Richard's Soliloquies

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Richard’s SoliloquiesBy Wensy Ng

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

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...
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