Shakespeare Solved ®

Shakespeare Solved ® is a forthcoming series of novels that covers the Bard's entire life and work.

These novels solve the mysteries surrounding Shakespeare by transporting us back in time, to walk in his shoes, and see his world through his eyes.

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

This blog explains some of my ideas and discoveries, to prepare for this series of novels.

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The University of Oxford's Bodleian Library & The Royal Shakespeare Company

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Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Benedict Cumberbatch as Shakespeare's Richard III

Thrilling news!

Benedict Cumberbatch will play Richard III!

He has agreed to be part of the next series of Hollow Crown BBC2 TV adaptations of Shakespeare. It will be televised after a two-part version of the Henry VI plays, to create a trilogy. The director is Dominic Cooke, who was the previous artistic director at the Royal Court Theatre.

Benedict Cumberbatch has been very busy lately, what with all his film work, and the recent announcement that he will play Hamlet on stage later this year in London.

I have written before about him, and really hoped that he would do some Shakespeare — and now he’s doing Hamlet and Richard III in very short order! Fantastic!

He really should do Shakespeare as often as possible, and make it a regular part of his career.

Also, I think he would be great playing the role of William Shakespeare in my Shakespeare Solved versions of the plays.

So, what would his Richard III be like?

He was great as the villain Khan in the recent Star Trek movie. I thought he did a excellent job portraying Julian Assange as neither villainous nor heroic.

But Richard is something completely different. 

Mr. Cumberbatch was quoted as saying ‘I can’t wait to work with Dominic Cooke again to bring this complex, funny and dangerous character to life.’

I find that very encouraging, because he included the word ‘funny.’ That is key. 

If Mr. Cumberbatch understands that this play has humour, then I hope that he discovers as much of it as possible.

I have not seen an actor play Richard III who fully understands the comedy in the play. Olivier knew to make Richard III charismatic but didn’t make him funny. Ian McKellen was also charismatic, but he didn’t make him funny.

Anthony Hopkins’ portrayal of Hannibal Lecter was a perfect Richard III — very funny, very charismatic, and he was very good at making us like him. Ian Richardson in House of Cards, and Kevin Spacey in the new House of Cards are both excellent Richards. And the way they speak to the camera has never been done better, in my opinion.

I have written quite a bit about Richard III, and the productions I have seen. Mark Rylance’s Richard III was fantastic, and he discovered much of the humor in the play, but he didn’t go far enough and make the play as funny as it really is. 

The entire play is funny. Every character, not only Richard, is funny.

When I wrote my version of the play, I came to the conclusion that the play may have been not at all funny in an earlier version. But at some point, Shakespeare discovered a way to make it much funnier, edgier, and much more entertaining — so, he re-wrote it.

I don’t expect this new Hollow Crown Richard III to push the envelope too much. If there was anything bad to say about their excellent productions of Richard II, Henry IV parts 1 and 2, and Henry V it is that they were too traditional and cautious. I expect this new Hollow Crown to be similar.

But — there is still a great deal that Mr. Cumberbatch can do, in his performance, to make this unlike any other Richard III we have ever seen. 

And I have every confidence that he is just the actor to do it!

I can’t wait to see it!


David B. Schajer


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