Richard III

by: William Shakespeare

Act V, scenes iii–vi

Sweating and terrified, Richard asks desperately, “What do I fear? Myself? There’s none else by. / Richard loves Richard; that is, I am I. / Is there a murderer here? No. Yes, I am” (V.v.136–138). With this sudden, horrible revelation that there is a murderer in the room, and that he is it, Richard is suddenly uncertain of whether to be afraid even of himself. His lines dramatize the realization that the ghosts have inspired—that he is a dramatically different person than he has imagined himself to be. He suddenly recognizes that he is a murderer. His statement “I am I” can be read as an effort to assert his own self-identity. After Richard realizes that he has become something that scares even himself, the divide between who he once was and who he has become is astonishingly clear. This divide threatens even his existence. Once he realizes that he is afraid of himself and that he is a murderer, his immediate question is whether or not he will kill himself. His answer is conflicted. Although he avoids this possibility by claiming that he loves himself and therefore would not kill himself, he realizes moments later, “I rather hate myself / For hateful deeds committed by myself” (V.v.136–144). In this scene it is very clear that Richard has moved beyond a simple, flat version of the medieval character, Vice, and experiences the deeply divided emotions that characterize real human beings.

In a strange, haunting, and even moving conclusion, Richard unexpectedly turns to thoughts of others, and grieves for his isolation: “I shall despair. There is no creature loves me, / And if I die no soul will pity me. / Nay, wherefore should they?—Since that I myself / Find in myself no pity to myself?” (V.v.154–157). With these words he realizes, angry and desperate, that he doesn’t even sympathize with himself. Even after he manages to put aside his terror and resumes the semblance of his old arrogance, this sensation does not fade. Clearly, for Richard, the end is near.