Richard III

Content Group

Overview
Richard III: Edwin Booth as Richard III

This play has been one of Shakespeare's most popular, entirely because of the evil brilliance of its villain hero, Richard Duke of Gloucester, later King Richard III. Inheriting the Tudor blackening of the king whom Henry VII overthrew, Shakespeare turned him into the evil genius epitomising the vices that led to the self-destruction of the Plantagenet dynasty in the War of the Roses. Richard's opening soliloquy entraps audiences in his point of view, reinforced by his black humor at the expense of his often culpable victims, and enjoying his unexpected sexual and political triumphs despite his physical handicaps. Only when his malice is turned to innocent victims like the princes in the Tower do we begin an alienation climaxed at his defeat by the future Henry VII. This distancing is aided by the curses of the various queens and mothers he has offended. From the recorded triumph of Shakespeare's first Richard, Richard Burbage, the play has initiated a legion of great actors, including David Garrick, Edmund Kean, Laurence Olivier, and Antony Sher. Though the play is usually performed in historically appropriate costumes and settings, Ian McKellen succeeded in a production updated to a potentially Nazi Britain in the 1930s.

Images
Richard III, Gerda Lundequist as the Duchess of York, Royal Dramatic Theatre, 1947
Richard III, Julia Arthur as Lady Anne
Richard III: Royal Shakespeare Company, 1984
Richard III: Garrick as Richard III, London, Drury Lane Theatre, 1769
Set for Richard III at the Bruns Theatre: California Shakespeare Theatre, 2007.
"Richard III" at the Bruns Theatre: California Shakespeare Theatre, 2007.
Henry VI, Part 3, Charles Pitt as Richard of Gloucester, 1860

Pages

Slideshows
Bibliography

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Except where otherwise specified, all written commentary is © 2016, Hugh Macrae Richmond