shakespeare-richard iii

richard IIISo I read Richard III.

And I listened to Richard III. 

And although the 1995 movie starring Annette Bening was not available for rent, I did watch the 1955 movie directed by and starring Laurence Olivier. The movie was torturous even though I was on the treadmill.

I also watched Al Pacino’s Looking for Richard and I wanted to write him a love letter–Al Pacino, that is, who with the movie is on a quest to help people understand Richard III and Shakespeare. The documentary could easily be titled Loving Shakespeare, or Loving Richard, or Loving Al. And I can’t wait to watch it again. But beware, if you watch it, you’re going to want to join me in my quest.

Confession: I am seriously behind in my secondary reading–Bloom and Garber, primarily. Still, onward…

So Richard III. Here is where Shakespeare figures out how to start a play

Now is the winter of my discontent
Made glorious summer by this son of York

Versus these first lines:

Henry VI, Part OneHung be the heavens with black, yield day to night! [which is not bad]
Henry VI, Part TwoAs by your high imperial Majesty I had in charge at my depart for France…
Henry VI, Part Three: I wonder how the King escaped our hands.

The power of the following passage hit me each time I heard it. To set the scene: Richard killed Lady Anne’s husband and her husband’s father, King Henry VI, and now he’s attempting to woo her with the dead King lying there beside them:

Speak it again and, even with the word,
This hand, which for thy love did kill thy love,
Shall for thy love kill a far truer love.
To both their deaths shalt thou be accessory.

(Act 1, sc. 2, lines 207-210)

In this play, we have GHOSTS who visit Richard while he sleeps, a parade of all those he has killed or has had killed. When he wakes:

What do I fear? Myself? There’s none else by.
Is there a murderer here? No. Yes, I am.
Then fly! What, from myself? Great reason why:
Lest I revenge. What, myself upon myself?
Alack, I love myself. Wherefore? For any good
That I myself have done unto myself?
O, no. Alas, I rather hate myself
For hateful deeds committed by myself.
I am a villain. Yet I lie; I am not.

(Act 5, sc. 3, lines 194-203)

Wandering the battlefield, it is Richard III who utters the famous lines:

A horse, a horse, my kingdom for a horse!

(Act 5, sc. 4, line 13)

Surprise: to find the phrase pell mell in Shakespeare, but here it is in Richard’s address to his army:

March on. Join bravely. Let us to it pell mell,
If not to heaven, then hand in hand to hell.

(Act 5, sc. 3, lines 330-331)

In a couple of weeks I will see Richard III on Broadway!

22 thoughts on “shakespeare-richard iii

  1. You are really cookin’ with Shakespeare, Cynthia! How wonderful! Of course, the famous lines are the ones familiar to me, but pretty much everything else is cryptic to me. I think I’m just dense with much of Shakespeare unless it’s acted out a certain way *sigh* I’m also pretty sure this is the play Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush) tries out for in “The King’s Speech” 🙂 You really made me curious about the movie with Pacino, I must say! Enjoy the play!!!


  2. You are such an inspiration, Cynthia. I wish I was on this Shakespearean journey with you. Wanna do it again next year? 😛 And you know I love Al! That makes the thought of beginning a journey even sweeter. But alas, I’ll have to wait and live vicariously through you. What a gift of story and language you must be breathing in–are gifts/influences showing up in your writing, in your own work?


  3. Richard III is one of my favorite plays. I was lucky enough to see Sir Ian McKellen play him live and it was the best acting I’ve ever seen. He nailed that opening. Do rent the 1994 movie. Annette Bening was good, but he’s the star. In London a camping store had a sale sign saying: now is the winter of our discount tent!


  4. OK, this is priceless: In London a camping store had a sale sign saying: now is the winter of our discount tent! Thanks for posting that, Sarah 🙂

    And I love Ian as an actor. Amazing. So gifted 🙂


  5. I recently saw this play performed by my college’s talented student thespians. What a dark play, what a twisted character. A challenging play, but of course a work of genius. Am looking forward to streaming the Pacino documentary, which I didn’t know of.


  6. Thank you all for your wonderful and encouraging comments. Donna, I loved The King’s Speech. Will have to watch it again to look for the Richard III allusion.

    Dave, I’ll still be doing it next year : ) And yes, hints of Shakespeare are showing up in my writing. I just had to change a ‘where for’ to ‘why.’

    Sarah, that sign is hilarious. I couldn’t find anywhere to rent the 1994 movie. Wasn’t sure if I wanted to buy it.

    Richard, you will LOVE Looking for Richard.

    Donna, just so you can see what you’re looking for, here’s an Amazon link:


  7. Thanks for that link, Cynthia 🙂 Now I know why I didn’t find it through the library, though you would expect a library to have something like that! Maybe I’ll put in a request at mine 😉

    And yes, THE KING’S SPEECH is one of my favorite movies. To me, that’s excellence in storytelling and filmmaking, unlike most of the garbage that’s put out 😀


  8. OK, I did a different search and found a different DVD.

    “Pacino: An Actor’s Vision”

    The It includes “Looking for Richard”! 😀

    DVD, Videorecording, Projected Medium, Visual Materials
    Pacino : [videorecording (DVD)] an actor’s vision.

    Publisher, Date:
    Beverly Hills, CA : 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, 2005.
    4 videodiscs (DVD) (5 hrs. 21 min.) : sd., col.
    Chinese coffee (Pacino and Jerry Orbach) — The local stigmatic (Pacino, Paul Guilfoyle) — Looking for Richard (Pacino, Winona Ryder, Kevin Spacey, Sir John Gielgud, Vanessa Redgrave, James Earl Jones, Kevin Kline).

    MPAA rating: R, not rated, PG-13, not rated.
    Closed captioned.
    Special features: audio commentaies
    Chinese coffee (Pacino and Jerry Orbach) — The local stigmatic (Pacino, Paul Guilfoyle) — Looking for Richard (Pacino, Winona Ryder, Kevin Spacey, Sir John Gielgud, Vanessa Redgrave, James Earl Jones, Kevin Kline).


  9. Sure. I got that off the Netflix info, though, so maybe it’s not accurate. It sounded a little like they tried for dramatized real life.


  10. Richard, look at my post on what I found through the library. It’s a 5-hr.+ documentary which includes LOOKING FOR RICHARD 🙂 I ordered it. The description says it’s all the “behind the scenes” and interviews, I believe done by Pacino.


  11. What wonderful post, Cynthia. First, I was reminded of the BBC series of Shakespeare’s plays (looking up the series I see it ran from 1978-1985), although I do not remember PBS or the CPB (Corporation for Public Broadcasting) running the series all of those years but it may have happened. The plays were not that well done but it was so exciting that it might be possible to see all of the plays performed.

    More specific to Richard III, I thought of the movie, The Goodbye Girl, with Richard Dreyfuss as Richard in a most unusual interpretation of the play. Glad to know about Looking for Richard and found it on Netflix. Thanks!


  12. Thanks, Karen. I didn’t know anything about the BBC series but I had remembered Richard Dreyfuss in The Goodbye Girl. In fact, I went back after I read the play and watched parts of the movie!


  13. OK, gang, I got to watch Al Pacino’s “Looking for Richard” and I LOVED it! I enjoyed watching that SO much. His effort was a wonderful gift in trying to help “the masses” enjoy and understand Shakespeare. And I watched the interview (or whatever it was called) after the credits, so learned more about Al’s experience making the documentary (it took 4 years!), why he did it, and that Kevin Spacey even sent his pay back to Pacino. It was Pacino who fronted the project. Great stuff. Really enjoyable. SO glad you mentioned it 🙂


  14. So glad you liked it, Donna! And I like knowing that bit about Kevin Spacey sending his paycheck back. Perfect timing on your comment–headed to Richard III at 2:00 today!!! Saw 12th Night Thursday night–amazing.


  15. Pingback: shakespeare update: one year, part I | catching days

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