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Only when we see Shakespeare in his original historical context can we understand what his plays and poems really mean.

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Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Playing Richard III For Laughs?

I read an interesting article in the Daily Mail about Mark Rylance's performance of Richard III at the Globe.

The critic didn't like the fact that Rylance plays Richard for laughs, and calls the production "a foolish interpretation."



Sadly, I won't be able to see this production, but I am encouraged by the fact that Rylance and director Tim Carroll tried to highlight the comedy in the play.

Because there is a lot of it.

My personal favorite joke in the entire play is in Act 1 Scene 3, when Queen Margaret goes on a tirade and is about to curse Richard:

QUEEN MARGARET
Thou elvish-mark'd, abortive, rooting hog!
Thou that wast seal'd in thy nativity
The slave of nature and the son of hell!
Thou slander of thy mother's heavy womb!
Thou loathed issue of thy father's loins!
Thou rag of honour! thou detested--
RICHARD
Margaret. 

Richard interrupts her and says her name, thereby making her curse herself instead! Hilarious.

I find a lot of humor in Act 1 Scene 2 when Richard seduces Anne. If you read it straight, it's a bore. The whole seduction is really over the top, and Richard is at his charismatic and humorous best in this scene. My favorite part is when Anne tells Richard, the man who killed her husband that he belongs in Hell:

LADY ANNE
And thou unfit for any place but hell.
RICHARD
Yes, one place else, if you will hear me name it.
LADY ANNE
Some dungeon.
RICHARD
Your bed-chamber.

Shakespeare's audience must have howled with laughter when they heard these lines for the first time.

In my adaptation of Richard III, there is more humor than drama. More than tell his audience an historical story,  I am convinced that Shakespeare wanted them to laugh.

The critic in the Daily Mail closes his review with: "Give me a Richard who provokes revulsion, not titters."

I think he misses the point. I think Shakespeare's Richard is all the more villainous because he is funny and charismatic.


Cheers,


David B. Schajer