What is the importance of Act 5, scene 3, for the play Richard III as a whole?
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As theatrical imitation of an action, the scene dramatizes the tensions and the physical preparations before a battle, something the audience knew little of in detail, since they lived in a peaceful time domestically during Elizabeth’s reign. By showing both sides preparing, Shakespeare demonstrates the bravado, the loyalty, the strengths and weaknesses of both sides; he lets go momentarily of the moral and political abstractions, right and wrong of battle, concentrating instead on the physical. “God and our good cause fight upon our side” says Richmond, in his famous oration to his troops. Ratcliffe bring his report of Nothumberland to a despondent Richard III (as shown by his response to the weather) as he weighs the rumors and the news, and voices his personal doubts about the battle to come. In Richard’s oration to his soldiers, he dismisses the enemy, “ A sort [an assortment] of vagabonds, rascal, and runaways…” So, dramatically, the scene prepares the audience for Richard’s death, by not only setting the scene for the battle by staging the preparations on both sides, but also by voicing the moral right and wrong that the audience is asked to evaluate. It is a brilliant piece of pure story-telling, with virtually none of the poetic language Shakespeare is famous for, except in the rhetoric of the orations themselves, a sort of verbal dualing before the London audience.
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