Friday, July 19, 2013

Richard III by William Shakespeare

I saw this play on the stage once, and that performance has never left my mind. It was performed on a completely empty stage, no sets whatsoever, which was surrounded on all four sides by the audience. It was absolutely amazing how the actors pulled it off, making every person in the room (well, me, at least) feel like Richard was talking DIRECTLY TO THEM.

We watched bits of a couple different film versions in my class, but even though they seemed to be masterfully done, there's just nothing that could compare to the King Richard I remember, staggering around on an empty stage, unfolding his horrible plots.

I really loved this play back then, and I still love it now, but one of the things I didn't get about it reading it this time around was all the women. They all hate Richard because they know what he did...or do they? I mean, how do they know? Do they just assume it was him because he's ugly? It's kind of hard to get mad at them when he really did do all those things, though. And then they end up conforming to his wishes, anyway, despite all their professed hatred. Why do they do this? Are they afraid of what he'll do? They don't seem very afraid when they yell at him and spit on him.

I kind of scared myself with how sympathetic I was to Richard as I read the play. I actually wanted him to win a little bit. I was actually sad when his friends didn't show up to help him fight. I almost wanted him to have a happily-ever-after...even though I knew it wasn't possible.

Why? It's hard to explain. One explanation is that it's harder to get the sense of Richard's evil when I'm just reading the play. Instead, I was hit by the way other people hate him, and the weakness of the characters who blindly trust him (like Clarence). Richard is the one character in the play who has genuine power. He can get what he wants.

But I also happen to believe that the real-life Richard III was a good person. This is not something I've studied, but my mom and grandmother have, and they love him. So I'm already biased toward Richard, even blindly so. (Seriously, I admit to knowing nothing about it, but I just have to trust my mom when it comes to history. I do intend to read more about it, though.)

Anyway, I love this play just as much as I ever have, but it's seemed a lot more complicated to me this time around.


  1. I haven't actually read this one ::hangs head:: Yet! But I saw the Ian McKellan version, and it was staggeringly good. I also don't find him particularly villainous, though of course Shakespeare was bound by the politics of his day to portray Richard III the way he did.

    1. I started watching the Ian McKellan version, then stopped because I realized it was rated R and I don't normally watch R-rated movies...and I was afraid that it would be super violent... (It was one of the ones my teacher showed a bit of in class and it looked really, really good.) Yes, that's true; I don't blame Shakespeare for writing it the way he did, but I would probably have some kind of sympathy for Richard no matter what he did.