to be evil, and his only excuse for it is that he is unfortunately deformed. The brings the next point. In his soliloquy, Richard also draws on self-deprecation, he describes to us his deformities in the most gruesome way. This immediately gives the audience prejudice against him. “Cheated of feature by dissembling nature / Deformed, unfinished, sent before my time / into this breathing world scarce half made up / And that so lamely unfashionable / That dogs bark at me as I half by them.” The audience ultimately feels pity for him, however when its is made clear that Richard has thought about his premeditated strategems, the audience is aware of his duplicitous nature.
2. “He cannot live” soliloquy: 1.1.146-163
Act 1 scene 1 closes with Richards’ second soliloquy. Although it is fairly short, Richard hopes for Clarence to die before Edward does. He also reveals his plans to ‘woo’ Lady Anne, from the House of Warwick. The audience truly sees the full revelation of Richard’s wickedness, as he claims to have killed Lady Anne’s father and husband in the war that has just passed and yet he still wants to seduce her. However this sickening twist makes sense to Richard, as he wants to woo her so that the House of Lancaster don’t turn on him in the future. The concept of ‘keeping your enemies close for political gain’ comes across through Richard’s actions.
Richard uses the strange yet humourous words to describe what the world will be like when he is King. He says, “Which done, God take King Edward to his mercy / And leave the world for me to bustle in!” The word bustle seems quite merry, and this reflects on how Richard has no grief or anguish to his brothers’ deaths – he merely wants them dead so that he is able to enjoy the world. The last line Richard says “When they are gone, then must I count my gains.” Richard is talking about his brothers Clarence and Edward, and the foreshadowing of their deaths closes the scene.
This soliloquy allows the audience to realize and prepare ourselves for what Richard has in mind. He confirms that both his brothers will die – Clarence because of him and Edward because of sickness. The audience realizes that Richard is truly going to go through with his premeditated strategems, and this is only the beginning, however his downfall is also inevitable and anticipated.
3. “Was ever woman…wooed” soliloquy: 1.2.231-67
This soliloquy is a perfect example of Richard’s duplicitous nature. As soon as Lady Anne leaves, he drops his mask and becomes who he really is – the schemer. He revels in his triumph in getting Anne to consider being wooed by him. Despite his killing of her husband and her father, and despite his deformities, he has managed to overwhelm Anne using only his words. This is where the audience really sees how overpowering Richard is, and how if he was to really reign as king there would be many dangers.
The audience assumes that Richard would be triumphant in scoring Lady Anne, however he says “Was ever woman in this humour wooed? / Was ever woman in this humour won?/ I’ll have her, but I will not keep her long.” Through this quote the audience realizes that Richard merely wooed her for security of safety from the House of Lancaster (which Lady Anne belongs to), and he has the upper hand now that his wooing has transformed her loathing into acceptance. The foreshadowing of this quote also allows the audience to note that Lady Anne will ultimately be killed somewhere along Richard’s plans. The last lines in Richard’s third soliloquy goes “That I may see my shadow as I pass.” The use of his ‘shadow’ outlines his malevolent alter-ego, the evil Richard is lurking, hiding, but always present.
Richard is constantly building up his plans and notably successing as each person goes by him and accepts him. This soliloquy shows how Richard really does have a way with his words, and how he can turn Lady Anne’s loathing and hatred (after all, Richard did kill her husband and her father) into acceptance and tolerance. The audience is somewhat admirable of him, yet they realize it is all just an act by a clever, manipulative person.
4. “I do the wrong” soliloquy: 1.3.324-338
In this soliloquy Richard expresses slight disbelief and smugness in how things have played out for him. He has managed to get Clarence killed and blame it on Rivers, Vaughn and Grey, as well as get Hastings, Derby and Buckingham to support him. His tone is proud when he admits that his malicious plots at the beginning of the play have become others’ evil actions. Richard has mastered the game of manipulation, and has everyone (except for a few) believing that he is a holy and good man. By using preexisting conflicts, as well as his “relationship” and “appeal” to God, he is going to set everyone against each other. This is where we realize that Richard has managed to weave a web that he has total control over – for now.
Richard says, “Tell them that God bids us do good for evil. And thus I clothe my naked villainy / With odd old ends stol’n forth of holy writ, / And seems a saint when most I play the devil.” These lines sum up Richard’s role as an actor within himself, within the play. He claims to use the Bible as his sanction and yet he contradicts himself by cloacking himself as the devil.
5. “Give me another horse!” soliloquy: 5.3.180
This soliloquy is the first time that Richard feels any guilt for his actions, and this is also where he finally realizes what he has ultimately done to himself and to the people around him. His mind is in turmoil, and the tone of his soliloquy is deeply troubling. He is wrestling to come to terms with all the murders he has indirectly caused and all the threats of vengeance he has posed.
This is Richard’s last soliloquy, and from the beginning of the play he has come a full circle. In the beginning, Richard portrayed himself as an megalomaniac and egotistical, he gloated “As I am subtle, false and treacherous,” and now he says, “O coward conscience, how dost thou afflict me?” The personification of ‘conscience’ and how it has become cowardly shows that Richard now considers his conscience as a part of him, something that he didn’t have before. The rheotorical question is more posed towards himself. He is unsure and worried, and this is reflected in the next couple of lines. “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.”
The manifestation for himself and the unclearness is a reflection of how muddled his mind has become. Richard wrestles and tries to confirm with himself that he is doing the right thing, that he isn’t a murderer, that there is no one who loves him but himself, but his conscience has finally caught up with him and as a result, the murder and threats of vengeance have come rushing back to him. The full realm of the horror that has become his life hits him in the face – he finally realizes that he is truly and utterly alone. He says: “There is no creature loves me, / And if I die no soul shall pity me.” His segregation from humanity dominates him at this point in the play, when he finally grasps that he is truly all alone.
This soliloquy foreshadows Richard’s inevitable and imminent death. It is the last time the audience really feels something for Richard, whether it be pity or sadness or justification, the audience understands that Richard has finished and come to the end of his time.