Modern criticism of dreams in Shakespearean drama, such as Frankie Rubinstein and Kay Stockholder, often focus upon psychoanalysis, where therapy investigates the unconscious mind to discover repressed fears and brings them to the conscious mind. Several critics have observed the importance of Shakespeare’s works as the base material for later, Freudian theories on the significance of dreams in human psychology. Significantly, Frankie Rubinstein, 1986 located Shakespeare’s dramatization of dreams as perhaps the forefather of Sigmund Freud’s ‘dream-material.’ Kay Stockholder,1987, examined the unconscious blending of violence and sexuality in Shakespeare’s tragedy of Macbeth, uncovering the deep-seated and perverse motivations in the half-waking dreams of the play’s title character. This analysis of the dramatic significance of dreams within Macbeth, suggests that dreams within Richard lll have a similar purpose, representing perhaps Richard’s consciousness, exploring man’s animal nature and motifs such as good and evil. Richard is a clear influence and inspiration for Macbeth as both title characters are noblemen that usurp the crown through methods of deceitfulness, murder, and treachery, who meet tragically heroic ends. This suggests that the presence of dreams within both is a symbolic and meaningful dramatic technique within both tragedies. Similarly, Simon O. Lesser has discussed Macbeth as a play driven by the unconscious dreams and fantasies of its protagonist. Contrastingly, Richard lll follows the dreams or prophecies of his victims just before their untimely demises differentiating Macbeth from Richard lll. This shows that dreams have a dramatic significance in Richard lll, as they represent the consciousness of those experiencing the dreams. Therefore the victims of Richard have nightmares of their murders, whereas Richard is haunted by the ghosts of his victims showing his malicious nature and lack of innocence.
Act 5, Scene 3, introduces the ghosts who Richard has murdered beginning with the entrance of the ghost of the young Prince Edward the son to Harry the Sixth, Richard’s first murder. Henry the Sixth is contrasted against Richard in Act 2, Scene 3, when Citizen One tells the audience of Henry the Sixth’s crowing at ‘but nine months old’ reminding us of how great a monarch he was. His ghosts link to the politics of England’s past, present and future and also Richard’s tyrannical journey to the crown. This solemn ritual parade of innocent and naive victims can be interpreted as similar to the lamentations scenes in Richard lll held between female characters within the play such as Act Two Scene Two, with the two children of Clarence and the Duchess, innocent and powerless characters, lamenting over the recent murder of Clarence, a victim of Richards’s hand. This creates a stark difference between the two leaders, Richard and Richmond shown through their consciousness in their dreams. Richmond experiences a joyous and victorious dream, in contrast to Richard’s nightmare, this shows Richmond’s goodness and right for the throne of England. All of Richard’s ghosts speak condemning phrases to Richard and tell him he’ll die in battle and then turn to Richmond and encourage him. Buckingham’s ghost tells Richard to ‘die in terror of thy guiltiness’ forcing Richard to realise his wrongdoings and that he’s a murderer. This suggests a tormented consciousness, leading to Richard in a soliloquy to question whether he loves himself and what he fears. Afraid, he realizes he doesn’t love himself, questioning his morals and machiavellian-like ambitions. Richard now sees himself from different angles, with the ghosts representing his consciousness and moral recognition of what he has done. Richmond’s dream has an entirely juxtaposing effect upon the future leader as Buckingham’s ghost tells Buckingham after condemning Richard that ‘God and good angels fight on Richmond’s side’. Richmond is the true hope for the ghosts and the good of England. The repetition of the phrases and messages from the ghosts in Act 5 adds cumulative power to them. Ironically this power that leaves Richard weakened and questioning himself, mentally, comes from those Richard abused and manipulated for his ploys to achieve the throne. This shows that through the ghost’s approval of Richmond after witnessing the immoral actions of Richard, the new king must be viewed as a saviour and hero for England.
The symbolic themes of heaven to encourage Richmond and condemn Richard, show the motif of divine right for the rulers of England, which is a metaphysical belief that a King or Queen is pre-selected for the throne before their birth. Richard’s deformities described in Act One during his opening soliloquy as he describes himself as ‘deformed, unfinished,sent before my time’ and ‘cheated of feature by dissembling Nature’ and his short-term tyrannical rule leads the audience to interpret that Richard is not chosen for the throne by God. The capitalization of ‘Nature’ suggests that ‘Nature’ represents God, who has denied Richard of the features he desires. Richard is not chosen by God, and neither do the ghosts choose Richard as the worthy leader for England.
Although Margaret is only featured in two scenes, Shakespeare shapes the play around her prophecies and in the Holinshed Chronicles, it is proven that during this period, she was in France. Her limited presence is consequently far more significant, adding more depth and power to her prophecies. Margaret’s prophecies in Act One, Scene Three that ‘the worm of conscience still begnaw thy soul ‘, throughout Richard’s nightmare in Act Five Richard delves into his consciousness completing Margaret’s prophecy. Furthermore, Margaret curses Richard to have ‘no sleep close up that deadly eye of thine, unless it be while some tormenting dream. Affrights thee with a hell of ugly devils’ in Act One, Scene 3 Consequently he then goes and checks the tents to make sure that his armies do not betray him in Act Five after his encounter with the ghosts of his treacherous murders, showing the fear the dreams implemented into Richard. Margaret’s prophecies have been fulfilled, inciting fear into Richard. Additionally, this shows the power that the prophecies had demonstrated the supernatural power of Margaret and the dreams that Richard and Richmond experience in Act Five.