Date of Award

Spring 1999

Document Type

Dissertation - Restricted

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




The greatest challenge when writing about, or when teaching, William Shakespeare's Richard II is arriving at a lucid understanding of the tortuous path to self-understanding that marks its enigmatic main character's time on stage. It is not surprising, therefore, that critics often express frustration at uncovering the significance of Richard's frequently schizophrenic and rhetorically exorbitant acts of self-definition. These outbursts occur so frequently that they lead many critics to think of Richard as a character of little substance. Lois Potter, for example, believes there to be "no doubt that [Richard's] elaborate language is used as a substitute for action and, to that extent, is a symbol of weakness" (33). D. J. Palmer, who, in "The Self-Awareness of the Tragic Hero" deals with that group of Shakespearean "heroes whose sense of identity is subverted by a crisis that precipitates unbidden reflection, an involuntary confrontation with the inner self" (131), does not help Richard's case either. One would expect Richard to play a significant role in an essay so titled, but Palmer devotes only a single line to him. Even Michael Quinn, who finds much that is worthy in Richard's character, still finds him guilty of a most "pitiful abdication of self-hood" (182)...



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