What impact does the procession of ghosts have upon Richard III?

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enotes | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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On the eve of battle with Richmond at Bosworth field, a sleeping Richard is visited by the ghosts of those whom he has killed or had killed. When he awakens, Richard confirms that he is aware of this ghastly procession, saying "Me thought the souls of all that I had murder'd/Came to my tent, and every one did threat/Tomorrow's vengeance on the head of Richard" (V, iii., ll.204-206). He then says to Ratcliffe, "By the apostle Paul, shadows tonight/Have strook more terror to the soul of Richard/Than can the substance of ten thousand soldiers" (V, iii, ll.216-218). He does not try to determine whether his victims' effigies are real or not. Unlike Macbeth, Richard expresses no guilt or remorse for his bloody crimes, only the fear of death. Unrepentant, Richard does what he always does, acts expediently to prevent the curses of the ghosts from coming true with a mind bent on the weaknesses of other. He proceeds immediately to spy on his own men to find out whether they will shrink from battle and with his last words, Richard offers to trade his kingdom for a horse. What is striking is that the ghosts have no impact at all on Richard other than provoking a primal, animal-like fear.