William Shakespeare’s Richard III Essay

William Shakespeare’s Richard IIIWilliam Shakespeare’s characterization of Britain’s historical monarch Richard III, formerly Duke of Gloucester, is one of the most controversial in literature. To this day there are arguments upholding Richard III’s villainy and ascertaining his murder of the Princes in the tower, just as there are those who believe that he has been falsely represented by Shakespeare’s play and fight avidly to clear his name of any and all crimes. Because of the uncertainty surrounding his true character, Richard III is an intriguing personality to put into modern culture, which is exactly what Ian McKellen does in his rendition of the infamous ruler. However, McKellen’s portrayal of Richard III preserves the basic personality of Shakespeare’s character and continues the idea of Richard III as tyrant and murderer; there is no doubt that McKellen captures the bestial nature of Richard, but even though this main staple of the play is kept intact, there are other aspects of this adaptation that are not so true to Shakespeare’s vision. Overall, however, I believe that this is an honest modernization of a classic play, and that Shakespeare would have approved of most of the changes made, with only a few exceptions.

The film adaptation of Richard III was relatively straight forward, and certain scenes were more clear on the screen than on the page, but there were several confusing episodes that detracted from an otherwise good rendition of Richard III. Without having read the book first, I feel that a viewer would have been totally lost during the opening scenes of destruction because there are no names given until ten minutes into the film, and even those are dropped rather casually. Because I have read…

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… written play there is no such direction to let the audience know that Anne may not be aware of his full intentions or desires. It is entirely possible that when this play was performed in Shakespeare’s time this is exactly how the actor spoke his lines, but it is not clear one way or the other from the printed page. All in all, the film version of Richard III might be even more terrifying and brutal than the print version, because modern audiences will probably connect more with a visual image of atrocity rather than a purely written one. I believe that this is the power of Shakespeare’s work– it is powerful on paper, but still more powerful in performance. It is performance that lends his work its full potential, and as such the film of Richard III is true to the core argument of Shakespeare’s original text, illustrating the inner beast found in the soul of a man.


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