Soliloquies When Characters Stop Being Essay

Length: 15 pages Sources: 5 Subject: Literature Type: Essay Paper: #78671282 Related Topics: Richard Iii, Romeo And Juliet, Character, Noble Truth
Excerpt from Essay :

Juliet herself, though ostensibly a virgin, is certainly not innocent in this regard; though certain strains of chauvinism have been purportedly found in this and others of his plays, Shakespeare certainly cannot be accused of granting males a monopoly on lust. In the shorter monologue that she delivers in the same scene, unaware of Romeo's presence, she famously asks, "What's Montague? It is nor hand, nor foot, / nor arm, nor face, nor any other part / Belonging to a man" (Riverside 1114, II. ii. 40-2). She does not mention a mind, a spirit, or any other intangible qualities that might make her protestations of a deep, emotional love somewhat more believable, but instead focuses on the physical aspects of Romeo (including the suggestive "any other part belonging to a man") -- the true root of her desires.

It is not love, then, that causes these two teenagers to be drawn to each other. They have no real knowledge or understanding of each other beyond the exoticism that is introduced by their families' feuds, and their brief meeting and kiss at the ball earlier in the evening. What exists between Romeo and Juliet is nothing other than attraction and lust. Teenagers are very prone to mistaking these feelings for some sort of deep emotional connection, and Romeo's confusion in his monologue shows how false and misleading feelings of love can become intertwined with direct and very clear thoughts of lust. Juliet's love of Romeo is equally based in physicality, as evidenced by her own monologue in the scene, and their joint sexual infatuations play into each other rendering neither one of them capable of any sort of true love or rational thought. The fact that their third face-to-face meeting is at the scene of their wedding is evidence of their foolishness.

This last fact is also evidence of another character's extreme foolishness, which in itself is a marked departure from the way he seems to be portrayed and perceived in the play. Friar Laurence, who is the source of the major plot in the play -- i.e. The secret marriage between Romeo and Juliet, and the potion that makes Juliet appears as dead and which leads ultimately to Romeo and then her own actual death -- is seen as a voice of wisdom and reason by most of the other characters. His monologues, too, however, reveal that he is a very different character with different motives than those that are traditionally ascribed to him. Rather than a wise and benevolent man whose primary interest is the happiness and flourishing of his young friend Romeo and his new love, Friar Laurence reveals through his soliloquy that he is actually a self-serving schemer to some degree.

This is acknowledged almost explicitly at the end of his speech regarding the duality of nature:

"Two such opposed kings encamp them still

In man as well as herbs, grace and rude will;

And where the worser is predominant,

Full soon the canker death eats up that plant"

(Riverside 1116, II. iii. 27-30)

The Friar shows a clear desire to be important in the proceedings of the play, and his constant intercessions show that the application of his wisdom stem not only from a desire to help (the "grace" of the monologue), but also from a sense of pride and importance (or "rude will").

Richard III

One cannot talk of rude will in Shakespeare without addressing his most interesting and most complete villain, Richard III. Though his account of this last King from the House of York is wildly historically inaccurate according to contemporary sources and modern scholarship, it still makes for one of the most memorable characters in the entire Shakespearean canon (Riverside 748-51). Indeed, there are few characters in all of Western literature that are as deceitful, manipulative, and greedily grasping as this severely twisted (in mind, soul, and body) royal, nor are there many that are so brazenly honest with themselves regarding either the dastardliness of their deeds or their own enjoyment of them.

Yet despite the rather obvious pure evil of Richard's character, there is still some debate regarding his precise motives and intentions, which appear in some ways to shift during the play. Most characters do have a shift in attitude as the drama of a play unfolds; it is one of the hallmarks of a well-crafted play, or a well-written piece of literature...


In addition, Richard appears to have several motives at various points throughout the play, some of which may seem to mitigate his evil. Specifically, there is a great deal f accusation and, to be frank, whining on Richard's part about the wrongs that have been done to him that he uses to justify some of his actions.

These accusations, however, are not actually heartfelt, nor does Richard's arc in the play truly reflect internal changes, but rather only the external changes of his power and circumstance. He remains the same grasping, self-centered, manipulative and masochistic man throughout the action of the play, and he takes a great deal of personal and visceral enjoyment out of each step on his route to the throne. Even the more believable of the various motivations that seem to be hinted at or even directly stated at various points in the play -- avenging the wrongs done to him by others, attempting to create a strong and undisputed monarchy, and even his own far less noble and altruistic (and therefore somewhat more believable) personal political ambition -- do not truly represent Richard's character, but instead can be seen as yet more forms and methods of manipulation that he practices in order to achieve his true ultimate goal, which in reality is nothing more or less than a compulsive desire to be the center of attention, negatively or positively.

This window into Richard's true character can be clearly seen in the several soliloquies he delivers throughout the play, which also contain some of the most famous phrases in all of Richard the Third. These stand-out phrases are well-known not only because they are memorably phrased, but also because they go right to the heart of Richard's character and the overall meaning of the play. Richard's near total self-absorption almost automatically renders his dialogue -- that is, his interactions and words with other people/characters -- completely untrustworthy and essentially meaningless when it comes to truth and reality. This fact of Richard's self-absorption makes the soliloquies that the erstwhile King delivers in the play far more important than the same elements and examination in other plays in developing and understanding the play and the title character.

The play begins with what is perhaps its most famous line, "Now is the winter of our discontent," which continues less famously "Made glorious summer by this sun of York" (Riverside 752, I. i. 1-2). The opening monologue continues with the repeated use of "our," indicating a cohesion amongst the people -- and especially the nobles -- of England that had not existed for much of the preceding period known as the Wars of the Roses. In the fourteenth line of the monologue, however, Richard makes a distinct turn with the words, "But I" (Riverside 752, I. i. 14). The language itself makes the distinction between the "u" (or actually, the "me") and "them" of Richard's worldview; even without any deeper investigation, it is clear that Richard holds himself apart from everyone else for one reason or another, and that this separation is a major factor in his personality and his motivations.

The second portion of the monologue, which is approximately twice as long as the first part, is just as heavy with I's, my's, and mine's as the first thirteen lines are laden with our's. This makes Richard's number-one priority very clear right form the very start of the play. He does not think about his brothers, the state of England, the throne, is lust, or even revenge except in that they relate first and foremost to him. Each of these can be useful and vaguely important to Richard of Gloucester, but only insofar as they serve to bring attention to him, forcing others to focus on him as much as he focuses on himself. His description of his own physical deformities seems to betray this obsession with himself in a macabre fashion: "I, that am rudely stamp'd, and want love's majesty / to strut before a wanton ambling nymph; / I, that am curtail'd of this fair proportion" (Riverside 752. I. i. 16-8).

These lines, along with the many other self-references to his shape and deformities that appear throughout the play, clearly show how obsessed Richard is with his appearance. This has been interpreted as another form of manipulation that Richard uses in order to elicit pity and sympathy from others, persuading them to ally with him or at least to forgive him (Clemens 39-40). Though he certainly uses this tactic, this monologue -- which is not delivered…

Sources Used in Documents:

Works Cited

Clemen, Wolfgang. A Commentary on Shakespeare's Richard III. New York: Routledge, 2005.

Evans, G. Blakemore and M. Tobin, eds. The Riverside Shakespeare. New York: Houghton Mifflin, 2003.

Rose, Herbert. A Handbook of Greek Mythology. New York: Routledge, 2005.

Shakespeare, William. Richard the Third. In the Riverside Shakespeare.

Cite this Document:

"Soliloquies When Characters Stop Being" (2009, October 23) Retrieved June 24, 2022, from

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