Thursday, 5 February 2015

'Richard III' by William Shakespeare (1600)

Synopsis: Richard III is the conclusion of Shakespeare's War of the Roses history plays. It seems that the War of the Roses have finally come to an end with the defeat of Henry VI and the House of Lancaster. Edward IV of the House of York is the new King of England and his younger brother Richard is the Duke of Gloucester. Richard is a bitter and deformed hunchback who has decided to become a villain. He is determined to take the throne of England and by any means necessary. Although Henry's widow Margaret of Anjou attempts to warn the nobility of Richard's true intentions she is ignored. Richard is able to lie, manipulate and murder his way to the throne. However as soon as Richard becomes king his reign is immediately put under threat. The exiled Henry Tudor has a claim to the throne and has returned from Brittany. The noblemen that Richard has managed to alienate then flock to Henry's side and Richard is forced to defend the throne that he usurped.

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!

Rating: 3/5


Anonymous said...

I almost forgot to tell you- Tom was talking to a blacksmith colleague at Corfe castle who is making the armour that Benedict will be wearing in Richard III. Maybe you should think about retraining as a blacksmith!

Hamlette said...

I really enjoyed the Ian McKellen version, though I haven't seen it for many years.

Hannah said...

Ms MRples - *Moe voice* Whaaaaa?! The blacksmith trade really is a glamorous position! First Tom gets to design things for The Avengers set and now this?! I've, I've wasted my career!

Hamlette - I've heard good things about that film! I'll probably check it out at some point although probably I probably won't watch it any time too soon...

Lianne @ said...

Great post! Richard definitely made for a compelling villain; the stuff he does is absolutely dispicable, but yet I'm completely glued to the story, wanting to find out what happens next or how he's going to respond to events around him. I'm looking forward to the next cycle of The Hollow Crown (the reason why I got around to reading the second batch of War of the Roses plays), I'm sure it'll be amazing & Benedict Cumberbatch an interesting Richard :)

I totally hear you about the whole "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." bit. There were a lot of plays I read last year--Julius Caesar, Othello--as well as from before--Twelfth Night, Hamlet--that I enjoyed. I recently got around to listening to the plays more so, which adds the experience, as well as watching them (as you saw in one of my recent posts), but yeah, reading it doesn't diminish the understanding or the experience at all.

Hannah said...

Regarding your last point, thank you! I was glad to find someone else who agreed with me and I really enjoyed reading your whole comment :)