The Final Soliloquy Of Richard Ii Essay

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The Final Soliloquy Of Richard Ii Essay, Research Paper A Royal Reflection: The final soliloquy of Richard II Richard’s final soliloquy (Richard II, V.v.1-66) marks both the culmination of his transformation from a callous monarch to a poetic philosopher and his moral ascent resulting from his deposition as the King of England. In this scene, Richard is alone, in a prison cell at Pomfret Castle, for the first time in the play. This privacy enables him to reveal an enlightened, reminiscent eloquence nurtured and developed since being freed from the burdens and constraints that weighed him down as king. However, this soliloquy does more than reveal the inner workings of a poet-King. Of the several functions and purposes that this soliloquy has, none may be more

straightforward as its role in the establishment of the setting for the important death scene. From his first few lines, Richard indicates that he is alone, locked away in a prison cell, and isolated from all external influences. Richard loosely summarizes the actions of the play, specifically Bullingbroke’s usurpation of the throne and his own decline. Much of what he says foreshadows his imminent death. However, it is only in the face of death that Shakespeare reveals the nature of the former king. The most important role that this passage plays is to demonstrate the transformation that Richard has undergone since relinquishing the crown. He is no longer a callous, self-absorbed elitist, but is self-reflective and poetic. An early example of this clever use of language is the

hammer metaphor, which symbolizes his newfound ability to craft words and sentences in a rich and meaningful manner, and sets his brain and soul to breed thoughts. Despite having surrendered the crown to his cousin early in Act IV, the unmasking of Richard is not complete until he has been imprisoned for a considerable length of time with nothing to do but think about the past. Despite whatever emotional or spiritual epiphanies Richard may have experienced, it is clear that he regrets his imprisonment. He explicitly states that he wishes he could dig his way out, or “tear a passage through my ragged prison walls” (RII, V.v.20-21). However, with is newfound clarity, he acknowledges the futility of any such effort. Unfortunately, the exact length of Richard’s solitude is

unknown. However, it is long enough for Richard’s false sense of security to be replaced by the opposite and wiser attitude in a world of “unstable values, security, and contentment are beyond human power” (Reed 70). He blatantly admits “no thought is contented” (RII, V.v.11). Richard’s only contentment is of a negative order as he becomes reflective and comforted by the realization that he is not the first to suffer misfortune (RII, V.v.28). In bearing misfortune, men find ‘a kind of ease’ by recalling that others have borne, or will bear, the same misfortune. He further thinks back to when he was still King, but cannot forget the recent circumstances leading to his abdication/deposition and is saddened by these memories. More painful memories from Richard’s

recent past are triggered in this scene. He recalls all of the “roles” he has played in varying degrees, and how he has failed miserably at all of them. Thus play I in one person many people, and none contented. Sometimes am I king; then treasons make me wish myself a beggar, And so I am. Then crushing penury Persuades me I was better when a king; (RII,V.v.31-35). On one hand, a King is wary and fearful of ‘treasons,’ while on the other hand, the beggar is a victim of ‘crushing penury.” Earlier in the play, he identified himself among the ranks of deposed and murdered kings (III.ii), yet here, he identifies with the common people, specifically the beggars in the stocks, recalling Bullingbroke’s reference to the “Beggar and the King” in the previous scene