Richard III

Free Richard III by William Shakespeare

Book: Richard III by William Shakespeare Read Free Book Online
Authors: William Shakespeare
various newspaper critics described the performance:
    Howard’s Gloucester is not an unfathomable monster; still less a scourge of God visited upon a sacrilegious land. He is a cripple getting even with those who have the use of their legs … Besides the surgical boot, Mr. Howard is encumbered with a chain round the left thigh which he has to tug to get the leg moving. 28
    His dangling right arm seems to contain a built-in dagger ever ready to point at people’s throats. 29
    Where all recent Richards have limped and scuttled efficiently round the stage, this one is uncomfortable, liable to stumble, often in pain … while Buckingham talks to the citizens, he practices a straight walk with slow agonized concentration, a performance he repeats at his coronation.… As this Richard’s preoccupation with his grotesque body grows, so does his suspicious isolationfrom those around him. When Buckingham lightly says that he would play the orator “as if the fee were for myself,” he eyes him with real suspicion … This is no Mr. Punch, but the bitter self-hating Richard of an earlier tradition. 30
    David Troughton, who played Richard in the manner of a sinister clown in Steven Pimlott’s 1995 production, was helped in his performance by relating Richard’s deformity to a genuine medical condition:
    According to history, Richard had come into the world feet first, a breach birth … As Richard was dragged out by his feet, one of his hips might have been displaced causing extreme discomfort all his life. As he grew up, because of the pain of walking, a severe limp would develop, forcing his spine to grow crooked, giving the appearance of one shoulder being higher than the other … His arm could also have been deformed at birth or through an illness such as polio. In pain all his life? What an insight into a character. Here was one very simple explanation for Richard’s malevolence. 31
    In modern productions Richard is also often associated with childishness, exhibiting the selfish amorality of a young child who only sees his own needs. This might be the arrested development of a man of war in a domestic, social world. Anton Lesser (1988) described how in the first half of the play Richard “is entirely concerned with getting”:
    “I want that, I want that” and then “I’ve got it, I’ve got it … Oh, I’m bored now.” So I decided to rush to the throne with a scream of possessive delight and leap into it … they all go and just leave him sitting there on his own in a throne that is miles too big for him, his legs dangling down like a little child’s, quite unable to reach the floor. The pathos of that image is important at this pivotal point in the play, the wild excitement of leaping into that seat followed in a second or two by the loneliness and stillness of the little figure dwarfed by it. 32
    In Sean Holmes’ 2003 production childhood became an essential theme and part of the scenic design, even extending to the throne, which looked like an outsized high chair:
    [A] rocking-horse became connected with the young Duke of York, Richard’s namesake … it provided a link with Richard’s own childhood … on a horse, even a rocking horse, he is freed of his deformity and becomes big and grown-up and cured of his illness … at the end, the rocking horse would reappear when … the ghosts were revealed, young York now riding it with terrible energy, and Richard’s cry “My kingdom for a horse” taking on a disturbing sense of the need to escape again into childhood innocence. 33
    The production also featured inclusion of an unscripted character, “a page, a young boy in his own image … a frequent, silent presence near Richard, his only companion.” 34
    In 1970 Norman Rodway’s performance verged on that of the naughty adolescent. When sealing Hastings’ fate at the council meeting, he “fairly shrieks with delight as he jumps away from Hastings, leaving

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