English Literature

Bruce A. McMenomy, Ph.D. for Scholars Online
2019-20: Wednesdays, 11:00 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Eastern Time
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Unit III: The Renaissance

Week 12

Please read:

William Shakespeare: Richard III

You will need to get from the library or from a bookstore. The plot is quite complex. I have posted here a character list with links to Wikipedia articles on the historical characters in question. You may or may not find it useful, but it does occasionally serve as a corrective to the liberties Shakespeare himself has taken with the play, and it serves as a separate list you can look at from time to time to remind yourself of who’s who.

You may wish, with your parents’ coperation, to watch one or another of the video versions of the play. Probably the best and most balanced is the one from the BBC Shakespeare Plays set, though it is not easy to find. The Laurence Olivier version of the play (1955), is spectacularly cinematic and chock full of theatrical greats, but it is seriously cut and (worse) supplied with a few lines that were either imported from other plays (Henry VI, Part 3, mostly) or written by other people entirely (Colley Cibber, in particular, gets credit for “Richard’s himself again.”). With that proviso, it’s still worth seeing. I cannot recommend the 1995 version with Ian McKellen, though he is indisputably an extraordinary actor. It is distinctly unsuitable for family viewing, and McKellen has taken such liberties with the play that it no longer has much resemblance to Shakespeare’s story. For somewhat more complete discussion of film options, look at my own evolving Shakespeare on View site.

For this week’s discussion, please consider: