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In the study of Richard III, can someone suggest a list of key passages that should...

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cytosine12 | Student, Undergraduate | (Level 3) eNoter

Posted June 12, 2011 at 12:06 PM via web

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In the study of Richard III, can someone suggest a list of key passages that should particularly merit greater focus?

I know for a fact that his first soliloquy should be looked in depth, but are there other passages that are similarly vital to the understanding of the play?

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted June 12, 2011 at 7:15 PM (Answer #1)

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You are right in your hunch that Richard's opening soliloquy is important. Note what this shows us about his character and the theme of evil that runs through the play and his person. In addition though, you might like to examine one key theme and how this theme is presented through the various speeches of Richard III. The way that he uses and abuses language to achieve his goals and purposes is incredible, and well worthy of some serious study. Most interestingly of course is how he woos his wife and moves her from absolutely hating him to actually loving him and willing to marry him in Act I scene 2. You will definitely want to focus on the kind of language that Richard uses in this scene to woo her. There are of course plenty of other scenes in which Richard shows the power of langauge to manipulate.

However, in addition to this important theme, a very important speech is made in Act V scene 5, when we see Richard undergoing a very poignant moment of self-realisation after seeing the ghosts that have haunted him:

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. 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.

Note the element of self-doubt and self-criticism in this soliloquy. Attempting to calm himself from the fear of the ghosts, he tries to remind himself that he is alone and therefore safe. Yet the horror returns, yet more strongly, when he realises that he is the most dangerous person that he could be left with, as a mass murderer. Note the way that at the beginning of the play Richard said he was determined to "be a villain." Here we see Richard's realisation that he has succeeded in this goal and the rather mixed feelings he has as a result. You will want to focus on the internal conflict that is displayed through this speech.

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