Richard III


William Shakespeare

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Richard III: Soliloquy 2 key examples

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Definition of Soliloquy
A soliloquy is a literary device, most often found in dramas, in which a character speaks to him or herself, relating his or her innermost thoughts and feelings as if... read full definition
A soliloquy is a literary device, most often found in dramas, in which a character speaks to him or herself, relating his or her innermost... read full definition
A soliloquy is a literary device, most often found in dramas, in which a character speaks to him or herself... read full definition
Act 1, Scene 1
Explanation and Analysis—Inductions Dangerous :

In Act 1, Scene 1, Richard lays the groundwork for his sinister plot for the throne, foreshadowing his machinations through a soliloquy:

Plots have I laid, inductions dangerous,
By drunken prophecies, libels, and dreams,
To set my brother Clarence and the King
In deadly hate, the one against the other; [...]

This soliloquy explicitly foreshadows the dark and twisted schemes that Richard will unravel throughout the play. He speaks of plots and “dangerous inductions.” An “induction” is an initial move or a strategy. Importantly, too, it’s a term that refers to an explanatory scene that occurs before the main body of a play. With this wordplay, Shakespeare points to the fact that this soliloquy is happening somewhat outside of the regular timeline of Richard III. The protagonist is speaking aloud in order to explain important facts to the audience. This speech works almost like a primer on Richard, so the audience understands why he makes the choices he does.

The Duke of Clarence and King Edward IV are both his brothers, so Richard’s declared intent here is to not only disrupt a monarchy but also to cause turmoil within a family unit. It’s a glimpse into the future, a warning of the deviousness that he’ll unleash. It’s also an echo of the past. This passage mirrors the many years of pain and unrest that the interfamilial conflicts of the Wars of the Roses imposed on England. Through this soliloquy, the audience is let in on Richard's plans. He speaks directly and confidingly to them, sharing his intentions. This establishes a connection, where the audience is in on—and feels complicit in—his secrets. Richard spends a lot of time convincing people that he is a good person, so it’s important that the audience knows not to trust him. The soliloquy provides them with valuable context for his untruths and manipulations.

This soliloquy is a cornerstone of the play’s plot. It’s one of the very first things the audience sees, literally setting the scene for Richard as a scheming, unscrupulous man ready to sow discord for personal gain.

Act 5, Scene 3
Explanation and Analysis—A Bold Attempt:

In Act 5, Scene 3, Richmond addresses his nervous troops before the Battle of Bosworth Field in a stirring soliloquy:

 For me, the ransom of my bold attempt
 Shall be this cold corpse on the Earth’s cold face,
 But if I thrive, the gain of my attempt
 The least of you shall share his part thereof.
 Sound drums and trumpets boldly and cheerfully.
 God, and Saint George, Richmond, and victory!

While Richmond's speech is an oration to his soldiers, it’s also a soliloquy that encourages the audience as much as the characters on stage. The audience knows all about Richard’s evil deeds by this point, and Richmond cements the loyalty of everyone around him—audience included—with his stirring, provocative words. 

This is particularly evident as Richmond speaks of the risks and rewards associated with the forthcoming battle. His words, “the ransom of my bold attempt / shall be this cold corpse on the Earth’s cold face,” reveal his willingness to lay down his life for a just cause. He’s explaining to his men that he knows he’s risking death in order to dethrone Richard: his “cold corpse” is the wager he’s placing on victory. However, the lines that follow emphasize that if they succeed at Bosworth, the rewards will be shared by all. It wouldn’t just be a positive result for Richmond, who’d become king, but for all the people of England suffering under Richard’s tyranny. 

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