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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Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Ralph Fiennes as Richard III

Very exciting news — Ralph Fiennes is going to play Richard III!

He will begin rehearsals in April, and the production will open at the Almeida Theatre this June

Directed by Rupert Goold, the cast also will include Vanessa Redgrave as Queen Margaret — which is a reunion for her and Ralph, since she played Volumnia in his Coriolanus film.

There is so much Shakespeare excitement this year, since it is the 400th anniversary of his death in 1616 — but this is perhaps the most thrilling event of the year.

It is surprising that he has not done the role already, since he has excelled at playing some of the greatest villains, like Coriolanus, Voldemort in Harry Potter, and Amon Goeth in Schindler’s List

as Coriolanus

He is also very well known for his heroic roles, like Prospero, the Count de Almássy in English Patient, and M in the last two James Bond films.

But we have never really seen him do comedy.

I think he has a wonderful opportunity with Richard III. His performance could be groundbreaking, and he could revolutionize how we understand Shakespeare’s great (and misunderstood) villain.

I saw Mark Rylance’s incredible performance as the crookback, and I wrote a review — here.

What was remarkable about his performance was the amount of comedy he brought to the role. It was the funniest Richard III I have ever seen, and the reviews at the time praised him for just how funny he was.

But that production didn’t go far enough. It was not as funny as it could have been. 

There is a great deal of humour in the play that has yet to be fully exploited on stage and screen, and this is the opportunity of a lifetime for an actor as great as Ralph Fiennes.

We misunderstand the play. We think it is a history play and/or a tragedy, played solemnly and soberly. 

Why don't we see it as a comedy? Because we don’t think of how the play was originally performed circa 1593. 

When Shakespeare originally wrote the play, the Richard character was based on the villainous Vice character in the morality plays of the period. 

Other Vice characters in Shakespeare include Edmund in King Lear (who is quite a dark villain), Iago (who is actually quite funny and bawdy) and Falstaff (who is known for his clownishness).

The point is that we have lost touch with the comedy inside this Richard as Vice character. When we see Richard performed today, he is too often a mustache-twirling villain, a straightforward bad guy. He is too much like Edmund in Lear.

What if Richard is more like Falstaff?

What if Richard is more humourous? What if he laughs more?

In today’s popular culture, we have Batman’s nemesis, The Joker. He is a great Vice character — he laughs and kills gleefully. 

We also have Hannibal Lecter, who is funny, ironic and literally and figuratively savours killing people.

What if Shakespeare’s Richard III character is more like them?

When we read the play closely, Richard is far funnier than any other character in the play. 

As he murders them off, and plots his path to seize the throne, the other characters stand around like deer in the headlights, ready to be run over.

For such an accomplished actor like Ralph Fiennes, I hope that he takes a chance and blazes a new trail with this role. It would be a truly historical event.


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