Pam Webb

a writer's journey as a reader

Rethinking Richard

My usual method of taking on a new Shakespeare play is through immersion by multitudinous pathway: reading it, watching it live and an adaptation, listening to an audio play, and for good measure, a simpler version such as a graphic nivel. For some reason Richard III has fallen on my path and I keep tripping over him on my way to brighter choices like Twelfth Night or Much Ado.

I suppose it began with hints of Richard. After all, I wasn’t particularly attracted to this rotter of a king whose “bunched back toad” appearance served as a metaphor for his morals. Family get togethers must have been terribly strained when he showed up at the table, having offed brothers, and nephews and not even showing a drop of remorse. 

I think the interest began with Terry Jones’ superb Medieval history series when he mentioned Richard’s deformities probably weren’t true. Well, that’s the Bard for you, isn’t it? Making metaphors out of molehills, or just moles. I got your back took on a different once penned and crowned.

I came stumbled upon Ian Holm’s teledrama years ago, but it was so horribly dreary I didn’t think about Richard until recently. All of a sudden there a Richard factor emerged: skeletons, a steamy Philippa adaptation, Benedict’s Hollow Crown, Mark Rylance’s stand up comic version, with Sir Ian’s despotic 1930’s cinematic splash tossed into the mix.

And then I came upon Joshephine Tey’s The Daughter of Time in which the history of Richard becomes  a whodunnit or in this case, didhedoit?

The hubs pointed out that the Shakespeare in the Park production this year will be–who guessed it, Richard III.

I’m still not a fan of Richard, in fact, I’m not sure I’m richer with my wealth of Richard. I do appreciate the Bard all the more because he convinced people for hundreds of years that Richard was a “bottled spider” and with imagery like that, why believe anything else? 

Richard is right up there with King Lear for body count and tragical consequences of bad kingmanship.  I’m not quite ready to take on Lear. One dysfunctional king at a time, thanks. Here are a few Richards of contemplation.

What plays are on your TGTK (to get to know) list?

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5 thoughts on “Rethinking Richard

  1. I really want to delve into Lear a bit. I know the story, but I don’t recall ever actually seeing any kind of adaptation. But I’ve got the Henrys to get through yet, and the Richards (I’m excited to revisit Richard II), and then maybe Lear.

    • There are a couple of adaptations of note: Ian Holm and Ian McKellan. If you go to IMdB you’ll see there have been numerous adaptations made. Are you watching the Hollow Crown series for the Henrys and Richards? They are amazing.

      • I watched a documentary back in April about Lear and all the adaptations of it – in that I saw clips of the one with McKellen in it and I thought it looked pretty great, so I think that’s where I’ll start (when I eventually start).

        I have the box set of the first few seasons of The Hollow Crown, but I haven’t watched them yet as I just haven’t had the time to sit down and focus on them properly. I’ve seen clips though and I’m really excited to watch them – there are so many excellent actors in them.

      • The Henrys with Tom H are the best. Benedict is a mesmerizing Richard. I will be interested in your opinion.

  2. King Lear was a fascinating play, especially seeing a particularly gruesome bit acted out in Stratford, on stage I hasten to add. Plays are something I really get around to but on the waiting list, I have various Ibsen’s on the list as well as Shakespeare and Beckett too.

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