Friday, October 24, 2008

Ian McKellen "Richard III"

Shakespeare's Richard III will do all and lose all to win the crown he so briefly possesses. It seems the real-life king did murder his two nephews to gain the throne uncontested. But Shakespeare allows us to sypmathize with his stagecraft villian, who addresses us as a friend and wittliy defeats all his opponents but the last. Unlike MacBeth, whom fate and his wife conspire to make a villain, Shakespeare's Richard III, out of jealousy and hatred for the joy of others, resolves in his opening soliloquy:

"And therefore, since I cannot prove a lover,
To entertain these fair well-spoken days,
I am determined to prove a villain
And hate the idle pleasures of these days.
Plots have I laid...
To set my brother Clarence and the king
In deadly hate the one against the other..."

Ian McKellen's 1995 production of Richard III, also starring Annette Benning, Maggie Smith, and Robert Downey Jr. and available in DVD format, is one of the best movie adaptations in the genre. Swift and suspenseful, yet lush and poetic, the story is well-adapted to a 1930's setting. The language, well illustrated by the action, is easily accesible to the popular audience. The film bears repeated watching. Much of the play has become the common heritage of the Anglosphere. This play should also be a part of your library.

Much of the play, including the opening soliloquy is available on YouTube. Here is the trailer:

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