Richard II

Richard II's Final Soliloquy: A Study in Self-Realization

William Shakespeare's The Tragedy of King Richard II, first published in a quarto edition in 1597, is the first in a sequence of four history plays known as the second tetrology, which deal with the early phases of a power struggle between the houses of Lancaster and York. The Richard II of the play has been called both mercurial and self-indulgent; however, several sustained soliloquies in the play demonstrate how deeply realized his character is. During one of these soliloquies, which takes place after his imprisonment and before his murder, he seems to rediscover the qualities of pride, trust, and courage that he lost when dethroned-and so goes onward to meet his death with a spirit more powerful than ever before.

The scene (5.5), begins in the keep of Pomfret Castle, where Richard is being held prisoner, and starts on a despondent note as he tries to reconcile his life in prison with the life he led as king:

I have been studying how I may compare

This prison where I live unto the world;

And, for because the world is populous,

And here is not a creature but myself,

I cannot do it. Yet I'll hammer it out. (5.5.1-5)

Despite his despondency, Richard begins to explore how he might live his life out within the microcosm of the...

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