Richard III

by: William Shakespeare

Important Quotations Explained

Quotes Important Quotations Explained

Quote 5

The lights burn blue. It is now dead midnight.
Cold fearful drops stand on my trembling flesh.
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.
Then fly! What, from myself? Great reason. Why:
Lest I revenge. Myself upon myself?
Alack, I love myself. Wherefore? For any good
That I myself have done unto myself?
O no, alas, I rather hate myself
For hateful deeds committed by myself.
I am a villain.
         (V.v.134–145)

Richard makes this speech immediately after his visitations by the ghosts; it is perhaps the only moment in the play in which he reveals any self-doubt, conscience, or regret for his brutal actions. Richard seems to wake up, and he is so full of fear that he is sweating. To calm his fear, he reminds himself that he is by himself and therefore safe. But he is seized with renewed horror when he realizes that he himself is the most frightening person he could be left alone with. He asks himself rhetorically whether there is a murderer with him, and he realizes that he himself is a mass-murderer.

Frightened, Richard tells himself to run away, but he realizes that he cannot flee from himself. He asks himself whether he is frightened of his own revenge against himself. This idea is very interesting—the forces driving Richard have always been mysterious, and here he seems to allude to some inner demon from which even he is not safe. But he quickly moves past this thought to assert that he could not hurt himself because he loves himself. However, he immediately realizes that he does not love himself, because he has never done anything good that merits love. Instead, he hates himself for the evil he has done to others. In the first speech of the play, Richard declares that he is determined “to prove a villain” (I.i.30). He now declares that he has become one (“I am a villain”). But rather than feel that he has achieved his goal, Richard is suddenly afflicted with moral loathing and self-doubt, a psychological undermining that may contribute to his downfall during the battle.