‘What do I fear? Myself?’
Nightmares, conscience and the ‘Gothic’ self in Richard III
in Gothic Renaissance
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Per Sivefors investigates Renaissance dream theories in relation to notions of conscience, arguing for an increasingly ‘ambiguous status of conscience [which] pushes dreams in direction of a psychologizing approach – dreams as revealing truths about the human self’ after the Reformation. Thus the Reformation shift towards linking individualized interiority, conscience and guilt is seen as prefiguration of the ‘internalized conscience’ of the Gothic (Sage). In this context the (proto-)Gothicism of the nightmares in Shakespeare’s Richard III is connected to their ‘function of a guilty conscience’. The ‘staged vision of the ghosts becomes an image of Richard’s divided interior’ as ‘the level of introspection is more important than the level of divine retribution’. In this sense the Shakespearean nightmares anticipate ‘an irresolution between supernatural and psychological causes’ in Gothic fiction (Hogle 213).

Gothic Renaissance

A reassessment

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