Casting a darkly mythical aura around Richard III, supernatural elements are intrinsic to this Shakespearean history play. The prophetic dreams of Clarence and Stanley blur the line between dream and reality, serving to foreshadow impending doom. The ghosts that appear before Richard III and Richmond before their battle create an atmosphere of dread and suspense, and they also herald Richard's destiny. The curses of three female royalties are fulfilled at the end, serving as reminders that the divine powers are stronger than Richard's malice. Together, the supernatural elements of dreams, ghosts, and curses unify the plot of Richard III and allow the divine to triumph over evil.
Dreams can lead even a king awry, as in the case of King Edward IV who ?hearkens after prophecies and dreams? and wrongly locks Clarence up in the Tower (I, i. 53). Thus, Clarence and Stanley?s prophetic dreams are taken somewhat lightly by both characters, even though their dreams not only predict the future, but are also laden with symbolism. Clarence dreams that his brother Richard III causes his drowning at sea. Almost immediately afterwards, Clarence is killed and drowned in a cask of wine by Richard?s hired murderers. His dream paralleling reality, Clarence speaks of the horror and the pain of drowning: ?O Lord! Methought what pain it was to drown,/What dreadful noise of waters in my ears,/What sights of ugly death within my eyes? (I, iv. 21-23). This speech evokes sympathy for Clarence, so that although he too participated in the killing of Edward, the son of Henry VI, he is no longer the main character to blame ? the burden of the atrocious crime is laid upon Richard III, the killer of his own ...
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Altering the ?facts? of Richard III?s history, supernatural elements inconspicuously blend into the play and create a strong backbone for the plot. Clarence and Stanley?s dreams bridge the abyss between dream and reality, while the ghosts? appearance lends horror to the play and reminds all that the higher powers will triumph over mortal evils. The curses of the female royalties add psychological and supernatural forces to drive the character?s actions, thus furthering the plot. Dreams, ghosts, and curses ? these supernatural elements all have a natural place in Richard III, for they weave together the fascinating horror in the storyline and ensure that the tyranny of a mortal man will not reign in the end.
Shakespeare, William. Richard III. The Norton Shakespeare. Ed. Greenblatt, Stephen. New York: W.W. Norton & Co. Inc., 1997. 515-596.
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