Working in a school, of courseI met several people who seemed genuinely frightened by the eerie sky that only half-illumined our collective journey to work on Monday – some, only some, of them were pupils …
Conditions really were awe-inspiring up here in the frozen North of England.
Richard III: Act I, Sc iii (Ponytail Shakespeare read-through)
Richard has been a part of my life, a surprisingly large part, for about six years or so. In fact, we might call him part of the ‘soundtrack of my life’, since I turned 40. So whilst I try and inevitably fail to do the play justice in these posts, one of the things that’s already settled is the Shakespeare’s Jukebox ‘Soundtrack Album’ that I publish at the end of my amble through the play. Some songs have been ringfenced, so that I don’t use them for any other play … this is one.
If there’s a decidedly ‘camp’ flavour to the jukebox, in fact to these posts (I mean: Mercury, Hasselhoff and now EJ?), it could be down to two factors:
I’m teaching Edward II, to two classes, at the moment (conspiracy theorists, and I like one as much as the next person, will note that these two plays were probably written within months of each other, if not simultaneously); and
this is a camp play. At some stage I might get stuck into the relationship between Richard and Buckingham (a personal theory that causes wide-eyed incredulity in my classes, more often than not)
I’ve often described it as a pantomime for grown-ups. Ironically, because a child’s pantomime is possibly the worst way I can think of spending an evening. Perhaps this takes on board the criticisms of those who favour other, more mature or ‘intellectual’ plays. Richard is gleefully childish and petulant, at least until he becomes king, and there are several times where I want to shout:
He’s behind you!
or similar, at members of the cast: Clarence, Hastings, the young Duke of York, the hapless Burghers of London, at the very least.
But … having ambled through the HVI plays for the first time this year, I have a completely different understanding of and respect for this play. The Bitch is back in Act I scene iii, and there can be only one Bitch (capitalisation intended), as we saw in The Hollow Crown …
If this is the first time you’ve read an essay here, please take a look at this post before proceeding.
Without superstition, Richard III would have been reduced to a relatively mundane and propaganda-tinged retelling of the familiar Tudor ascent to power. Shakespeare’s skilful exploitation of the complex Elizabethan mix of secular and religious beliefs, via Margaret, transforms the play into compelling drama for contemporary and modern audiences.
“The population of Renaissance England was, by modern standards, fervently religious. ‘Atheist’ was an insult too extreme and too ludicrous to be taken seriously.” (Lisa Hopkins and Matthew Steggle: Renaissance Literature and Culture, 2006)
Despite an unwavering belief in the Christian God, the early modern period was remarkably superstitious. Explore how and why Shakespeare uses superstition in the early parts of Richard III (Acts 1-2) Indicative length: 1,000 words.
AO1: Personal Response (30%)
AO2: Analysis of Writer’s Methods (40%)
AO3: Understanding of the role of and influence of Context (10%)
AO5: Exploring different interpretations of the text (20%)