Methoughts that I had broken from the Tower,
And was embarked to cross to Burgundy,
And in my company my brother Gloucester,
. . .
Methought that Gloucester stumbled, and in falling
Struck me—that thought to stay him—overboard
Into the tumbling billows of the main.
Clarence delivers this speech shortly before the murderers come to kill him in the tower. Clarence says that he dreamed he escaped from the tower and fled with Richard (“Gloucester”) to France, but on the ship, Richard betrayed him and cast him overboard to drown. This is the first of several prophetic dreams in the play, and it contributes to our sense that supernatural forces are at work driving the plot. Clarence’s dream foreshadows his imminent death, as well as the fact that he will be drowned (in a barrel of wine). Psychologically, the speech is interesting because it reveals the depth of Clarence’s trust for Richard. Rather than take this strikingly prophetic dream in which Richard betrays and kills him as an omen, Clarence refuses to credit the notion that Richard wishes him dead. To us it may appear that Clarence’s unconscious mind is trying to tell him something, but if that is the case, Clarence’s conscious mind is not listening. Clarence’s disbelief in his own dream creates the impression that Richard’s evil is too monstrous for those around him to accept or imagine, and thus it amplifies our horror of Richard.
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