“A thousand several tongues”: The Drama of Conscience and the Complaint of the Other in Shakespeare’s Richard III

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1 Scopus citations

Abstract

This essay explores the ethical dimensions of Shakespeare’s Richard III by examining the relationship between the play’s ghost scene and early modern discourses of conscience. While the ghosts that visit Richard and accuse him of responsibility for their deaths have typically been interpreted as figures of his tormented conscience, my reading focuses on the significance of the fact that the ghosts appear to the theatrical audience as phenomenologically external to Richard. Drawing on the work of Adriana Cavarero, I suggest that their speaking voices call attention to their identities as distinct individuals and to the relation between themselves and Richard. By showing that Richard’s conscience emerges in response to the ghosts’ complaints, I argue that Shakespeare represents conscience as the capacity for ethical response to the voices of others, rather than simply an internal faculty engaged through self-examination.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)118-135
Number of pages18
JournalExemplaria
Volume29
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Apr 3 2017

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.

Keywords

  • Richard III
  • Shakespeare
  • complaint
  • conscience
  • ethics
  • phenomenology
  • voice

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Literature and Literary Theory

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