Sunday, December 14, 2008

Reader's Diary #424- William Shakespeare: Richard III

"Now is the winter of our discontent"

Earlier this year I finished reading Shakespeare's King Henry the Sixth plays and mistakenly may have referred to them as a trilogy. While it's true there are three King Henry the Sixth plays, Richard III is more often considered the 4th in the series, making it a tetralogy.

It took me until the third King Henry the Sixth play to enjoy the series, but it was the very wicked Queen Margaret that finally won me over and I was looking forward to meeting her again in Richard III.

Sadly, her role in Richard III is minimal. However, the main reason I didn't enjoy Richard III was it's length. 2nd in length only to Hamlet, Richard III is no Hamlet. At the beginning of the play the action seems slower and admittedly I found myself tuning out, making the plot more than a little confusing at times. It doesn't help matters when several characters start going by different names partway through. Being in the audience would, of course, be a little easier as we could merely recognize the actor as the same person, but for a bored, inattentive reader it wreaks havoc. Were it not for the Internet to get me back up to speed, I'd still be lost. Does anyone use CliffsNotes since the Internet came along?

Richard III is a great villain, very articulate and manipulating, while totally ruthless. Most impressive is his ability to rationalize all his actions:

"Murder her brothers, and then marry her!
Uncertain way of gain! But I am in
So far in blood that sin will pluck on sin:
Tear-falling pity dwells not in this eye."

Even near the end when his conscience finally begins to whisper words of guilt, Richard III soon murders even that:

"Let not our babbling dreams affright our souls;
Conscience is but a word that cowards use"

Great villain, lackluster play.

1 comment:

JK said...

I've studied a lot of Shakespeare, and this is actually my favorite play! Richard is the perfect villain and I love sharing in his outrageous exploits. I still can't get over I ii (I think) where he manages to seduce Anne at her husband's funeral (whom Richard has murdered!). It's also a great play for cursing - cursing others and ultimately cursing oneself - and creative insults.

I'm glad you said Margaret was the best part of the Henry VI series, because I think so too! She's another one of my favorite parts of Richard where she just emerges randomly to mutter curses and to go on bitter tirades.

Definitely consider watching the Richard III movie set in Nazi Germany where Ian McKellen is Richard - truly creepy!