Richard III

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The Clock Symbol Analysis

The Clock Symbol Icon
The clock symbolizes time, which feels unpredictable and sped-up throughout the play. It feels that way for a reason: Shakespeare has in fact compressed fourteen years worth of history into the span of a month. At the start of the play, Richard seems to work the sped-up time to his favor, successfully wooing Anne as soon as her husband has died and passing off his murder of Clarence as the too-quick fulfillment of King Edward's own death-order. Yet, as the play goes on, Richard seems to lose control of time and frequently asks what time it is. Before the final battle, a clock strikes, the sun fails to rise at its scheduled time, and Richard fears the resultant black sky bodes ill for his fate on the battlefield. Indeed, he is killed by Richmond, which brings the hurtling play to a sudden halt.

The Clock Quotes in Richard III

The Richard III quotes below all refer to the symbol of The Clock. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Power Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Simon & Schuster edition of Richard III published in 1996.
Act 5, Scene 3 Quotes

The sun will not be seen to-day;
The sky doth frown and lour upon our army.
I would these dewy tears were from the ground.
Not shine to-day! Why, what is that to me
More than to Richmond? For the selfsame heaven
That frowns on me looks sadly upon him.

Related Characters: Richard, Duke of Gloucester, King Richard III (speaker), Richmond, King Henry VII
Related Symbols: The Clock
Page Number: 5.3.299-304
Explanation and Analysis:

At Richard's camp, everyone is preparing for battle; Richard notices the black sky, a bad omen, and wonders why the sun "disdains to time." As always, Richard is obsessed with the time, and now is out of sync with the clock, the sun, and nature. Richard determines that "the sun will not be seen to-day," and comments that "the sky doth frown and lour upon our army." The dew on the ground also disturbs Richard.

However, Richard here uses language to deceive himself. He knows the lack of sunshine to be a bad omen, but hopes this omen is for Richmond instead of himself. He asks why it should be for him any more than Richmond, since the same heavens frown on both of them. This clever interpretation of the sky and the bad omen it carries may be enough to momentarily maintain appearances and Richard's confidence, but ultimately, it proves futile, as Richard and his camp will be defeated by Richmond's forces.

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The Clock Symbol Timeline in Richard III

The timeline below shows where the symbol The Clock appears in Richard III. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Act 4, Scene 2
Power Theme Icon
Language Theme Icon
Time Theme Icon
Richard finally acknowledges Buckingham by asking him for the time, saying that "like a Jack, thou keep'st the stroke betwixt thy begging and my meditation."... (full context)
Act 5, Scene 5