George Bernard Shaw on Shakespeare’s Richard III

   Posted by: Julia Redlich   in Quotes

During a cleanup the other day I was debating whether to throw out theatre programmes and found this.  It is from the Bell Shakespeare production of Richard III in 2002.

The world being yet little better than a mischievous schoolboy, I am afraid it cannot be denied that Punch and Judy holds the field in the most popular of dramatic entertainments.  And of all its versions, except those which are quite above the head of the man in the street, Shakespeare’s “Richard III” is the best.  It has abundant devilry, humour and character, presented with luxuriant energy of diction in the simplest form of blank verse.  Shakespeare revels in it with just the sort of artistic unconscionableness that fits the theme.  Richard is the prince of Punches, he delights Man by provoking God, and dies unrepentant and game to the last.  His incongruous conventional appendages, such as the Punch hump, the conscience, the fear of ghosts, all impart a spice of outrageousness which leaves nothing lacking in the fun of the entertainment, except the solemnity of those spectators who feel bound to take the affair as a profound and subtle historic study.

George Bernard Shaw in December 1896, after a performance at London’s Lyceum Theatre of Shakespeare’s play.


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