The Great Richard III Experiment Begins

Ok, so, pointers from many directions coming that say we should talk more about Richard III.  I’ve admitted in the past that this is perhaps the largest gap in my Shakespeare knowledge – I’ve not seen it, nor read it (at least in any sense other than 20 years ago when I read them all through and have forgotten much).

So begins my quest to add R3 to my list.  I will post here as I work my way through it.  This will no doubt also involve watching the Ian McKellen movie version, which I’m told is outstanding.

So, any tips before I dig in?  I have one big question – how much do the other histories act as prequel to this one?  If I’m about as generally familiar with the histories as I am with this one (and by that I mean, other than a few plot points, not much!) am I going to miss a great deal by just jumping in to R3?  Not that I have the time or patience to go back and read everything, but I am curious.

If you’ve got favorite scenes or other bits, let me know – I’ll mark them for later so I can pay particular attention and generate some discussion topics once I’ve caught up.

10 thoughts on “The Great Richard III Experiment Begins

  1. Richard III has always been one of my favorites. I really think at least skimming Henry VI 2 and especially 3 could be useful– especially when it comes to understanding Queen Margaret's role. She's a fascinating character and I think that her evolution from young princess at the end of Henry VI 1 to the prophetic old woman in Richard III is one of the most interesting character developments in all of Shakespeare. The scene between the queens is really one of my favorite scenes in all of Shakespeare– it's a sublime balance. Incidentally, Richard III is being put on at the Utah Shakespearean Festival this season.

  2. I feel that this one both stands alone pretty nicely and interacts interestingly with the rest of the history. I'd say R3 is a good entry into the histories. Darthlaurie is right that Margaret's is an interesting character arc, but the reason you care about it is because of her role here in Richard. I don't think R3 is one you have to prep for. Just trust it. It plants many seeds that you'll enjoy harvesting for years.

  3. Richard III was my favorite play before I read any of the Henry VI plays, so I don't think they are absolutely necessary. However, once you've read the Henry VI plays, you get a lot of references in Richard III you might otherwise have missed.

    I'm happy to give you the highlights – key points in the Henry VI plays that would give context to Richard III – but as these could be considered spoilers, I'll only do it if you want me to.

  4. I read Richard III before any of the Henry VIs, but I felt I understood Richard's character much better after I read them, primarily, after I read Henry VI, Part 3. Richard does not appear in Part 1 and appears briefly in Part 2, but he enters in Part 3 bearing the head of a slain enemy. It's a pretty great entrance, I have to say. Everything that happens in Part 3 (The death of Richard's brother and father at Margaret's hands, Clifford's betrayal, Edward's womanizing, and Richard's own killing of Prince Edward and King Henry) turn Richard into the cynical, monstrous, and endlessly charismatic figure we see in Richard III. I think the character's very best monologue of all is his first big speech, in Part 3, in which he realizes with sublime glee "Why, I can smile, and murder while I smile." This is great stuff. You don't need to read Part 1 or 2, though they're both worthwhile. But Part 3 is a must-read.

  5. Hi Duane,
    I agree with darthlaurie–especially about part 3 of Henry VI when it comes to Richard and character development. It's not absolutely necessary but it can be fun.
    Also, as I think I've suggested once upon a time, you really should see Olivier's Richard if possible. Although Sir Larry edits and transposes some scenes with abandon, he also plays the role the same way. It's a classical hoot. Have fun.

  6. I got dragged away for a while teaching and guest artist-ing, trying to start private classes, dramaturg-ing, etc.–you know, the usual mixed bag we out of work actors try to make a buck at.–Also been spending a lot of time commenting after getting caught up in the politico scene. It was somehow easier than committing so much time to 'blogging'. Then I realized I was spending as much time doing that too. PS. I left a comment on the "Actor, Poet, Playwright thread too. I saw the 'wherefore art thou' post recently–Thanks Duane. Nice to be back.

  7. Welcome back to the scene, J. 🙂

    I see no comments on the Actor/Poet/Playwright post, by the way. Not sure if you *just* made that I don't see it yet, or if something went wrong.

  8. Okay. Probably my fault at sign in. I redid it. It's even longer than the first one–sure you want to be so quick to welcome me back? 🙂

  9. "Why, I can smile, and murder while I smile."

    …And set the murtherous Machevill to Schoole…

    One of my favorite lines from the same passage–but there are so many good ones. I agree, Alexi. A great and beautiful monster of a declaration, with such memorable images rattled off like so much submachine gun fire. One of the great solos in my opinion. Although the rest of 3Henry6 is important prep, this one soliloquy could almost serve as a stand-alone Prologue to R3 all by itself.

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