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Inner Evil Revealed in Film and BBC Productions of Shakespeare’s Richard III

Inner Evil Revealed in Film and BBC Productions of Shakespeare’s Richard III

All the passions of the irascible rise from the passions of the concupiscible appetite and terminate in them. For instance, anger rises from sadness, and, having wrought vengeance, terminates in joy.

— St. Thomas Aquinas

In Richard III, Shakespeare creates evil personified. The wicked protagonist conspires against kin, plots political takeovers, woos widows, sets assassins against children, and relishes each nefarious act. We watch Richard’s bravado with wicked glee and delight in each boasting comment sent our direction. Once the bad guy becomes seductive, even amusing, in his blatant cruelty, the playwright must intervene to counterbalance his own brilliant wit. But how can this devil Richard be brought to his knees with the appropriate high style demanded by the script’s momentum? Shakespeare leaves us the briefest of stage direction: “Alarum. Enter Richard and Richmond; they fight; Richard is slain” (V.v.). Once “the bloody dog is dead,” Richmond prays for “smooth-faced peace” (V.v.2,33). So soon after Richard’s tormented dream of accusing ghosts, this closing scene enforces a mood described by Robert Ornstein as “one of somber reflection, not of joyous celebration” (263). However, the interpretive liberties taken by three twentieth-century filmmakers establish elaborated messages about the horrors of bloodshed, the inevitability of power struggles, and the mythmaking of villains.

The 1982 BBC production takes the audience through a series of reactions: the bloodthirst for revenge, the prayer for redemption, and the vision of hellish destruction. We watch Richard circled by soldiers, baited like a bea…

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…thin this structure, his body will pull him downward with the mocking demands of its physical being” (35). Structurally, the gargoyles often function as gutter drains, spewing forth wastewater to protect the aesthetics of the church. Similarly, Richard epitomizes our hatreds and cruelties, reminding us of the evil inside; whether he cleanses our sins through his death depends on the director’s approach to redemption and transference.

Works Cited

Eccles, Mark. “Richard III on Stage and Screen.” Richard III. New York: Signet Classic, 1988. 265-78.

Hallett, Charles A. and Elaine S. Hallett. The Revenger’s Madness. Lincoln: U of Nebraska P, 1980. (Epigraph)

Ornstein, Richard. “Richard III.” Richard III. New York: Signet Classic, 1988. 239-264.

Spivack, Charlotte. The Comedy of Evil on Shakespeare’s Stage. London: Associated UPs, 1978.

The Oddly Dreamlike Quality of A Midsummer Night’s Dream

We started A Midsummer Night’s Dream with only a text. There was no one to interpret the words, no body movement or voice

inflection to indicate meaning or intention. All meaning that a reader

understands comes from the words alone. The simplicity of text provides

a broad ground for imagination, in that every reader can come away from

the text with a different conception of what went on. The words are

merely the puzzle pieces individuals put together to bring coherence and

logic to the play.

Although we all read generally the same words, we

can see that vastly different plays arise depending on who interprets

them. By interpreting the word-clues that Shakespeare wrote into the

script to direct the performance of the play, we were able to imagine

gestures, expressions, and movements appropriate to the intention of the

playwright. An example of this can be seen in the different Romeo and

Juliets: Luhrman clearly had a more modern vision after reading the

script than did Zeffirelli did only 18 years before. The live

performance at the CalPoly theatre also carried !with it a very

different feelless intense, more child-like and sweetwith nearly the

same words. Reading also affects our experience in that without the

text, we would most likely not be able to enjoy Shakespeare at all;

having the text makes Shakespeare widely accessible (available for free

on the web) to all that desire it. Once the script is obtained, anyone

can perform Shakespeareeven everyday, non-actor citizens put on

Shakespeare whether it be in parks, at school, or in a forest.

My experience reading Shakepearean plays has shown me that reading

is necessary an…

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…, I feel like my

understanding of Shakespeare has really broadened. Not so much

Shakespeare himself, of course, but rather what he did, what he tried to

accomplish; I have a much greater sense of what all actors and crew go

through to put a play together, text to performance, start to !finish.

There is a small part of me that wants to keep doing Shakespeare, to do

all of the play, or at least do it again. Another part of me, the more

persuasive and logical part, wants to just keep it all right where it is

in my mind, remembering it fondly, as A Dream.

Works Cited

Shakespeare, William. A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The Norton Shakespeare: Greenblatt, Stephen, editor. New York: W W Norton

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