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King Richard III by William Shakespeare Essay

T he plays depict the collapse of English control over parts of France and the bitter and fierce internal struggles between the Houses of Lancaster and York in the fight to gain the crown of England. King Richard III is regarded (Hume 202) as a piece of prop aganda support ing the Tudor monarchs who succeeded Richard after he was killed in battle . This essay examine s how the theme of conscience is evidenced in Shakespeare’s play, and how the issues addressed are reflected in my daily life. (100 words) One prominent theme in the drama is the theme of conscience.

Throughout the drama, Richard, Duke of Gloucester, murders and betrays to gain the English crown. His conscience , however, is evident. In Act I scene iii, Margaret, an exiled former queen , has a special curse for Richard , who kille d her husband and her son (lines 224 – 9) : The worm of conscience still begnaw thy soul. Thy friends suspect for traitors while thou liv’st, And take deep traitors for thy dearest friends. No sleep close up that deadly eye of thine, Unless it be while some tormenting dream Affrights thee with a hell of ugly devils. Most of Margaret’s curses are fulfilled during the play.

Richard struggles with his heavy conscience. In Act IV scene I Lady An ne , his wife is distressed to learn that she is to be crowned his queen, and speaks of her unhappiness and his guilty conscience: For never yet one hour in his bed Have I enjoy’d the golden dew of sleep, But have been waked by his timorous dreams. Spec tacularly, in the scene before the battle at Bosworth, King Richard is visited by the ghosts of h i s victims . His soliloquy in Act V scene iii suggests that he is overcome by a ‘coward conscience’ (lines 191 – 6) : O coward conscience, how dost thou afflict me! The lights burn blue.

It is now dead midnight. Cold fearful drops stand on my trembling flesh. 2 The theme is developed . Co nscience can be a manipulative tool used by cowards , Richard declares: Let not our babbling dreams affright our souls: Conscience is but a word that cowards use, Devised at first to keep the strong in awe: Our strong arms be our conscience, swords our law. I shall now consider how conscience relates to my daily life. It has often been remarked (e. g. G ui 203; Palfreyman 80) that Richard’s assertiveness, his strength and determination command a respect of their own, his crimes aside.

Every day, I read in the papers that someone has exercised ruthless power over other people in some way, and so made ‘swords [their] law’ to wi n a contest, whether it be in the form of school bullying, or rise to political power as in this play. I am still unclear as to how far we should assert ourselves to gain things that we want at others’ expense like this. It frightens me that I can understa nd such tyrants and see them as essentially very human. Such things are an integral part of life and ourselves and will never go away.

I believe, though, that there is such a thing as conscience, yet whether it is only something we have been taught is har d to establish. It is possible to see Shakespeare’s play as an elaborate wish fulfillment or fantasy, therefore. In sum, Shakespeare directs us to focus , non – simplistically, on tyranny and ruthlessness in our midst. In a sense , the portrayal of Richard as a man with a conscience and, at the same time, with astute manipulative powers gives the drama unresolved humanistic problems. We may need to ask ourselves how far we can go to attain our ends while still sleeping at night.


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