Monologues in Richard III

free essayThe oeuvre of William Shakespeare abounds in powerful and impressive characters that make the audience reflect upon many important issues, such as loyalty, responsibility, and meaning of life in general. In fact, this dramatist is exceptionally talented in creating both positive and negative characters. Some of his villains happen to be even more thought-provoking than those who behave properly. Richard III, the protagonist of the play with the same title, is one of the most complex and multidimensional negative characters found in the texts created by William Shakespeare.

Although it is clear from the beginning of the play, the last speeches of Richard III completely convince the audience that he is perfectly aware of the harm and pain he inflicts on all the people surrounding him. He does not belong to the category of men who do bad things, but tend to claim that their motives are decent and respectful. Richard does not try to disguise the true nature of his actions, and he is quite brave to face the reality without any embellishments. King acknowledges that he is a murderer and says that there is no way to hide this fact. Moreover, Richard says, “I rather hate myself / For hateful deeds committed by myself!” (Shakespeare 5.3.3691-92). His desire to have power that could probably be treated as a way to compensate his bodily deformity is not subdued by him. He is extremely skillful at convincing other people to do what he wants, and he often uses various manipulative and deceiving strategies to delude his subjects. However, he does not apply these methods while “speaking” with himself. Nevertheless, it is important to highlight that sincerity concerning his own actions and motives does not lead to any moral insights and changes in the way Richard behaves. He knows that he is a villain, but he continues to follow this behavioral pattern even though some concerns do occur in his mind.

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Despite the fact that Richard understands and does not hide the true motives of his actions, he doubts how he should treat them. He is not sure whether he must despise himself for the harm he did to other people or remain calm and continue pursuing his purposes. Richard constantly draws attention to the fact that his actions can be evaluated in two opposite ways. He says, “I am a villain: yet I lie. I am not” (Shakespeare 5.3.3693). Although Richard is aware of the fact that he is not a decent and honest person, he decides that listening to his consciousness will not bring him much profit and crush any doubts that were caused by the talk of the ghosts that came to him. The final speeches of Richard have a shade of doom as he is aware that death will soon come. However, this knowledge only temporary awakes his consciousness. The moments of doubts he has after listening to the accusations of the ghosts do not make him repent. These episodes are used by Shakespeare only to show that Richard is a very complex character who should not be interpreted only from one perspective.
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In spite of numerous flaws and negative aspects of Richard as a person, his final speeches once again prove that he is not a coward. His bravery allows him to go on in his attempts to reach his aims. When it becomes completely clear that he would be killed, he does not retreat. He says, “I have set my life upon a cast, / And I will stand the hazard of the die” (Shakespeare 5.4.3883-84). This courage and his ability to clearly express his ideas and thoughts in a very persuasive manner make Richard an interesting and to some extent appealing character. It is extremely unlikely that the audience would doubt the fact that he is a villain, but at the same time some traits of Richard’s character could be highly appreciated.

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In addition to all the mentioned aspects that primarily characterize Richard III as a man, Shakespeare shows many details that tell the audience about the leadership style and governmental strategy preferred by the king. For instance, Richard does not believe that the primary role of a king or any other ruler of the state is to bring harmony and prosperity to his subjects. From his perspective, aggression is the key to success and prerequisite for development. Richard explains his understanding of the coming battle to his soldiers by saying, “Our strong arms be our conscience, swords our law” (Shakespeare 5.3.3826). He exerts every effort to make his soldiers hate the enemy that Richard calls “a sort of vagabonds, rascals, and runaways, / A scum of Bretons, and base lackey peasants” (Shakespeare 5.3.3832-33). In fact, Richard tries to manipulate his army to force them to fight for his own ideas.

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To conclude, Richard III is a character who is shown to the audience from two different perspectives — as an individual whose psyche is tortured by his inner problems probably caused by his physical disadvantages and as a king, the leader of the nation, who does not care about the stability and prosperity of his country and focuses on igniting aggression and hatred between his subjects and other nations. At the same time, Shakespeare portrays a person who is capable of deep self-analysis and brave enough to pursue his aims till the last minutes of his life.