Posts Tagged ‘Shakespeare’


Take a Look at Richard III – Through the Bard’s Eyes

   Posted by: Julia Redlich    in News

Although Ricardians regret that Shakespeare’s interpretation of the last Plantagenet King was heavily prejudiced by the ideas of Tudor spin doctors, they recognise that it is great theatre. Even after every production reinforcing the idea in the eyes of the general public that Richard was a Bad King, who is it that we remember after golden boy Richmond claims the crown and promises paradise under the Tudors?  Richard, of course, who remains firmly and memorably in our minds.

Test this for yourselves,should you be lucky enough to be in Queensland at the time, and attend the ninth annual University of Southern Queensland Shakespeare in the Park Festival at USQ Toowoomba, when one of history’s most captivating and charismatic villains will take centre-stage. The Tragedy of King Richard III, directed by Scott Alderdice, will be presented on October 12, 13, 19, 20, 26 and 27 on the Festival’s open-air stage, starting at 6.30pm.

The gates open at 5.30 and audiences are encouraged to pack a hamper and bottle of wine (site licensed for BYO alcohol only), bring a rug or chair and enjoy an alfresco dinner as the sun sets before Richard (Shannon Haegler) appears in what promises to be an interesting interpretation.

For more information: visit or call the USQ Artsworx Box Office on 07 4631 1111 to book tickets.

Tags: ,


Intelligence Quotient

   Posted by: Julia Redlich    in News, Richard III in the Media

Staying in the Upper Hunter Valley to dog and cat sit, while my daughter and her family went skiing, I had of course remembered Richard all day on Wednesday, August 22.  That evening I turned on the television for the Gruen Planet programme, and enjoyed half an hour of Stephen Fry and QI beforehand.

Imagine my joy when it turned out to be all about Shakespeare (and most Ricardians of my acquaintance know my love of the Bard and his work, if not his interpretation of English history). Then came the question:  “How would you describe Richard III?”  Long pause until someone ventured “Hunchback”.  My hackles rose, as did those of the dogs who happily never before seen me glowering.

However, all was well.  Stephen Fry – bless him – said that was how Shakespeare described him, because he was a villain in the play, but there was no proof he was deformed and in fact was actually a very different person, a good king, law-maker etc.

Cue for me to stand and cheer to major consternation on the part of Gus and Jack who soon realised it was a case of ‘mad grandmother disease’.

I suspect it was an ages old repeat, but with speed and minuscule type size of the credits at the end of the programme, I couldn’t check when the programme was made. But how wonderful to have good things said about King Richard on the anniversary of the Battle of Bosworth.

Loyaulte me lie

Photograph of Stephen Fry obtained through Wikimedia Commons (

P.S.  Stephen Fry’s knowledge about Richard III is small surprise:  His alma mater is Queens’ College, Cambridge, of which Richard was a major benefactor.  The college honours his memory and the college gift shop sells bags with his boar emblem.

Queens’ College shopping bag (© Dorothea Preis)

Tags: , , ,

King Richard is once again making an appearance on stage, courtesy of the Royal Shakespeare Company. This year, the production is part of the World Shakespeare Festival that sees companies from around the world presenting the Bard’s plays in their own language and their own style. A great cultural addition to Britain in Olympic year.

At Stratford on Avon, the production is one of three plays in the series Nations at War. Curated and directed by Roxana Silbert, an associate director of the RSC, the series also comprises King John and a new Mexican play by Luis Mario Moncada called “A Soldier in Every Son – The Rise of the Aztecs”.

Photograph of the Swan Theatre, Stratford on Avon taken by Michelle Walz Eriksson ; obtained through Wikimedia Commons.

The season examines ambition, power, leadership and family loyalties and betrayals, and the combination of politics and personal emotions. Silbert says that at the heart of Richard III is his relationship with his family … the women are central to Richard III. Ricardians who have always recognised the exceptional closeness of the Yorkist Plantagenet family will welcome this concept.

Although Roxana Silbert has had to trim the text (not as ruthlessly as Colley Cibber we hope) and has given it a contemporary setting, the heart and essence of the story are timeless. Richard’s relationship with his family, says Silbert, his ambition and greed are equally timeless.

Richard will be played by Jonjo O’Neill who happens to be the same age as Richard when he was killed. In a play which is totally driven by the central character, she feels that O’Neill can combine the playfulness with a very dark core. “Richard is a tremendously attractive character and his bravado is part of his charisma, but he does some unforgiveable things and that makes our relationship to him very complex”.

The Nations at War series will be presented at the Swan Theatre in Stratford . Anyone lucky enough to be in the UK this northern summer can visit for more information about the production and the performance dates.



Richard III Today: 29 March 2012

   Posted by: Dorothea Preis    in News, Richard III in the Media

It is good to see that our cause is getting out there.  Yesterday Lyn Gardner reviewed for the Guardian a new play, Iceberg Right Ahead!, written to coincide with 100th anniversary of the Titanic disaster.  While the reviewer’s view of the play itself is not very positive, her comparison to Richard III is spot on:

Sticking to the known facts isn’t always the route to entertaining theatre – Richard III would probably have had much to say about Shakespeare’s doubtful portrayal of him…

Of course, a fair amount of studies have been published, which attempt to show a more balanced view of the last Plantagenet king, but their impact is mostly limited to those interested in the period.  However, finding little unconnected remarks that go against the stereotype is extremely hopeful.  They reach a far wider audience and their impact cannot be underestimated.  There just might be someone reading this review, who had never thought twice about Richard III, whose interest is piqued to find out more about the historical Richard.

Thank you, Lyn Gardner!

Lyn Gardner, ‘Iceberg Right Ahead! – review’, (28 March 2012).  URL: Date accessed:  29 March 2012

Tags: , ,


Literary Trivia

   Posted by: Julia Redlich    in Medieval Miscellany, Quotes

Elizabeth George, Believing the Lie, Hodder & Stoughton, 2012, pbk ISBN 978 1 444 7 05980

H. Rider Haggard, Montezuma’s Daughter, first published 1896, various later editions as well as ebook formats are available.

Checking the new Elizabeth George Inspector Lynley novel for pro-Richard III comments, I was rather disappointed. These comments have not appeared recently, probably since Inspector Lynley’s wife Helen was murdered and hasn’t been there to tease him about his obsession or to wonder why he likes going to a place near Leicester in August. However I did find this which shows a Shakespearean look:

Valerie is looking at her husband, Bernard. “She glanced at him then. Such a little man, actually, he was shorter than she by nearly five inches. Small, a little delicate, mischievous looking, cocky, grinning … My God, she thought, all he needed was a hunchback, a doublet, and tights. She’d been as easily seduced as the Lady Anne.”

There may be more in this very enjoyable book. I couldn’t put it down for all the twist.

The other day, I was channel surfing and came to Lifestyle channel, Country House Rescue. One episode featured a place in Norfolk that I knew. Checking it on a map of Norfolk I saw it was near Bungay, and thought “that’s where Thomas Wingfield lived”. Funny how names from books first read in childhood are never forgotten! When I was 10 one of the teachers at my school was talking about Cortez and Mexico etc, and told us that if we wanted to know a little more we would enjoy Rider Haggard’s book Montezuma’s Daughter, something my father obligingly bought for me. It must have been one of the first “grown-up” books I read, but Thomas Wingfield became a permanent hero! Checking my copy again I loved this paragraph, where Thomas says:

Long ago the heiress of the Wingfields married a De La Pole, a family famous in our history, the last of whom, Edmund, Earl of Suffolk, lost his head for treason when I was young and the castle passed to the De La Poles with her.

Not really Ricardian, but not surprising because Haggard lived in Norfolk/Suffolk and would have been aware of the history of the county. But I was happy to know that my hero Thomas was related to Richard’s sister Elizabeth.

Tags: , ,


Have you read the Sydney Morning Herald of today?

   Posted by: Dorothea Preis    in News, NSW Branch News

In the ‘Spectrum’ supplement to today’s Sydney Morning Herald and The Age in Melbourne there is an article by Elissa Blake about the Old Vic production of Shakespeare’s Richard III, which is coming to Sydney the coming week.  Should you have a print copy of either paper, you can have a look, otherwise there are links below.

For her article Elissa wanted to get a variety of views of the role.  She talked to John Bell, the artistic director of Bell Shakespeare, who had played the role three times;  to Ewen Leslie, who played Shakespeare’s baddie in last year’s production of the Melbourne Theatre Company; and Pamela Rabe, who played Richard III in the Sydney Theatre Company production of The War of the Roses  in 2009.

However, last but not least, she talked to one of the “enthusiasts in the worldwide Richard III Society”.  Elissa interviewed me by phone about 10 days ago.  It was just a short conversation, but obviously I tried to cram as much information as possible into it – needless to say that only a small part made it into her article.   We welcome Elissa’s interest and appreciate that she was prepared to look past the theatrical Richard to the real Richard.  And we feel  honoured that she left us with the last word in such an illustrious group of interviewees.

You can find the article here:
Sydney Morning Herald
The Age

Tags: , ,


Lets keep “dribbling”!

   Posted by: Dorothea Preis    in News

To continue from our recent media retrospective, here is another example that those who work with Shakespeare’s work are well aware of the difference between play and reality.  Don Crane is a professional actor and teaching artist with The Shakespeare Theatre in Washington, D.C. and is at present directing a production of Richard III at a school, Westfield High.  This is what he had to say about the play and the man:

It’s a story of good triumphing over evil, but also a propaganda piece Shakespeare wrote for the Tudors. The character of Richard III is depicted as a spider — deformed, disgusting and rotten from within and without. But of course, it’s all a lie.

We can but hope that the audience of this production as of all others that the fascinating character of the play is “all a lie”!


Bonnie Hobbs, ‘Westfield Presents ‘Richard III’ – Not your father’s Shakespeare’, Centre View (10 November 2011).  URL: Date accessed:  11 Nov 2011

Tags: ,

Recently there were a few mentions of Richard III in the media, which differentiate clearly between Shakespeare’s evil tyrant and the historical person.

The first was Allan Massie, famous Scottish writer and columnist, who wrote on 23 October a column in the UK Telegraph on Gaddafi’s death (we reported).  Massie is careful to distinguish between the literary Richard III and the historic Richard III as represented by the Richard III Society, which he mentions explicitly.  This is what he had to say (highlights mine):

To forestall complaints from members of the Richard III Society who think him a much maligned figure, a victim of scurrilous Tudor propaganda – and that much is certainly true – let me say that it is Shakespeare’s Richard, not the historical Richard of whom one knows little for certain, that I am talking about. Shakespeare’s Richard then is a scoundrel, a liar, seducer, murderer and tyrant, granted only two redeeming qualities – wit and courage.

The second was Michael Dobson in a review of the film Anonymous in the Guardian on 26 October 2011. He is director of the Shakespeare Institute at the University of Birmingham and emphasises that Shakespeare was not and did not want to be a historian evaluating sources to establish a truthful presentation of his object to appeal to our intellect.  No, he was a man of the theatre and wanted to appeal the audience’s imagination:

He gave his audiences Richard III, the hunchbacked wicked uncle, rightfully destroyed by the good avenging prince, for instance, rather than the complex politician of history, defeated and killed by an invading opportunist. History may provide good raw material for drama, but it will need a bit of underlying myth if it is really going to stay in the imagination.

This point was also made by Shakespeare actor John Bell during a recent talk he gave in Sydney.

The last mention (so far) was found by our never-tiring secretary Julia in today’s Australian Daily Telegraph.  She tells us that its education page deals with Shakespeare’s villains:

Some of his most interesting creations are his villains. Some are evil incarnate, cruel, vengeful and beyond redemption. Others seem to be victims of their own excessive desires. In some cases, Shakespeare redeems his villains, in others they get what they deserve.

Of course, Richard III features here – Kevin Spacey photo as illustration; others are Macbeths, Iago, Claudius and Aaron from Titus Andronicus. The first part of the article on Richard III is all about Shakespeare’s Richard, but then it continues:

The real Richard was neither deformed not as heartless and ambitious as Shakespeare’s character, but may have been the victim of Tudor propaganda. Shakespeare lived under a Tudor monarch and it had been a Tudor who had defeated Richard to become the first of a new dynasty.

Clearly, our message is being heard, but that does not mean that we can rest on our laurels.  After 500 years it is high time that a historically more accurate view of Richard III should prevail, rather than the distorted image that is still found too often.  As Julia remarked:  “A small dribble on the stone of persuasion, but it all helps!”


Allan Massie, ‘Gaddafi’s death shows that there is always pathos in the destruction of the powerful’, The Telegraph (22 October 2011).  URL: Date accessed:  23 Oct 2011

Michael Dobson, ‘Out, damn’d conspiracy! Shakespeare was no fraud’, (26 October 2011).  URL: Date accessed:  26 Oct 2011

Troy Lennon (ed.), ‘Shakespeare’s Villains’, Daily telegraph – Classmate (8 November 2011).  URL: Date accessed:  8 Nov 2011

Tags: ,


Horrible Histories – again!

   Posted by: Dorothea Preis    in News

A special ghost for Halloween!

A few months ago we brought you a short article about a clip on Richard III from the Horrible Histories series.  I just discovered another item from Horrible Histories on YouTube.  This time it is about William Shakespeare re-writing history in his play about Richard III.  With all the furore about the film Anonymous at present it seems well-timed.

Click here for the YouTube clip.

Tags: ,


Keep up the good work, we are seeing results

   Posted by: Dorothea Preis    in News

In last Saturday’s Telegraph (the newspaper in the UK, not the Australian one) Allan Massie, famous Scottish writer and columnist, wrote a column on Gaddafi’s death.  In it he says ‘The death of a tyrant may be a matter for rejoicing, but it may also be the stuff of tragedy or at least pathos.’

He makes his point by comparing Gaddafi’s death to the fall of the tyrants in Shakespeare’s Macbeth and Richard III.  In both cases the popular image of the real-life king has been very much influenced and overshadowed by the Bard.  Allan Massie is very well aware of Shakespeare’s influence and is careful to distinguish between the literary Richard III and the historic Richard III as represented by the Richard III Society.  This is what he had to say:

To forestall complaints from members of the Richard III Society who think him a much maligned figure, a victim of scurrilous Tudor propaganda – and that much is certainly true – let me say that it is Shakespeare’s Richard, not the historical Richard of whom one knows little for certain, that I am talking about. Shakespeare’s Richard then is a scoundrel, a liar, seducer, murderer and tyrant, granted only two redeeming qualities – wit and courage.

We appreciate all the good work the Richard III Society, of which we are just one small part, is doing.  Allan Massie’s column shows us that the efforts are bearing fruit.  Keep up the good work!

You can find the article from the Telegraph here.

Tags: ,