Sun Imagery in Shakespeare's Richard III Essay

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Sun Imagery in Shakespeare's Richard III

Shakespeare's Richard III is a play pervasive in figurative language, one of the most notable being the symbolic image of the sun and the shadow it casts. In an examination of a short passage from the text, it will be argued that Richard is compared to a shadow in relation to the sun, which has traditionally been held as a symbol of the king. The passage is significant not only because it speaks volumes about the plots of Richard, but also because it is relevant in understanding the overall plot of the play, which in the first few acts is almost indistinguishable from the plot of the scheming Duke of Gloucester.

The comparison of Richard to a shadow is especially clear
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Margaret is clearly referring to her son whom Richard killed, and is, therefore, now a "shade," or a spirit. However, in light of the tradition of associating the king with the image of the sun, the phrase can also be taken to imply that Richard, by turning "the sun to shade," is overshadowing the throne of England. Margaret's son, who could have become king, described by his "bright outshining beams," is fittingly "folded up" by Richard's "cloudy wrath," further alluding to sun imagery.

"Overshadowing" the throne, in the figurative sense, is Richard's plot, however, the plot of the play as a whole takes a different course. Once Richard has gained the throne, the sun imagery is again employed by Shakespeare, but for the purpose of showing his gradual downfall. Entirely because Richard has already convinced himself that he is destined to become a villain, he is unable to play the role of a protagonist. The sun imagery initiated in Act One is carried on throughout the play, often paralleled to Richard's character, and is reechoed for dramatic effect in the last act.

In Act Five Richmond prophetically declares that "the weary sun hath made a golden set," which if nothing else articulates the imminent demise of Richard (5.4.1). In the sixth scene of the same act, Richard states that the sun who "should have braved the east an hour ago" "disdains to shine" but fails to understand the depth of

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