Saturday, June 29, 2013

Week 7 - Richard III

In which we consider character.

While reading Richard III, I was particularly drawn to the soliloquies, because Aaron's were so intriguing in the last play I read, Titus Andronicus. I'm not quite sure how to feel about Richard's in this one. Some of the language is masterful, but does it really tell us what makes this guy tick?

I don't know, guys. "I'm bad because I'm ugly"? "I'm bad because I can't have the nice shit everyone else does"? It's not unbelievable, but it isn't quite enough for me to understand why he wants so badly to be King, or why he's willing to do so many awful things to attain that position (Spoiler Alert: he has his two young nephews murdered, and attempts to marry his niece). And it's not just Richard. 

The film makes some significant changes to the play, but it doesn't escape the thorny problem of why on earth Anne gives in to Richard when he murdered her husband. Later on she says she was won over by his eloquence, but come on. 

One of the things that makes Shakespeare's work great is that it demonstrates an understanding that people sometimes behave strangely, in ways that are out of keeping with their general character. That's what makes them so compelling. But here, I think he hasn't gone far enough to show why the characters make some of the decisions they do. 

BONUS: Here's a good video exploring the issues around the historical Richard III and the Shakespearean Richard III. It's more interesting than it sounds:

DOUBLE BONUS: Here's the creepiest line from the play. This is Richard talking to Queen Elizabeth (if you're not too clear on English history this is Edward IV's wife, NOT Queen Elizabeth I). Richard has murdered her two sons, his nephews, and now he wants to marry her daughter, who is his niece by blood:

"But in your daughter's womb I bury them,
Where, in that nest of spicery, they will breed
Selves of themselves, to your recomfiture"
Richard III, 4.4.46-48

Using the imagery of her dead sons being buried in her daughter's womb by their uncle so they can come back to life, like her uterus is some sort of Pet Sematary? So weird she doesn't go for that. 

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