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Henry VI, Part III

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Richard III December 2, 2011 12:00 AM | Tagged as Al Pacino, contest, controversy, feature, King, Richard III, War of the Roses

December's Play of the Month;

Richard III

“Now is the winter of our discontent..." And so the play begins. As I have mentioned in a previous blog, I have mixed feelings about this play. On one hand, I have always been intrigued by the “historical” figure of Richard III. On the other, I love the play but it is not consistent with what is known about the actual historical Richard III. 

I first heard about Richard III from the Shakespeare play as a young teen, when I learned the accusations about hime killing the two boys. Then, when I was a young married mother, I heard about the book “The Daughter of Time”, by Josephine Tey.  Since it was about Richard, I read it, not knowing there was another side to his story. Another great book about Richard is “The Sunne in Splendour”, by Sharon Kay Penman. It is one of my favorite books. Now many years later, I have come to the conclusion that the two, the character in the play and the historical man are quite different and distinct. I also learned that can enjoy both. Especially because I now better understand W Shakespeare's situation when he wrote the play. He knew well who was paying him for his work, and he wrote in a way that would please the Tudors. 

Now to the play; Richard III is the culmination of the four plays that cover the history of The War of the Roses (1455-1485). The play is named after the two roses that represented the two families involved, the house of Lancaster (the red rose) and the House of York (the white rose).  This dynastic war lasted 30 years but there were only about 13 weeks of actual fighting spread across those 30 years. 

The first three of the four plays are Henry VI parts 1, 2, and 3. While these three plays are good, in my opinion they are kind of boring. For me, the best way to see them is to have the three plays combined and reduced into one play. Then all the boring parts are taken out and you get about 50 years of history in 2 hours, told in Shakespeare's words. This is how I recently saw this performed by the Southwest Shakespeare Co. in Arizona. It was great! They entitled the compilation of these three plays: “Blood Royal”. They ended this show with Richard III dramatically holding his infant nephew, the future Edward V, saying, “Now, is the winter of our discontent”.

There are numerous historical facts to support that prove Richard, Duke of Gloucester, was not an evil hunchback, the way Shakespeare chose to portray him in the play. Richard III is one of the most performed plays of all of Shakespeare’s plays. It is a study of evil, manipulation, and duplicity.  Even after all of the evil things that Richard does in this play, Shakespeare wrote it so that the audience doesn't hate him at all. I think it has some of the best “one liners” of any of his plays. The sad thing about this to me is that it perpetuates the unsupported idea that Richard had his nephews killed and I personally refuse to believe he did that!  Of course, that is something that everyone will need to decide for themselves. 

If you are going to see this play, I suggest you watch the documentary “Looking For Richard” first. It was written, directed and produced by Al Pacino, and it won the "Best Documentary" at the 1997 Academy Awards. It dissects the play in an entertaining and insightful way. You'll also learn a lot about Shakespeare’s interesting style of writing. You'll also get to see “The Globe” theatre in London when it was under construction. 

Watch this blog for quotes and trivia questions throughout this month from Richard III and maybe you can win the "Charm of the Month" by answering my question from Richard III!

Have a great Decmeber and a VERY Merry Christmas!