I've read several of Shakespeare's tragedies and comedies but Richard III is the first history play that I've read. I suppose it must seem a bit odd that I read the final War of the Roses play first but I was assigned to read Richard III in my second year at uni. I never actually managed to finish the play though and I've been meaning to go back to it ever since.
I was somewhat disappointed by Richard III. I liked it well enough but Richard and Margaret are the only interesting characters and there were a lot of scenes in the play that I found pointless and boring: were all of those scenes with those random citizens really necessary for example?! I think this play is too long. But having said that there are some brilliant scenes in Richard III - the opening scene, the two Margaret scenes, Richard's seduction of Anne - and Richard is a compelling villain.
I'm still excited about seeing The Hollow Crown's adaptation of the play next year. I'm sure the play is far more entertaining when it's seen live, or in this case acted-out. I know there are a lot of people out there who don't see the point in reading Shakespeare's plays at all. "You wouldn't read a film script", they say, "Shakespeare's plays were written to be performed. If you don't see them live then you're not going to appreciate them properly. It's as simple as that." That argument has always made me feel indignant in the past. There are quite a few Shakespeare plays that I first encountered through reading and I still found completely gripping and engaging: Othello, Hamlet, Much Ado About Nothing, Macbeth, Coriolanus. I think I understood those plays perfectly well thank you very much! However I can't deny that I didn't particularly like The Tempest when I read it only to love it when I eventually got to see it live. I hate to admit it but I guess the naysayers might have a point. I'm sure I'll enjoy The Hollow's Crown's Richard III. According to my introduction the play is often shortened when performed and I think the actors will be able to flesh out the secondary characters more. And Benedict Cumberbatch is playing Richard which is, you know, amazing!