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Richard III

Richard III


by William Shakespeare

Richard III Man and the Natural World Quotes

How we cite our quotes: (Act.Scene.Line). Line numbers correspond to the Norton edition.

Quote #1

Now is the winter of our discontent
Made glorious summer by this sun of York;
And all the clouds that lowr'd upon our house
In the deep bosom of the ocean buried. (1.1.1)

Here Richard compares the seasons to the well-being of England. On the surface, the line suggests that Richard is celebrating his brother Edward's ascension to the throne, as though his coronation had transformed winter to summer. Actually though, if we read carefully, the construction of the line belies Richard's happiness for his brother. The opening line of a play often sets the tone. Richard's first words, "Now is the winter of our discontent" probably more aptly sum up the play than any other line. They refer to the here and now, which Richard intends to make miserable. The play is really about the darkest of dark times, and only with Richard's death will England's long winter end, to be followed by a summer rebirth with the union of Richmond and young Elizabeth.

Quote #2

I-that am curtail'd of this fair proportion,
Cheated of feature by dissembling nature,
Deform'd, unfinish'd, sent before my time
Into this breathing world scarce half made up,
And that so lamely and unfashionable
That dogs bark at me as I halt by them-
Why, I, in this weak piping time of peace,
Have no delight to pass away the time,
Unless to spy my shadow in the sun
And descant on mine own deformity.
And therefore, since I cannot prove a lover
To entertain these fair well-spoken days,
I am determined to prove a villain
And hate the idle pleasures of these days. (1.1.1)

Richard speaks of himself as unnatural, brought into the world before he was fully formed. He's referring to his body (remember, he was thought to have a hunchback), but he segues into talking about how he is morally underdeveloped as well. With the line "I am determined to prove a villain," Richard has essentially made the link between his underdevelopment and his wickedness. Had he been better formed, he would have human kindness, but just as his body was not perfectly formed, morality did not form in him either. It seems that Richard lacks human goodness and kindness by his very nature, not by choice.

Quote #3

Villain, thou knowest nor law of God nor man:
No beast so fierce but knows some touch of pity.
But I know none, and therefore am no beast. (1.2.5)

Richard is constantly compared to animals in this play.  Here, however, he deftly maneuvers around it.  Anne claims even beasts know pity, and Richard claims that because he knows no pity, then he must not be a beast.

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